New Delhi, Oct 8: Study of Chanakya’s Arthashastra, an ancient Indian treatise on statecraft, economic policy and military strategy, is one of the significant ways to understand the country’s strategic culture, National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon said Tuesday.
Speaking at a seminar on “Developing Indigenous Concepts and Vocabulary: Kautilya’s Arthashastra”, Menon said: “The study of Kautilya (Chanakya) is one of the significant ways in which we can become more self conscious about the strategic culture that we have, and in which we can contribute to its evolution.”
The event was organised by the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), in collaboration with the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR).
Speaking further on “the importance of the concepts and the ways of thinking that the Arthashastra reveals”, Menon said that “this is useful because in many ways the world which we face today, (of multiple states, of several major powers, of an uneven but lumpy distribution of power among those major states, even while the system has one predominant military power), is similar to the world that Kautilya operated in when he built the Mauryan Empire to greatness.”
“It is my belief that the results of a Kautilyan analysis would not be very different from our present nuclear policy or policy towards Pakistan,” he added, according to a statement.
Insisting that there are no exact parallels in history, “there are certainly ways of thinking conditioned by context and similar circumstance”, he said that though “our technologies and experiences may be very different from those Kautilya knew, human nature, politics and state behaviour do not appear to have changed quite as much or so drastically as to be unrecognizable.”
“Since Kautilya’s time, theories have multiplied and changed drastically, politics has not,” said Menon.
He emphasised that the “Kautilyan ideas of mandalas, of the basic functions of the state, of the necessity and justification for the use of force, and of raisons d’etat, are part of the popular vocabulary and thinking on politics and international relations in India.”
Menon also noted the need of having a proper reader on Indian strategic thought.
IDSA Director General Arvind Gupta, said that “the Arthashastra is rich in ideas, concepts and methodologies useful in the art of governance. Many key messages of the Arthashastra are of universal nature, as is the case with the teachings of numerous ancient Indian texts”.
The seminar was a continuation of the IDSA research project on the Arthashastra launched in October 2012. A workshop was also organised in April this year, involving a number of Indian scholars who study the Arthashastra.