- By Ramananda Sengupta
'The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.'
- Cassius, from Julius Caesar, Act 1, scene 2,
There's an old adage which says that there are no permanent friends (or enemies) in international relations, only permanent interests.
Our politicians, of course, seem to have adopted that philosophy personally - their permanent interests being power, perks and pelf - but let us stick to international relations for now.
Any country that follows that dictum, however, must be very very clear about what those permanent interests are.
So what are our core, non-negotiable issues, over which we would be willing to go to war?
Territorial integrity? Over the years, we've heard repeated rumours that India might be willing to consider the strident demands for border 'adjustments' by China, Pakistan and even Bangladesh, in the hope that it would buy some peace. The Chinese keep testing us with repeated incursions across the border, knowing that all we will do is bluster and whine. Our borders, both internal and external, are clearly negotiable.
Sovereignty? Over 90 per cent of our leaders would have trouble spelling the word, leave alone understand it.
Despite aspirations and pretensions of being a great power, we have no strategic framework, or even doctrine, preferring instead to depend on knee jerk reactions and moral platitudes.
The venerable Economist, in a cover story titled 'Can India become a great power?' (March 30-April 5 issue) points out that 'instead of clear strategic thinking, India shuffles along, impeded by its caution and bureaucratic inertia.'
A 'symbol of these failings,' it argues ,' is India's reluctance to reform a defence industrial base that wastes huge amounts of money, supplies the armed forces with substandard kit and leaves the country dependent on foreigners for military modernisation.'
'...As China bulks up, India's strategic shortcomings are becoming a liability. And they are an obstacle to India's dream of becoming a true 21st century power,' it concludes in the cover essay, which incidentally has a large rectangular chunk (probably a map which offends the sensibilities of the Indian government) of the page literally blacked out.
But strategic thinking is not the only thing we lack.
Image: An Indian soldier stands guard at the Indo-Chinese border in Ladakh.