Study of Arthashastra Important to Understand our Strategic Culture: Shiv Shankar Menon

October 08, 2013

New Delhi: Reflecting on the relevance of Kautilya’s Arthashastra in the present scenario, National Security Advisor, Shri Shiv Shankar Menon today said that “the study of Kautilya 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.”

Shri Menon was speaking at the National Seminar on ‘Developing Indigenous Concepts and Vocabulary: Kautilya’s Arthashastra’ organised by the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), in collaboration with the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR), on October 8, 2013.

Speaking further on “the importance of the concepts and the ways of thinking that the Arthashastra reveals”, Shri 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,” noted Shri Menon.

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,” reflected Shri Menon, emphasising 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.” He further emphasised on the need of having a proper reader on Indian Strategic Thought.

Earlier in his welcome address, Director General, IDSA, Dr 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.”

“A deeper study of the Arthashastra, which should be made compulsory reading for our diplomats, soldiers, administrators, will provide an Indian perspective to the art of governance and policy making” remarked Dr Gupta. He exhorted Indian scholars to delve deep into the Arthashastra and help place it amongst globally well known treatises of this nature.

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.

The renowned scholars and experts discussed the relevance of the Arthashastra to contemporary issue of good governance, strategy, war and peace, foreign policy and national security.

The scholars emphasised on the importance of teaching, studying and researching the Arthashastra in Indian universities and training institutions. The Indian think tanks should also apply the Arthashastra to contemporary conditions, it was discussed

The Arthashastra is rich in concepts like, Vidyasammudesha; the Mandala Theory, Saptanga, Shadgunya, Anvikshiki, which are relevant even today. The Arthashastra needs thorough investigation and research as these may have application in contemporary situations.

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Complete text of Shri Shiv Shankar Menon keynote address [+]

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