SOON after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s statement earlier this year that America was “betting” on India’s future and sought Indian presence beyond the region, numerous articles were written in Pakistani papers with titles such as ‘US daydreaming’, ‘Sponsoring India’s rise’, ‘Challenging regional environment’ and ‘America plays Indian game’.

The common theme of these articles, duly backed by the rantings of our television anchors, was that the US is ‘sponsoring’ India’s rise as a major power and since India is Pakistan’s eternal enemy, such US sponsorship of our eternal enemy should be unacceptable to and resisted by us.

Are major powers really sponsored and created by others? Our intellectually challenged prime minister summarised the contrived national sentiment when he said that Pakistan would not accept a chaudhry or hegemon in the South Asian region.

But if no one sponsored the rise of China as a major power, why should it be difficult for us to admit that international powers emerge based on their economic, political and military strength? They are not sponsored by other major powers.

According to Paul Kennedy, author of The Rise and Fall of Great Powers, those states emerge and survive as great powers that are able to maintain a “balance of military and economic strength”. As Kennedy notes, “great power ascendancy correlates strongly to available resources and economic durability; military overstretch and a concomitant relative decline are the consistent threat facing powers whose ambitions and security requirements are greater than their resource base can provide for”. In other words, great world powers are made by their own achievements and through recognition by peers.

Liking or disliking another country or its policies has nothing to do with great power status. The United States and its western allies did not agree with Soviet communist ideology but could not deny that the Soviet Union was a superpower.

Similarly, until the 1970s communist China was not recognised by many countries around the world and faced tremendous economic and social upheavals. But no one could deny China’s status as a great civilisation and whether or not the existing powers agreed with the views and ideology of Mao Zedong, they had to acknowledge China as a great power.

Both China and India are 5,000-year old civilisations, which have now re-emerged on the global stage. When leading countries around the world seek to build ties with India, it is not a case of ‘sponsoring’ or ‘promoting’ or ‘seeking’ India’s rise as a great power, but of acknowledging a reality. It would be to Pakistan’s advantage, too, to learn to accept reality as the basis of foreign policy.

India is currently population-wise the second largest country in the world, after China, and the world’s most populous democracy. Its GDP stands at $1.43tr (at official rates) and its GDP growth rate has ranged between eight and nine per cent for the last five years, despite the global economic downturn.

By 2030 India will become the world’s third largest economy after US and China. India’s foreign exchange reserves stand at $294bn and annual Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into the Indian economy stands at around $25bn. The India-China bilateral trade stands at around $60bn annually and India-US bilateral trade around $55bn.

From being a country which received aid, India has now become an aid-provider both bilaterally as well as through multilateral institutions. Along with other fast-growing economies like Brazil, Russia and China, in 2009 India offered $10bn to the IMF to be provided to countries needing assistance.

India is currently providing around $2bn in aid to Afghanistan and this year it is offering a $5.4bn credit line for development projects in Africa — all this at a time when Pakistan is having trouble securing $3bn in loans from the IMF.

India’s higher education system in the world with around 350 universities and 16,000 colleges produces around 14,000 PhDs annually. We know India’s military prowess but ignore its soft power: India has hosted the Asian Games twice, the 2010 Commonwealth Games and the Cricket World Cup in 2011 along with Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Bollywood is the world’s largest film industry and in 2009 alone produced 2,961 films.

Our leaders remain reluctant to educate our people of these facts, let alone recognise emerging global realities. Politicians and the media persist in keeping our illiterate and semi-literate public in a mythical universe. Those, to name but one, our former ambassador in Washington, who have studied and taught international relations advocate realism in speeches and writings that are published and commented on abroad only to be ignored at home. Educated realists are denigrated on an almost daily basis as if their reference to facts is somehow blasphemous or unpatriotic.

Husain Haqqani has been dislodged through what appears to be clumsy intrigue by manipulators up to no good. The affair of the mystery memo has been described as “an invented scandal to oust a long-time critic and weaken the civilian government”.

According to US Senator John Kerry, Pakistan has lost “a strong advocate for his country and the Pakistani people ... [his] wisdom and insights will be missed….”.

Now to Imran Khan — has he joined the ranks of demagogue-politicians by calling upon the nation to turn to its mythical prowess and look its external enemies including India and the US in the eye?

As commented one realist — to look another in the eye one must be approximately of the same height. If we want to be a chaudhry let us work on becoming one. Perhaps we can begin by focusing on building a world-class educational system and develop the nation’s economy quietly for a few years, without the usual bravado and chest-thumping. Is that so difficult?