Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-59b7f5684b-fmrbl Total loading time: 0.842 Render date: 2022-09-27T02:51:58.650Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "displayNetworkTab": true, "displayNetworkMapGraph": false, "useSa": true } hasContentIssue true

The Ethics of Excess and Indian Intervention in South Asia

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 September 2012

Ralph Buultjens
RALPH BUULTJENS is Senior Professor at the New School of Social Research and teaches at New York University. He was awarded the prestigious Toynbee Prize for the Social Sciences (1984) and has written extensively on South Asia. His most recent book, Windows on India (New York: Express Books, 1987) was published in early 1988.


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?

Ethics and Intervention
© Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs 1989

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9 Ibid., p. 254Google Scholar.

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

11 Ibid., p. 223Google Scholar.

12 Ibid., p. 322Google Scholar.

13 Ibid., pp. 309–12Google Scholar.

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

15 Ibid., p. 226Google Scholar.

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

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

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

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

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. 242Google Scholar.

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

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

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

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

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

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

28 Kaufmann, Walter, Religion in Four Dimensions (New York,: Reader's Digest Press, 1976 ) p. 248Google Scholar. 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. 381Google Scholar.

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

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

32 Ibid., pp. 154–55Google Scholar.

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

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

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

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. GandhiGoogle Scholar.

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)Google Scholar.

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. 195–96Google Scholar. 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. 196Google Scholar.

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 1969Google Scholar

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

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

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. 11–13Google Scholar.

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. DhawanGoogle Scholar.

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

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)Google Scholar.


From Ratnatunga, Sinha, Politics of Terrorism: The Sri Lanka Experience (Melbourne: International Federation for Social and Economic Development, 1988) p. 371Google Scholar. 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, 1988Google Scholar.

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

The Ethics of Excess and Indian Intervention in South Asia
Available formats

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

The Ethics of Excess and Indian Intervention in South Asia
Available formats

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

The Ethics of Excess and Indian Intervention in South Asia
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *