FO° Talks: The James Bond Business

James Bond is not just a sexy action hero with a cute accent, a great body, a devil-may-care attitude, a way with glamorous women, and mastery of guns. In the words of Mark O'Connell, author of Catching Bullets: Memoirs of a Bond Fan, Bond "must be a movie star, an ambassador for the series and cinema, a media diplomat, an anointed son of British culture and the face of a billion-dollar ecosystem of products and endorsements."

Even in 2022, Bond is the personification of British soft power. In essence, this British superhero saves the world from baddies. Bond has irked the Chinese so badly that they tried to mock him. Humor is not a Chinese strong point, and they ended up mocking themselves instead, and the MI6 chief thanked them for "free publicity."

On a serious note, any power, ruling or rising, needs effective defense, diplomacy, and intelligence to protect and project itself. The British managed to create an empire, in part because they had great soldiers, spies, and envoys. The Americans have 800 military bases, the CIA, and, until recently, a pretty decent State Department.

The James Bond business is about narratives, mystique, and soft power. It is also about intelligence, statecraft, and power projection. Good old Chanakya knew all about it and wrote about it. Great powers invariably have good spies. The British have MI6, Israel has Mossad, and the US has the CIA. Russia has FSB, the successor to the KGB. China has been investing heavily into MSS.

To make sense of it all, we will examine what the James Bond business actually means, how different powers go about it and what India can do to step up.

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