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  • Kautilya’s Arthashastra: Strategic Cultural Roots of India’s Contemporary Statecraft

    Debates around the existence of a strategic culture in India have tickled the minds of scholars in International Relations for a long time, with a critical precedent set by George K. Tanham (1992), through Indian Strategic Thought: An Interpretive Essay, written for the RAND Corporation. Tanham refers to the incoherence in India’s strategic behaviour and concludes that strategic thought is by far absent in India. Kautilya’s Arthashastra: Strategic Cultural Roots of India’s Contemporary Statecraft by Kajari Kamal puts an end to all these debates.

    January-February 2024

    Shashank Mittal asked: What is the contemporary relevance of Kautilya's Saptang theory?

    Medha Bisht replies: Saptanga theory is the theory of the state. Translated as seven limbs—sapt-anga, it helped one understand the prakriti (nature or character) of the state. The seven constituent elements can also be described as the building blocks, which determined the prakriti of the state. These building blocks were important for augmenting the state capacity and influence.

    A Comparison of Kamandaka's Nitisara and Kautilya's Arthashastra: Statecraft, Diplomacy and Warfare

    Kamandaka’s Nitisara was composed after the classic and the only surviving root text of Kautilya’s Arthashastra. Both the texts are important milestones in Indic heritage and tradition of political science. They share many fundamental and enduring similarities in concepts and vocabulary. There are also dissimilarities and some unique features such as Kamandaka’s strategy of Upeksha (neglect, diplomatic indifference) reused and revived during the Indian freedom struggle.

    July-September 2021

    Generality of Kautilyan Tenets Informed by Unique Indianness

    The interweaving of philosophy with statecraft lends Kautilya’s Arthashastra a unique comprehensive approach. Even if some of the Kautilyan tenets are resoundingly commonsensical, the lamp of philosophy credibly illuminates its Indianness.

    April 28, 2021

    A Study of the Kural: Concepts and Themes

    India has a live, longstanding, and multiple traditions of secular texts and treatise on statecraft, not only in Sanskrit but also in Dravidian traditions in Tamil. For a total picture of Indian civilization and culture there is need to explore texts other than just Sanskrit. In this category there is a powerful and compact text in Tamil from south India called the Tirukkural by Tiruvalluvar, also known as the Kural.


    Individual Rights and Collective Good: A Historical Perspective

    Any dichotomy between the individual rights of the people and the powers of the state has to be dealt with through a nuanced approach.

    April 29, 2020

    The Nitisara by Kamandaka: Continuity and Change from Kautilya’s Arthashastra

    This study compares Indian traditions of statecraft in Kamandaka’s Nitisara, or the Elements of Polity, with the earlier foundational root text of Kautilya’s Arthashastra. There are commonalities, dissimilarities and uniqueness in the texts. However, key values and concepts across time do not seem to have changed and remain relevant even today.


    How India Sees the World: Kautilya to the 21st Century,  by Shyam Saran

    One of the first lessons a student of international politics is introduced to is that foreign policy is a compendium of continuity and change, of static and dynamic co-existence, mired in the national interest of the nation state. In the Indian context, in particular, the first political theorist the same student studies is the realist ancient thinker Kautilya. These elementary but indispensable lessons form the basis of Shyam Saran’s riveting work, How India Sees the World: Kautilya to the 21st Century.

    October-December 2018

    Arya Chaturvedi: What is the potential of India's 'soft power'? How successful is India in projecting and using it to its advantage?

    Parama Sinha Palit replies: India’s potential, when it comes to its soft power, is phenomenal. Noted ancient Indian scholars like Kautilya and Kamandak have referred to ‘soft’ diplomacy, including practice of sandhi (peace)for achieving progress. In fact, the role of the doota (or ambassador) in conducting interstate relationship has been emphasised time and again by these scholars.

    Kautilya’s Arthashastra: an intellectual portrait: the classical roots of modern politics in India

    The generalist reader, as also those interested in indigenous historical knowledge, owes a debt of gratitude to Professor Subrata K. Mitra and Dr. Michael Liebig for bringing out this remarkable study. This is especially so since the IDSA has been investing for several years now in studying indigenous historical knowledge and its links to modern Indian political thought. Professor Mitra and Dr.

    July 2018