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Vikram Sood’s Ultimate Goal

The battle of narratives has never been so grim as it is today, because real power comes not from the barrel of a gun but from those who control the narrative,” asserts former Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) chief Vikram Sood. With these words he delves deep into outlining how narratives are crucial to any country’s “ultimate goal” of not just domination but equally of not being dominated by another nation.

In his book, The Ultimate Goal, Sood shows how nations construct narratives. In a fascinating and comprehensive analysis of how countries enhance their strength and position, the author candidly admits that narratives are not always based on truth but explains why they need to at least be plausible for them to create the desired perception.

A timely book neatly divided into chapters that effortlessly tell the stories of America, Russia and China, it also takes into account how China is dealing with criticism over how the deadly Coronavirus – now ravaging the world – emanated from its soil. The former spymaster explains how it is trying to damage control a narrative that interferes with its geopolitical and economic goals and points out that the Corona crisis has deepened the fault lines between China and the US under Donald Trump; especially now that the US is in the midst of an election.

The book will interest intelligence agencies worldwide but is sure to have a bigger reading audience too as the narrative-building factory has a wide array of players that includes the military, the media, the film industry, the Church, and the powerful corporate world that is closely linked to governments in all countries.

Read it to learn how a narrative can become truth through persuasion “somewhat like a Coca-Cola advertisement, or through manipulation of the mind, as was done by the US administration in the run-up to the Iraq War in 2003.” Sood writes, “Narratives are for self-justification; they are designed by the narrator not only to tell his version his way but also to tell your version his way.” He should know. He’s been in the business of spycraft for decades and is now part of the Observer Research Foundation, a public policy think tank.

Where the book disappoints and leaves you yearning for more is when it finally gets to the India chapter. In the introduction, Sood teases the reader about how India’s narrative was created by the West, from the time it ruled the world. He also says the chapter “deals with how India now tries to answer the question: who are we, and what is an India for all, without favours?”

The answers, however, are not detailed through a case study of how any contemporary Indian government has sought to build a “narrative” with the help of the media – print television or internet, its intelligence agencies, or its tech and corporate worlds.

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