New Delhi: Frankly, India is unable to deal with its two adversaries, China and Pakistan. Neither does hard line work nor seems diplomacy. What’s to be done? India has to go back to basics.

Daunting as the prospect is, it is not unusual in Modern world history. Nations have rediscovered and reinvented themselves prior. Before Otto von Bismarck took the reins, Germany was struggling to put its house in order. The German identity was defused. Germany or rather multiple German states had been devastated by the Thirty Years War in which Cardinal Richelieu although a Catholic pitted Protestants against Catholics to preserve French power in the face of Habsburg Empire domination.

Bismarck united these states under Prussian rule but deliberately kept Catholic Austria apart from Imperial Germany. He waged revanchist wars and France’s defeat in 1871 and loss of Alsace-Lorraine marked the decline of French power from the twin peaks established by Richelieu and Napoleon Bonaparte. France to date has not recovered from that defeat and Bismarck built Germany so well that it withstood two world war defeats, economic collapse and foreign occupations without losing its core strength and substance. Germany remains the powerhouse of Europe.

Bismarck has entered the great ranks of statesmen but he was, more fundamentally, a grand strategist. There was no one who knew Germany’s politics, society, its political economy, its military, psyche and so on as well as Bismarck did. Germany divided on sectarian lines kept the other European powers strong. They feared united Germany which is what Bismarck set out to achieve. Once he had met his goal, he set about preserving German strength with a highly complex system of alliances in which the balance of power was held by Germany. The tragedy is that Bismarck’s genius made Germany a Great Power too soon. He alone had the means to control its aggressive nationalism. Once he was discarded by the Kaiser, Germany lost its moderation and provoked two world wars. That it survived them and grew strong once again, partly because of Wirtschaftswunder, owes considerably to Bismarck.

Bismarck took Germany back to basics. He understood its strengths and weaknesses and worked on one and tried to minimize the other. He did make mistakes. He made the French defeat too absolute. Even in their weakness and foreboding, the French wouldn’t forgive him. It set the stage for World War I. But in all other ways, his grand strategy stood the test of time and kept Germany strong even through its worst trials. Bismarckian grand strategy is what India needs and not the geopolitical tinkering the Narendra Modi government is endlessly about.

There are two further twentieth century examples of grand strategy to supplement the argument. The first of these was devised by the United States greatest geopolitical strategist of the last century, George F. Kennan. Unlike Bismarck, Kennan was not a statesman. He was a career diplomat who had a wonderful faculty to gain insights into the Soviet Union in all respects which he then fashioned to create a strategy to contain it. A deeply conflicted and sensitive man, Kennan came to view with horror the increased militarization of containment by the United States as the Cold War grew in intensity and scale. But like Bismarck, he had built containment so sturdily that it withstood changes of orientation, excessive militarization, and so forth without losing its core objective. India needs its own Keenans to square up to Pakistan and China.

Indeed, China presents the second example of great strategic thought and execution in the twentieth century. What China is today owes greatly -- if not solely -- to Deng Xiaoping. Deng was like Bismarck a statesman. He was also an extraordinary grand strategist. While Mao Tse Tung deserves credit for setting the foundation of revolutionary China and making it the third Great Power of the twentieth century after the post-1945 eclipse of the European powers and Japan, it is really Deng who made China a modern, industrial behemoth. Having meticulously studied the blunders of Mao and having travelled widely within China to understand its genius and special needs, he set about reforming the Chinese political economy. It could be remarked that he dealt with a totalitarian establishment which enabled him to plan a leadership succession right up to Xi Jinping. Yet, he could have got it all wrong and heavily overestimated China’s capacity to become the manufactory of the world. He did not. That was Deng’s genius. And he built his grand strategy so solidly and deeply that it has stood the test of time.

Going back to basics should hold no fear for India. The world has been there many times before. There is more to apprehend from temporizing and tawdry tactics masquerading as strategy. India can no longer deceive itself that it is geopolitically lost. Its future survival and prosperity depends on grand strategy.