Every commentary of the Republic Day parade in Delhi speaks of the display of the country’s military might and cultural strength. The combination is appropriate because real power in today’s world is a multifarious compound, with both hard and soft components. We all know about the military power. They were displayed in the new weapons systems like the Su-30MKI, the Prithvi II missiles and by the phalanxes of perfectly disciplined marching men. But all these matter little unless well-mixed with the ‘soft’ elements — diplomacy, economy, high and popular culture. It is defined by the mindspace that India and Indians occupy in the world of films and finance, tourism and travel or bio- and nanotechnology.
Two of these elements were combined in the person of the chief guest, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. The first visit by a Saudi monarch to India is no ordinary event. It is another confirmation of the decision of the rich desert kingdom to come out of its shell and engage the world as a modern nation. Considering we get a quarter of our oil from there, and over 1.5 million of our citizens work there, the Saudi decision to engage India in a broad spectrum relationship that includes combating terrorism and investment is fortuitous. Like many others today, the Saudi monarch, too, sees that India’s power resides in its incredibly diverse land, the easy adaptability of its people, their many languages and culture, strong family systems and values that put a premium on education. That power is most easily identified in the millions of non-resident Indians who have made the country proud of their achievements and continue their association with their home country through remittances and investments. India’s aspiration is to recreate the matrix of their success in the mother country.
But beyond the softness — or hardness — of power, is its highest requirement: a nation with a sound ethical and humanist credo. Minus this, power only corrupts absolutely. In the land of the Buddha, Ashoka, Kabir and Gandhi, we should not have to go too far to learn what that is all about. So parade we must our military might and cultural efflorescence. But they will have meaning only if we align them to our larger civilisational statement.
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- On Monday, Odisha reported 668 large forest fires.
- The 13th floor houses the accounts office of the Eastern Railways.