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The Ethics of Excess and Indian Intervention in South Asia

  • Ralph Buultjens (a1)

This article examines four interlinked historical aspects of intervention from a philosophic and ethical perspective. What are the dimensions of intervention and how is it managed? What conditions govern intervention? How can intervention be evaluated? What are the moral issues in intervention? India, the world's largest democracy, has promoted its power through intervention in neighboring countries under the cloak of morality. The United States, Great Britain, and Russia have nonetheless tacitly endorsed India's role as the policing force in the region. Does this recognition justify India's actions toward its weaker and smaller neighbors?

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1 Morgenthau Hans J., quoted in Robert J. Myers, “The Virtue of Moral Restraint,”Internutional Journul, Vol. XLIII, No. 2 (Spring 1988) p. 320.

2 Otto von Bismarck, quoted in Pompe C. A., Aggressive War: An International Crime (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1953) p. 152.

3 Marx Karl, Selected Works, Vol. I (Moscow: Progress Publishers–Institute of Marxism-Leninism, 1951) p. 441.

4 Walzer Michael, Just and Unjust Wars (New York: Basic Books, 1977) p. 60.

5 Adapted from Thucydides , The Peloponnesian War, trans. by Warner Rex (Harmondsworth, Britain: Penguin Books, 1985) pp. 400–7.

6 Steele Commager Henry, “Of Virtue and Foreign Policy,”Worldview, Vol. 25, No. 10 (October 1982) p. 6.

7 Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars, p. 86.

8 Donnelly Jack, “Human Rights: The Impact of International Action,” International Journal, Vol. XLIII, No. 2 (Spring 1988) pp. 252–53.

9 Ibid., p. 254.

10 Ball George W., Diplonsacy for a Crowded World (Boston: Little, Brown, 1976) pp. 224–25.

11 Ibid., p. 223.

12 Ibid., p. 322.

13 Ibid., pp. 309–12.

14 Morgenthau Hans J., Politics Among Nations (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1973) p. 309.

15 Ibid., p. 226.

16 Hoffmann Stanley, Duties Beyond Borders (Syracuse,: Syracuse University Press, 1981 )

17 Maugham W. Somerset, Then and Now (London: Pan Books, 1979) p. 213.

18 Hoffmann , Duties Beyond Borders, pp. 35–36.

19 Mahatma Gandhi writing in Young India, December 26, 1924. See Young India: 1924-1926, ed. by Ganesan S. (New York: Viking Press, 1927).

20 speech in the constituent Assembly, New Delhi, March 8, 1949. See Nehru Jawaharlal, Independence and After (New Delhi: Publications Division—Government of India, 1949) p. 242.

21 Jawaharlal Nehru–An Anthology, ed. by Gopal Sarvepalli (New Delhi,: Oxford University Press, 1980 ) p. 369. Speech to the Canadian Parliament, Ottawa, October 24, 1949.

22 Ibid., p. 371. Broadcast to the nation, New Delhi, December 31, 1950.

23 Ibid., p. 379. Television and radio address, Washington, D. C., December 18, 1956.

24 Ibid., p. 380. Speech to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference, New Delhi, December 2, 1957.

25 Ibid., p. 415. Speech in the Indian Parliament, New Delhi, September 17, 1955.

26 Panikkar K. M., An Autobiography, trans. by K. Krishnamurthy (Madras,: Oxford University Press, 1977 ) p. 183.

27 Ibid.

28 Kaufmann Walter, Religion in Four Dimensions (New York,: Reader's Digest Press, 1976 ) p. 248. Kaufmann discusses Gandhi and nonviolence extensively, pp. 243–48.

29 Gandhi Mahatma, Delhi Diary, ed. by Desai Jivanji D. (Ahmedabad: Navajivan Publishing House, 1948) p. 381.

30 Statement to the press by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Delhi Airport, October 12, 1962.

31 Quoted in Brecher Michael, India and World Politics (London: Oxford University Press, 1968) pp. 131 and 162.

32 Ibid., pp. 154–55.

33 Gandhi Indira, My Troth (New Delhi,: Vision Books, 1981 ) p. 107.

34 Gandhi Indira, “Inaugural Address to the Nation,” in Indira Gandhi Speaks, ed. by Christman Henry M. (New York: Taplinger Publishing, 1975) pp. 1923. Broadcast by All India Radio, New Delhi, January 26, 1966.

35 Author's interview with Indira Gandhi, New Delhi, June 25, 1981.

36 Ibid.

37 Ibid.

38 V. V. Givi was elected president of India on August 24, 1969 with Mrs. Gandhi's support, against strong opposition from her Congress Party. In 1971, the Ministries of Defense and External Affairs were held by Jagjivan Ram and Swaran Singh, who were both appointed by Mrs. Gandhi.

39 For information on the history of the Research and Analysis Wing of the Cabinet Secretariat, see Raina Asok, Inside RAW–The Story of India's Secret Service (New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House, 1981).

40 Interview by the author with Indira Gandhi, New Delhi, June 4, 1983. Also see Kaul T. N., Diplomacy in Peace and War (New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House, 1979) pp. 195–96. Negotiators on the Indian side were T. N. Kaul (ambassador to the Soviet Union 1962–1966 and then foreign secretary of India 1968–72), D. P. Dhar (ambassador to the Soviet Union after Kaul), and their principal assistants in Moscow, Rikhi Jaipal and Romesh Bhandari. Negotiators on the Soviet side were Foreign Minister Gromyko, Defense Minister Grechko, and Vice-Foreign Minister Firubin. So secret were the negotiations that no written reports were made by the Indians and only verbal briefings were made to the prime minister.

41 Ibid., p. 196.

42 Indian Defense Secretary K. B. Lall was elected chairman of the Economic Drafting Committee, and T. N. Kaul was elected chairman of the Political Drafting Committee, two critical positions at the Lusaka Conference in 1969

43 Ram Mohan, “Keeping a Neighbor in Line,” Far Eastern Economic Review (May 30, 1980) pp. 3234.

44 Indian proposals to build a protective fence on the Bangladesh-Assam border in the early 1980s were strongly condemned by Bangladesh.

45 Buultjens Ralph, “The Call of Destiny—Mahatma and Indira Gandhi,”Mahatma Gandhi Peace Week Commemorative Souvenir (New York: The Federation of Indian Associations, October 1, 1983) pp. 11–13.

46 Author's interview with Indira Gandhi, New York, October 2, 1983. This was later confirmed to me by Mrs. Gandhi's special assistant, R. K. Dhawan.

47 Kotelawala John, An Asian Prime Minister's Story (London,: Harrap, 1956 ) pp. 186–94.

48 Such statements include: Sri Lanka's public indication of its interest in joining the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), a pro-Western group, or Sri Lanka and Singapore's private castigation of Prime Minister Nehru's economic programs of the past (at a Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference in the early 1980s).


From Ratnatunga Sinha, Politics of Terrorism: The Sri Lanka Experience (Melbourne: International Federation for Social and Economic Development, 1988) p. 371. Ratnatunga's book is the most extensive treatment of the Sri Lankan situation currently available.

50 Crossette Barbara, “India Is All Over and South Asia Resents It,” The New York Times, November 27, 1988.

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Ethics & International Affairs
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  • EISSN: 1747-7093
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