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 http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/why-india-is-not-a-great-power-bharat-karnad-books/1/677612.html
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.