We are a strange nation – a talented people ruled by emotions and lack of pragmatic wisdom, which throws up leaders of the same ilk. Many years ago, I used to lecture on National Policy Formulation at various centers of higher learning around the country. I don’t do so now because of various reasons, one of which is that people find it difficult to face the truth.

One element of my lectures was the definition of National Interest and its place in our National Policy. It was here that I was confronted with a sampling of our collective character. When I spoke about the fact that successful nations had adopted the pragmatic approach to maintenance of national interest and that “there were no permanent friends or enemies in relations between states, but it was national interest that remained permanent”, I was confronted with a wall of mindsets that ignored reality.

We have just witnessed an example of this mindset in the recently concluded visit of the US President Barrack Obama to India. Our media and political leadership has driven itself hoarse in screaming out their disapproval of the visit and the fact that Pakistan was ignored by the White House.

Our anchors, hosts and analysts went overboard in talk shows posing questions to their Indian counterparts. In so doing, they provided opportunities to these individuals for making their pitch about how ‘Bharat’ was politically and economically strong (read ‘how Pakistan was in political and economic chaos’) and had already been recognized as an emerging global power in the region (read ‘Pakistan was puny and insignificant). In one show on a private television channel, the anchor raised a question as to what brought about the change of heart in the US President making him hug the very man he had earlier shunned for his role in grave human right violations in Gujrat. The question was directed at a well-known Indian media person and persistently pressed home. I watched this naively ignorant (or callous) performance of our television hosts and the expected response from the Indian journalist with growing anger. My ire was amply justified and I switched off the channel in sheer disgust.

The only sane comment during the spate of talk shows came from an unexpected source – Mr. Shahi Syed of the ANP, who said that the US change of heart viz a viz India was dictated by former’s interests in the region and we were ignored because we had been unable to grow tall in world reckoning because of our own mistakes and weaknesses.

My take on the much debated event was that if the US President chose to visit India, so what? Instead of raising a hue and cry, we should have resolved to strengthen ourselves internally to the extent that we generated global recognition as a genuinely prosperous and powerful state. Unfortunately, we have in the past done nothing towards this end. We have basked in the euphoria of becoming a nuclear weapon state, when this coveted status should have galvanized us into repairing our internal fault lines and propelled us to achieve our Founding Father’s vision with renewed commitment.

It is perhaps time (if we are not already too late) that we begin looking at ourselves in a bid to see the rot that besets us. One glance should reveal the ugly truth about the forces that guide the formulation of our national policies and how we place our personal gain before pragmatic fulfillment of national interest. To do this we need leadership that is crystal clear in its objectives, honest and dedicated to the point of being ruthless and above all, brimming with moral courage.