We must develop a strategic culture in this country.
Manmohan Singh bemoans its absence. In the halcyon days of his first term, Singh, attempting to change the strategic outlook of this giant nation, was often heard complaining, "We must develop a strategic culture in this country."
He joins a large number of Indian intellectuals who decry our apparent lack of ability to plot out India's "strategic thought" or even plan a "grand strategy".
To a casual observer, India's actions — or lack thereof — often appear to be a result of who the government spoke to last, or based on ad hoc considerations that undermine India's interests. What makes this outlook interesting is that foreign analysts writing about India, seem equally clear that India does not have a vibrant strategic culture.
Many of us would agree with George Tanham who wrote in his seminal RAND study on Indian strategic thought: "[India] is an extraordinarily complex and diverse society, and Indian elites show little evidence of having thought coherently and systematically about national strategy."
Why do we seem to be an inchoate mass of chattering classes, government, national security establishment and politicians, all working at cross purposes, with the result that nobody quite knows why we do what we do or whether Indian interests are at all being advanced in the global marketplace?
India, many argue, does not have a strategic culture because it has never faced an existential threat. The burden of being around for millennia has given a sort of timelessness to its strategic outlook.