Making a great power omelet

A review of my book ‘Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)’ by Sandeep Unnithan, published in India Today dated May 25, 2016 and accessible at
A security hawk writes a masterful compendium of India’s strategic failings.

Diplomacy without arms, the 19th century Prussian soldier-statesman Frederick the Great once observed, is like music without instruments. India’s foremost national security hawk Bharat Karnad insists that India has stood the Frederickian analogy on its head- its orchestra can make big music, but uses just the piccolo to produce small notes.

In this masterful compendium of the country’s strategic failings, including the inability to field a robust military-industrial complex and, consequently, hard power, Karnad dives deep into military misfires like a 2001 project to provide a ‘simputer’ for infantry soldiers. Failures that have cascaded into a conundrum- a UN Security Council seat aspirant is today also the world’s largest arms importer. He’s quick to identify the problems: a void in strategy, geostrategic vision and other factors like pusillanimity, absence of strong leadership and a stifling bureaucracy.

Karnad was an early advocate of China and not Pakistan being India’s long-term strategic adversary. He harps on the absence of China-specific deterrents like thermonuclear weapons and strategic fortitude to stand up to its northern neighbour.

If India is indeed to become a great power, it needs to discard its please-all policy, become more disruptive in the manner of A-list powers who break eggs to make great power omelets for themselves.

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in Asian geopolitics, China, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Army, Nuclear Policy & Strategy, Nuclear Weapons, Pakistan, South Asia, UN, Weapons. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Making a great power omelet

  1. Shaurya says:

    It is ironic the legendary, K, Subrahamanyam was called the security establishment hawk in the 70’s. Now Bharat you have that mantle, even though you do not subscribe to his views have criticized K. Subrahamanyam’s views around the nuclear stance – but always on merit, never out of spite.

    Strange are these labels sometimes.

    • Ironic, about Subrahmanyam, I mean.

      • Except perhaps B. Raman all of them are blind American worshipers. In 1962 Kennedy helped us. In 1971 Nixon Kissinger duo stabbed us using, UK and China. Irony! Greatest democracies and Largest Dictatorship against largest democracy! Indiraji (Durga according to Vajpayee) didn’t blink. Breshnev saved us. Regards,
        Jose Manimala Kerala.

    • There was a time. In 1986- 1987, Rajiv Gandhi, General Sundarji and Arun Singh tested warming Soviet – China ties. China and America warned India another 1962 like painful, shameful lesson. Weak, meek Gorbachev advised India to show the other cheek. After tense stand off, China backed off. Above mentioned hawks didn’t, blink. Show of strength saved the day in favor of the Indians. Best Jose Manimala, Kerala.

  2. To Bharat Karnad
    Western, especially US scholars can’t bear an American educated man like your lack of colonial respect.
    They say your book is bloated and site is 3 days behind latest US vs Russian collision course.
    They only tolerate WASPs from UK,Canada,New Zealand, Australia and perhaps South Africa.
    Indian critics of you say America is Paradise, Heaven, Moksha on earth/duniya.
    However I disagree with you on English. Russians now use English successfully against US and Europe. Why are you silent on Indian Pawn moves on South China Sea, Geopolitical chess.
    US hawks will lose May 2017 WWW3 against resurgent Russia. A British Dr Strangelove raves. Already Germany, France and even UK fed up with their American overlords. See Childhoods End – Arthur C Clarke.

    Regards, Jose Manimala, Pala, Kerala.

  3. Venkat says:

    Let us learn to conduct 10th and 12th examinations in a clean way. These are foundation level exams , forget quality of universities. Unless we have adults who have come the hard way and have character, there is no point in even thinking great !

  4. Atul says:

    Can you further clarify this news item which says the following:

    ‘this linkage, connecting technology to military capabilities, are in the interest of both countries.
    It is a pre-requisite to the most advanced defence technology cooperation with the US,” said Ben Schwartz, Director (Aerospace and Defence), US-India Business Council.”

    Is it saying about CISMOA & BECA? What is the crux?

    • Look, for the US the foundational ags are part of an overall scheme to rope India, however it manage it, into a near alliance kind of system. Advanced military technology has always been the bait. The question is, in the present circumstances, whether the Modi regime will take it.

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