New Delhi: India ranks fourth among the major military powers of the world. The ranking does not account for nuclear weapons. Nor is India by definition a Great Power. Great Powers can shape their own destiny.

Nevertheless, a fourth rank in the world is not something to be scoffed at. Nor does it give a license for chest-thumping. Indians are notorious chest-thumpers. The Narendra Modi government has its share of them.

The junior minister for information and broadcasting, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, is an incorrigible chest-thumper. When Indian forces undertook counter-insurgency measures in the neighbourhood, Rathore went ballistic on social media.

He is at it again. He spoke to television about special operations and so on. The news spread that Dawood Ibrahim, Hafiz Saeed, etc, could be neutralized. Forced to a reality check, Rathore fell back to time-worn mendacity. He claims misinterpretation. Meanwhile, the Pakistan army chief has waded into the war of words.

As a failing state, Pakistan feels obliged to combative rhetoric from time to time. Let it. Why should India reciprocate?

Actions speak louder than words. The Indian Army is promptly repulsing Pakistan’s ceasefire violations. Pakistani terrorists are being caught alive in Jammu and Kashmir. It sends its own message which need not be elaborated here.

Why then are ministers like Rathore talking out of turn? (At this writing, another minister, Giriraj Singh, has added his own incendiary comments.)

Doesn’t Rathore have enough to do as I and B minister? What will shut him up? The threat of losing his portfolio?

With power comes responsibility. As a ranking power, India should maintain near radio silence on strategies. Operational matters and acquisitions should remain unpublicized. Special actions must find their own, unofficial publicity. It adds to the aura.

None of this is new advice. It was first given when Rathore babbled about the Burma operations and embarrassed and angered the Burmese government. What is so compelling about 15 minutes of television fame that ministers lose their head and throw caution to the winds?

As if he was at some election rally, Rathore said, “Saam daam dand bhed, sab cheezon ka istemaal hoga. Dossier bhi denge aur baaki sab kuch bhi hoga.” Is this man fit to be minister? Has he no control over his speech?

Strategic communications have become circumspect, carefully designed and sophisticated from since the Cold War. Among the Powers, military commanders rarely speak on strategic and tactical matters, and if they do, it is couched in diplomatic language. The idea is to send messages without appearing shrill or jingoistic.

On the other hand, most of the heavy-duty strategic communication is handled by the diplomatic side of government. Diplomats are trained for appropriate communication. They are nuanced in conveying signals. This is not the situation that obtains in India, and particularly with the Narendra Modi government.

Modi’s foreign office may be seen as the most silent in years. That is not a bad thing. But when everyone is shooting their mouths off and the foreign office is mum, it means trouble.

If any communication has to be made on counter-terrorism, strategic action, etc, the foreign office should be given the first charge. In rare cases, the defence ministry may be involved, after proper vetting of communications.

But there is no cause for the likes of Rajyavardhan Rathore to speak on subjects outside their territory. If there is further damage, Prime Minister Modi must sideline his motormouthed ministers.

Words cannot speak louder than action.