Kautilya’s Influence on Indian Strategic Thought

Pakistan-U.S Relations and the Fight Against Terrorism
October 9, 2018
Kashmir Conundrum: A Core Determinant in Pakistan- India Relations
October 9, 2018

By Ayaz Khokar

(The author holds M.Phil in IR from School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-I-Azam University.He is currently engaged in independent research on Strategic Dimensions of Pakistan and Indian politics)

International politics is complex, dynamic and evolving in its nature and scope. The density and velocity of interaction between states and other international actors has increased many fold during the post-Cold War era due to the innovation of technology. The international actors are interacting simultaneously at many places in many dimensions in a complex and anarchic international system. The primary motivational force behind these actions of actors is maximisation of their self-interest. These actors attempt to protect and maximise their self-material interest in a competitive and power driven environment, which is the basis of realpolitik or political realism.

Classical realist tradition of Philosophy has explained this power centric and power driven competitive environment of international relations. This tradition has significantly shaped and influenced the thinking and actions of statesmen. Classical realist thinkers attempted to logically explain the dynamics of power politics and their implications for international actors in their theories of foreign policy and international relations. Kuatiliya, also known as Chankya has been recognized and internationally acclaimed as a Statesman, and philosopher of political realism.

He has presented a comprehensive theoretical framework of international relations and foreign policy, “Mandala Theory” in his work “Arthasastra” which offers explanation of India’s strategic choice of military modernisation to increment national power.This is a work of political realism which was written in 300 BC in India. Kautilya explained the entire course of state formation and conduct of its foreign policy through war and diplomacy in order to maximise the power of state.

Kautilya expounded the principal of maximisation of national power through gaining material economic strength by conquering the adjacent territories to the state. He was adviser and minster of Indian king Chandragupta Maurya who established vast kingdom in India following philosophy of Kautilya. Kautilya explained the best strategy for protection and defence of state was its expansion and his king as conqueror of the world.

India has conceived Pakistan as its natural enemy and tried to sabotage Pakistan by using aggressive security and foreign policy implementation mechanisms known as cold start doctrine and fifth generation warfare of propaganda

As a political advisor and minister of Indian king Chandragupta Maurya, he advocated unification of India through acquiring military might and economic strength. Kuatilya advocated merciless political decision-making in order to confront challenges of the given period. He has written Arthashastra around 300 BC as apolitical treaty and advisory text for his king. India was facing sever attacks and military encroachments from the descendants of Alexander The Great and Persian Kings. Chandragupta followed Kaytilya’s philosophy and unified India in to a strong centralised state through conduct of muscular foreign policy as described in Mandala framework. The theory advocates national power maximisation.

The King in Mandala Theory can be equated as sovereign or symbol of sovereignty of state. Kautilya proposed expansion of state because he considered territory as material wealth of nation. He considered that the material economic, political and military powers of state are the constituent elements of its supremacy. He emphasised on the internal strength of state in order to pursue expansionist and maximalist foreign policy. He categorised enemies and friends on the basis of geography and psychology attached to their geographic location. He hypothesised States in the forms of circles called them Mandala and then proposed their likely nature of relations. Regional domination became corner stone of Kuatilya’s foreign and security policy framework.

Classification is the key feature of his scientific political treaty. He has classified these Kingdoms or States into four categories from the perspective of ambitious Kingdom/State by placing it at center of circle. These four types of states are Vijigishu (The ambitious State), Ari (The natural enemy state having contagious territory with Vijigishu), Madhyama(The regional power having adjacent borders with Ari and Vijigishu) and Udasina (The super power of the system lies outside this region or circle of states).

There are some important strategic conceptions perceived by Kuatilya through this classification of States which become the basis of his generalization of enemies, friends, allies and neutral states in international system. On the basis of these generalizations he advocates the conduct of war, diplomacy and execution of foreign policy dealing with in allies, friends and enemies. Therefore, it is important to understand and explain this classification of friendly states, enemy states, neutral states, superpower and conduct of Kuatalian foreign policy with them.

On enemy States, Kautilya classifies them into two categories of having natural enemy states and artificial enemy states. The basis of this animosity is geography and psychological perception of state attached to this geography. Kautilya conceives the territorially contagious state as natural enemy and calls it Ari. Ari-mitra and Ari Mitra-Mitra are considered as natural allies of enemy. Therefore, they all three are natural enemies. Parshnigrah and Parshnigrahasara are potential enemies which can attack the center state of circle during the time of its expedition for expansion from rear. The backyard states are potential yet artificial enemies. Thus, Vijigishu or the central state has to face the set of five enemy states.

On friendly States, Kautilya classifies again them into two categories of natural ally States and artificial ally States. The two states geographically adjacent to the natural enemies are considered as natural allies and friendly states. These states areMitra and Mitra-Mitraof ambitious or the central state. Akranda and Akrandsara are potential allies and friends of Vijigishu as they have adjacent geography with Parshnigrah and Parshnigrahasara which are potential enemies of Vijigishu. Thus it is the set of five friendly states or Kingdoms which have alliance against the set of five enemy states. Here, Kautilya proposes balance of power in order to protect the interest of Vijigishu or the central state through means of self-help and alliances.

On neutral power or the regional power, Kautilya proposes peace with neutral regional power which is stronger than Vijigishu or the central state and Ari or the enemy state while having adjacent borders with both. He calls it Middle Kingdom or Madhyama. On super power of the system, Kautilya argues that super power is the real neutral which lies outside the circle of the state system. He calls it Udasinawhichis more powerful than that of Vijigishu, Ari, and Madhyama.

In the present scenario, if we apply Kautalian Mandala framework on the present India in order to conceptualize its strategic thinking and foreign policy behavior than certain interesting revelations surface as a result. Most important of them is that Kautilian model of foreign policy making and execution in order to further Indian national interest of gaining material economic, military and political interest is still relevant.

Similar to Kautilian conception, India has conceived Pakistan as its natural enemy and tried to sabotage Pakistan by using aggressive security and foreign policy implementation mechanisms known as cold start doctrine and fifth generation warfare of propaganda. The arrest of KulbashanYadev from Pakistan is evidence of it. India is engaged in comprehensive military modernization in order to operational its limited war doctrine. Addition of surgical strike claims in 2016 and September 2018 further explains it. Diplomatically, India tried to isolate Pakistan by cancelling SAARC Islamabad summit 2016 and lobbying in Afghanistan and USA against Pakistan. Walter Ladwig noted that Indian military modernization is threatening Pakistan’s conventional deterrence and strategic stability of south Asia.

Similarly, India has tried to coercively maneuver its neighbors in South Asian region either by use of force or by projecting its use for regional domination. On the other side, India perceives Afghanistan and South East Asia as its natural allies while seeks Middle East as potential ally.Kautilian philosophy has influenced Indian strategic community and decision making process in many ways. After 1947, the post partitioned India has acted in similar ways as suggested by Kautilya in order to maximize its national power and material wealth through expansionism and animosity against the neighboring states.India has asserted itself in her neighboring states through invasion of Kashmir against Pakistan in 1948, annexation of Sikkim 1975, aggression against Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh during 1980’s. After 9/11, the ongoing increasing military role of India in Afghanistan has debilitating security implications for Pakistan. India signed strategic partnership agreement with Afghanistan in 2011. Domination of Indian peninsula has become corner stone of Indian security and foreign policy which is populary called as India’s self-conceived big brother shell.

Indian offensive war doctrine against Pakistan, rapid military modernization of armed forces in order to operational it and pumping of huge finances in this military modernization scheme under Premier Modi’s “Make in India” initiative manifest that India wants to maximize her national power. India has signed number of strategic partnership agreements with important countries in these regions including Afghanistan in South Asia, UAE, Qatar, KSA and Iran in Middle East and Vietnam in South East Asia. Indian expansion in SCO and ASEAN along with SAARC is another manifestation of geographic expansionism of state’s national interest which is the core theme of Kuatilyan foreign policy drive which ensures security of the state by means of power projection.

Applying Kautilian framework of neutral state on China, Indian has developed cooperative relationship with china along with occasional and episodic confrontation except 1962 war. When India realized that China is greater in economic, political and military strength than India, India entered into Panchseel agreement or Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence with China. China has adjacent border with Pakistan and India as well as greater national power.

Applying Kautilian approach of friendly relations and appeasement toward extra-regional superpowers, the contemporary India follows policy of strategic alliance with both Russia and United States of America. During cold war era, India sided with only one superpower Russia but it never militarily confronted USA. Now, India has fully gel its gelled its relations with USA and Russia. Kautilian model of foreign policy for inter-state relations is still relevant in contemporary Indian Strategic thought. The relevance of Kuatilya’s foreign policy principals with the actions of India makes the application of this theoretical model credible and valid. This military modernization has changed national power equation of India which will have deep implications for changing balance of power in South Asia. The global balance of power has undergone significant transformations during the 21stcentury. India has witnessed unprecedented political and economic rise.

India has initiated a comprehensive military modernizations plan in order to translate its economic strength into an effective and tangible military might. Political and academic debate abounds as to the scale and strength of this modernization, as well as how it will influence India’s relative power in the Indian Ocean and Asia-Pacific region. Under the crescent of cold-start doctrine in 2004, India has planned a strategy of preemptive war against Pakistan which has been quoted as limited war doctrine. This cold-start doctrine was revised in 2014 while further amended in 2016 in order to make it more offensive. This doctrine is a strategic gamble of India keeping in view the nuclear capabilities of Pakistan. India claimed surgical strike of Indian army in November 2016 across line of control into Pakistan administered Kashmir which was rebutted by Pakistan.

Later on, Indian parliamentarians also disputed with this exaggerated claim of India. Similarly, Indian army chief’s claims about surgical strike in September 2018 across LoC into Azad Kashmir reflect traditional hegemonic posture of India toward Pakistan. These developments ratify that Indian strategic community has stilled not reconsider its policy of marching against its natural enemies, its neighboring states especially against Pakistan.The increased pace of this military modernization with available finances will result in more assertive foreign policy behavior of India. This changing balance of power has depleting effect on strategic stability of south Asia which has severe security implications for Pakistan. Following Kautalian philosophy, domination of Indian peninsula has become corner stone of Indian security and foreign policy which is popularly called as India’s self-conceived image of big brother hell which is inherently exploitative as India tries to control and mold foreign policy of regional states.