New Delhi: Globalization has dispersed wealth and its particular beneficiaries are large parts of Eastern Asia. The end of the Cold War has pushed the world into a post-ideological chaos where the primary form of order is disorder. In consequence, great power politics has undergone profound changes. The complexion of great powers as they were known and defined has also changed. One defining quality of a great power is its capacity to impose peace. Pax Britannica was so defined as too its hesitant successor, Pax Americana. But America is in decline and so is its wherewithal to impose peace suiting its interests. Global power politics would have seen tectonic shifts had the West ceded its supremacy in science and technology with Asia catching up. Such a possibility is still several decades away, which is partly why the profound changes in great power politics have not transmuted into a truly multipolar world. The world is nevertheless transforming, and India must understand and assimilate these transformations, adapt, and prepare for further changes.

With all its great power potential, India does not have a grand strategy. Every country with a sense of destiny must have to devise its own grand strategy, because it is not a case of one size fits all. Although both are island states, imperial Britain and Japan took differing and often contrasting geo-strategic trajectories. In post- Napoleonic Europe, Britain refined balance of power into fine art. The United States took its own path to greatness, taking advantage of continental isolation.

India, therefore, has to formulate a grand strategy taking into full account its own peculiar and unique geo-strategic positioning, compulsions and advantages. For example, with a coastline half as long as the land frontier, it is imperative that India becomes a maritime great power, with its influence spread over the Indian Ocean, a rare instance when an ocean is named after a country. On the other hand, land borders with two hostile nations, both nuclear states, and one of them a great power, compels India to have a large standing army. Terrorism and insurgency related to Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan’s proxy war demand suitable security provisions, not to mention niggling problems with Bangladesh. Being related to internal security, in which the armed forces have barred themselves from action, the Maoist threat, while real and spreading, falls outside the purview of a grand strategy that India must formulate and pursue, and the next government must decisively mobilize in this direction.

Can India get by without a grand strategy? No longer. Non-alignment or its strategic equivalent, strategic autonomy, cannot substitute for a well-conceived, well-implemented grand strategy. The absence of grand strategy has wrecked India’s defence planning, where, among other things, the three services are in unseemly competition to acquire foreign weapons’ systems, regardless of their ultimate utility for the country’s security. India has to rebalance its land power and maritime power imperatives while making provisions for aerospace power in them or separately, and it must realistically factor the deterrent in this whole (which professional soldiers don’t), with emphasis on the more effective sea-based deterrent. Finally, the country must have a chief of defence staff, and it cannot be held hostage to the insecurities of one service or another. Jointness and integrated defence planning are suffering in the absence of a single-point command. Integrated theatre commands which are the sine qua non of modern militaries are unknown here, with the Army, the Air Force and the Navy maintaining separate commands. As for the fear of a coup by the chief of defence staff, that is as unlikely with one as without one.

The world is changing. India must be wise to these changes. Factoring for the present and the future, India should engage its best strategic minds to evolve a grand strategy. India has a role in bringing peace in South Asia and in the Indian Ocean Region. Long ago, this writer spoke of Pax Indica in these columns. Rationalized to these times, it must be re-conceptualized and implemented under the rubric of a peaceful rise.

Editor’s note: After Rahul Gandhi’s news television interview, there are murmurs that Narendra Modi should follow suit, and submit to media “grilling”. But why? Modi is answerable to the electorate, to the legislature, and to the judiciary, which upholds the principles of a rule-based society. Where does the media figure? The media cannot arrogate special and extraordinary privileges to itself, especially as a bulk of it is compromised. It launched anti-Modi witch-hunts at the behest of the Congress party. Narendra Modi has reached where he has despite the national media, and it is a good policy to carry to the office he is campaigning for. Rahul Gandhi may feel a need to pander to the media. Not Narendra Modi.