New Delhi: Yesterday, this writer addressed a modest lecture to African and Asian diplomats about India’s soft power. The piece that follows carries some allusion to the subject but preponderantly concerns what, for want of a better expression, may be called the self-realization of nations and states.

At yesterday’s conference, an African diplomat raised a sensitive and significant matter. It was part of the question-answer session of the previous lecture but profoundly influenced this writer when he commenced his own.

The African diplomat regretted that African states lapsed from time to time to looking to former colonizers for future direction, who of course exploited the situation. Mention was made of France, Britain and the other former European colonial powers. It became, willy-nilly, the starting point for this writer’s lecture containing, in turn, references to a conversation that took place with an acquaintance from Kenya some years ago.

The Kenyan acquaintance mentioned some election or the other and expressed the standard fear of vote-rigging. He spoke of advice being sought from the British, who naturally brought forth their well-worn, imperial dhobi-list of counter demands. Why, asked the Kenyan acquaintance, genuinely puzzled, was India not in similar distress? How did it pull out so quickly from the post-colonial quagmire of dependence on former colonialists?

The African diplomat’s angst and the Kenyan’s question differently address the same issue. How did India upon independence become truly independent whereas so many decolonized countries of Africa and Asia did not? This writer’s answer to the question when first raised was repeated to the African diplomat yesterday, the intervening years keeping its salience intact. Perhaps entrepreneurship made the difference to India.

The entrepreneur is a strange and invaluable animal. They have an empowering self-confidence that does not easily take fright to challenges. The bigger the challenges, the better it is for true entrepreneurs. They squeeze opportunities from impossible situations. Risk-taking, in consequence, deserves its profits. When a country has a natural entrepreneurial spirit like India has, it cannot be put down for long.

Napoleon Bonaparte inadvertently hit upon the truth of fortitude when he called England a nation of shopkeepers. Though a thin strip of water separated England from the Continent, Napoleon could not conquer the isles. He failed twice, the second time on account of the brilliance of Admiral Nelson at Trafalgar, who died saving his country. Adolf Hitler gave up even before trying. After William of Orange, who speeded England’s destiny as an entrepreneurial, trading and financing nation, there has been no modern conqueror of Albion.

It is entrepreneurship too, however imperfect, which kept India going after independence. Slowly, steadily and with iron will, it built all the attractive soft power institutions to become the world’s largest democracy. India’s example stands out starkly contrary to the narrative of victimhood espoused by decolonized Islamic nations and their people, which infects the response to the latest Paris attacks.

There is this thing going that France had it coming with the attacks for what it did in Algeria in the past and the present bombings in Syria. One empathizes with the colonized but there is no justification for terrorism. Should India, by that token, take vengeance on Britain for pauperizing it? If you study the 1943 Bengal Famine (at least 3 million deaths), it has a horrible likeness to the fate Hitler planned for the Soviet Union by annexing the food bowl of Ukraine; his direct greed for Moscow, however, brought him ruin sooner as in the case of Napoleon. Does the Famine warrant retribution against Britain today? By no means.

The point is this. Disunited Indians who couldn’t see to the imperative of meaningful centralized self-government are as responsible as Britain for the colonization of India. The fault lies in ourselves, not in outsiders and the stars. Thomas Piketty, the economist, argued in favour of nonsensical victimhood again some months previously when he said financially stricken Greece deserved reparations from Angela Merkel’s Germany for the Nazi occupation of the Greek islands during World War II. This is socialism with victimhood characteristics.

Thankfully, India does not ply victimhood state politics. It has got the country to where it has. A state’s self-realization is the measure of its greatness. The decolonized states of Africa and Asia must learn from India’s example. Dependence on foreign powers would lead to exploitation and unbroken misery.

Nature is neutral to individuals and states. In that sense, there is no God. The most magnificent expression of this idea insofar as it concerns individuals is contained in the poetry and solitary novel of one of modernity’s greatest writers, Emily Bronte, who died in obscurity, aged 30. Whether it is geo-strategy or our daily lives, the outside world is the great moors of Wuthering Heights with its wild beauty and abiding cruelty.

Welcome to the imperfect world.

Editor’s Note: For someone in public life and supremely ambitious to be prime minister, Rahul Gandhi shows extraordinary diversions of interest. First there is the National Herald controversy and now this dubious company in the UK whose documents reveal him for three years post incorporation as a UK national. What is going on? Daring the Prime Minister to investigate him with taunts of a 56-inch chest is pointless and scarcely likely to satisfy public opinion. It is also juvenile. Rahul Gandhi has to come clean and the government has a duty to investigate wrongdoing. Rahul Gandhi is not a businessman to be setting up companies, or is he? India can do without such entrepreneurship.