What is the difference between Hard power and Soft power?

Check out the importance of hard power and soft power, its benefits, significance and practical examples- Know the new concept of smart power here and what is India's foreign policy based on.
Created On: Dec 16, 2020 10:38 IST
Modified On: Dec 16, 2020 11:07 IST

A country’s future and its global stand depend on two of the following:

  1. Hard Power 
  2. Soft Power

However, the country that knows how to utilize both effectively at the right time succeeds economically and politically. Know what is Hard and Soft Power, its examples, differences and much more below. 

What is Hard Power?

Hard power is when the country uses the military and economic means as an influence on the behaviour or interests of other political bodies. It is a form of political power which is often aggressive that is it uses coercion. It is most immediately effective when imposed by one political body upon another of lesser military and/or economic power. 

What does Hard Power signify?

  1. Hard power is often linked with possession of some specific tangible resources, such as population, territory, natural resources, economic and military strength and many others.
  2. It is a time-effective method as generating hard power requires much less time because its resources are tangible.

Practical Examples of Hard Power

The return of the US to military action in Iraq, its direct intervention in Syria and Russia’s annexation of Crimea, destabilising eastern Ukraine are examples of hard power usage.

Limitations of Hard Power

  1. Hard Power would always be ineffective when there is a deadlock between two nations or if both are holding equal status in the world 
  2. Usage of hard power generally aggravates the problem as it results in an eye for an eye
  3. Hard power requires much more resources and financial capacity to be used, thus it does not work for weaker states

What is Soft Power?

Soft power is defined as the ability to attract and co-opt, instead of coercing, shaping the preferences of others through appeal and attraction. 

Significance of Soft Power:

  1. Soft power is defined as the ability to attract and co-opt, instead of coercing, shaping the preferences of others through appeal and attraction. 
  2. It is a persuasive form of power that is derived from attraction and emulation.
  3. It is grounded on intangible resources like tourism, culture, and heritage
  4. It is the ability to get what one wants without coercion

What does Soft Power signify?

  1. The importance and relevance of soft power are growing as more of humanity becomes connected. This enhanced presence everywhere on the globe has the potential to generate a surge of global opinion.
  2. Soft power is used in complex situations and helps a nation to achieve difficult outcomes. 

Practical Examples of Soft Power

India received a nuclear waiver in 2008 despite not being a member of NSG because of its history of non-alignment and strong political ideals.

PM Modi’s effort to have the United Nations declared the International Day of Yoga on June 21, 2020, each year is a practical example of soft power usage.

Limitations of Soft Power

  1. Soft power basically imposes cultural influence which does not exert political power, which happens to be more direct and influencing.
  2. Consequences of the usage of soft power strategies depend on specific circumstances. These cannot necessarily be influenced by states. 
  3. Soft power is very slow at work diplomatically
  4. There is no concrete strategy used in soft power and the changes can be very subtle sometimes.

Way Ahead

Currently, the world has been experiencing various issues like non-state cross-border terrorism, direct belligerence such as in the case of Chinese Doklam incursion which could be easily dealt with hard power. India and Pakistan borders are effectively military guarded in the border areas but efforts like Kartarpur Corridor are always used. India’s current foreign policy is based on the concept of smart power. This means using both soft and hard power at particular times suiting the national integrity. India shares its stand with many global powers and is among the powerful nations of the world.

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What are the examples of Hard Power?

Hard Power can be expressed by imposing economic sanctions or by invading using military forces against another country.

How can soft power be measured?

It can be measured through conventional and unconventional terms both. One can count the number of migrants or visitors in a country for example.

What is Soft Power

It is the ability of one country to diplomatically persuade another to act on its will. No use of force is applied here

What is hard power vs soft power

It is the debate between coercion and peaceful methods to persuade a party for actions one wants them to take.
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