Monday, December 1, 2014

Of Henry Kissinger, Arya Chanakya's Arthashastra and India's Idiot Brigade


Of Henry Kissinger, Arya Chanakya's Arthashastra and ...
21 hours ago - Of Henry Kissinger, Arya Chanakya's Arthashastra and India's Idiot Brigade Forget Kissinger; India should use the Arthashastra for world domination by Rajeev ...

Forget Kissinger; India should use the Arthashastra for world domination

by Rajeev Srinivasan  Dec 1, 2014 20:21 IST
There has been no end of self-congratulation by well-meaning Indians over the fact that grey eminence Henry Kissinger talked about Chanakya in his latest book. Sadly, this shows how we still need some white guy to validate us.
I, on the other hand, feel a little queasy, because I have been dreading the day the West discovers the Arthashastra. Because I have been hoping that it was our little secret, which we could use to, well, become number 1: more on that shortly. And because it means the gems of Indian thought have been accessed by the West, while their fifth columnists in India itself ensured that Sanskrit is destroyed in its birthplace.
That last, of course, is behind the godawful ruckus made by the usual suspects over the MHRD’s recent decision to restore Sanskrit to the Kendriya Vidyalaya curriculum. The venom with which these people attacked Sanskrit was a wonder to behold: and the word that leaped to mind was “crusade”. In action is the same cabal of leftists/religious fanatics who have conspired to denigrate Indian culture and civilization throughout the Nehruvian era.
The fact, though, is that despite the fact that Sanskrit is the liturgical language of Hindus (which is the primary reason the usual suspects are trying to kill it off), the body of non-religious writing in Sanskrit is enormous. In fact, it is likely that secular Sanskrit literature is greater in volume than that in any other classical literature, quite possibly as big as Greek and Latin put together.
Macaulay’s demeaning claim that all of classical Sanskrit literature had less value than a schoolboy’s shelf in Victorian Britain was pure self-deluding nonsense. If you take Sanskrit alone, and certainly if you take the manipravalam literatures (where there are words from another language – say Tamil or Malayalam – intermixed in), the amount of pure information is immense. That is the reason a number of schools and universities in the West have begun to teach Sanskrit (no, not love of India, sorry to disappoint).
A still from the show  Chandragupt Maurya.
Representational image
Of all these diamonds in our backyard -- for instance, Aryabhatiya in astronomy, Ashtadhyayi in linguistics, Mudrarakshasa in drama – quite likely the most sober, ruthless and practical is Chanakya’s Arthashastra. An exhaustive account of statecraft, this is astonishingly up to date even if you read it today, some 2500 years later. It stands to reason because human nature hasn’t changed much in a couple of millennia, apparently: people like power, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. As a practical manual of how to run a nation, the text is incomparable.
In fact, it also contradicts the occasionally-stated axiom (usually in hushed tones, as though it were a deep and important discovery) that the nation-state is a European concept, and that India is a civilization-state. Yes, it is true that there is a civilizational unity that holds all of India together, and it has been so since even before Chanakya’s time; yet, the day-to-day concerns of kings were exactly the same as elsewhere: the social contract with the public, and the strategic intent of empire-building.
In business literature, there are innumerable references to two strategists: Sun Tzu of China and his The Art of War, and von Clausewitz of Germany, and his On War. Sun Tzu is credited with having been the spiritual leader of China’s renaissance, and in particular the rise of military power.
An interesting thing about Sun Tzu is that much of his work is ambiguous and elliptical, so that you can see in it what you want to see. Nevertheless, it has been cited as a major influence by China’s Mao Tse Tung (especially his guerilla tactics), Japan’s influential shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu (who held the West at bay) and Admiral Tojo (who defeated the Russians in the Yellow Sea in 1905), and Vietnam’s General Giap (who defeated the French at Dienbienphu in 1954).
Similarly, von Clausewitz is cited as an influence on the West, although his main claim to fame is a misquote: “War is the continuation of politics by other means” (he actually said “War is a continuation of policy with other means” which is less Machiavellian, and less colorful). Prussian generals, and later the Soviet Union’s Vladimir Lenin, as well as China’s Mao Tse Tung, were fans of his theories, including those about ‘total war’. Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince was also a major influence on the way Western strategy has evolved.
And all these thinkers have been influential in the way business strategy has developed for example by Michael Porter at Harvard, who focused on competition, and later by CK Prahalad at the Michigan and David Teece at Berkeley, who focused on core competence.
In contrast, Chanakya has remained largely unknown in the West, and I have been happy that this is so, because the Arthashastra is simply superlative. I was astonished at the brutally honest realpolitik he espoused. For instance, Chanakya states categorically that your neighbor is going to be your enemy, sooner or later. This stands to reason, because there is ample opportunity for petty jealousies and animosities to fester. Just look at China itself: it has problems with its entire neighborhood.
And Chanakya may have anticipated Anatol Rapaport’s winning tit-for-tat strategy in the repeated Prisoner’s Dilemma game that diplomacy is basically all about.
Another Chanakyan gem is that if you are a minor but ambitious king you should engage with the Far Emperor, anticipating the day when you will need powerful, distant friends who have no immediate stake in disputes between you and your neighbor. You need to convince the Far Emperor that it’s better for him to ally with you, generally to the detriment of the neighbor.
That simple tactic is the essence of China’s munificence to many a (nasty) regime that is ostracized by the West for some reason or the other. China presents itself as the preferred Far Emperor, who will give them goodies like heavy weapons and diplomatic cover at the UN, rather than the other Far Emperor, the US, which will scold them.
That is precisely what India should do too: make itself the (benign) Far Emperor to various distant States biding the time they become more important. No, I don’t know which these States are. That’s why we have all these clever people in the Ministry of External Affairs.
Incidentally, the iron fist in China’s velvet glove is beginning to irritate some of its erstwhile clients, Exhibit A: Myanmar. This is an opportunity for India. Of course, this presupposes a strong military and a fair amount of money: without these, India cannot be an Emperor, far or otherwise.
To be honest, today India cannot compete with the de facto G2: US and China. But that’s no reason why we cannot aspire to create a G3 by 2020: US, China and India as three poles in a multi-polar world, more or less balancing each other out. As CK Prahalad notes, it’s not where you are now, but where you can be if you work towards a clear plan. This would be the very antithesis of non-alignment: you compete to get others to align themselves with you..
How about another goal: India to be a bigger economy than the US and China by 2050? Not easy, but not impossible either. There’s nothing like a ‘stretch goal’ to get people enthused. In fact, India was bigger than China, and the biggest economy in the world throughout most of history, except around 1600CE and then later after imperialists ruined the Indian economy post 1757CE, Plassey. See Angus Maddison’s magisterial work.
And one way of getting there would be to make our civilizational strengths part of the curriculum: tarka, vyakarana, and mathematics, along with a nice dose of the Arthshastra in social studies. In fact, we better do this, before the Arthashastra is also “digested” by the West and sold back to us at a premium, as yoga has been, and meditation, and soon, Ayurveda.
It appears as though Britain, and later, the US, used von Clausewitz in their rise to world power status; China used Sun Tzu. It would be natural for India to use Chanakya’s insights in its own bid for world power status. I hope the Defense Minister and the Foreign Minister are listening.

Source: First Post

The world according to Gita: Millennia before European thinkers, Gita and Arthashastra embodied Indian tradition of realpolitik

November 21, 2014, 12:04 am IST in TOI Edit Page | Edit Page, India | TOI

World order in Hindu cosmology was governed by immutable cycles of an almost inconceivably vast scale — millions of years long. Kingdoms would fall, and the universe would be destroyed, but it would be re-created, and new kingdoms would rise again. The true nature of human experience was known only to those who endured and transcended these temporal upheavals.
The Hindu classic the Bhagavad Gita framed these spirited tests in terms of the relationship between morality and power. Arjuna, “overwhelmed by sorrow” on the eve of battle at the horrors he is about to unleash, wonders what can justify the terrible consequences of war. This is the wrong question, Krishna rejoins. Because life is eternal and cyclical and the essence of the universe is indestructible. Redemption will come through the fulfillment of a preassigned duty, paired with a recognition that its outward manifestations are illusory because “the impermanent has no reality; reality lies in the eternal.” Arjuna, a warrior, has been presented with a war he did not seek. He should accept the circumstances with equanimity and fulfill his role with honor, and must strive to kill and prevail and “should not grieve.”
While Lord Krishna’s appeal to duty prevails and Arjuna professes himself freed from doubt, the cataclysms of the war — described in detail in the rest of the epic — add resonance to his earlier qualms. This central work of Hindu thought embodied both an exhortation to war and the importance not so much of avoiding but of transcending it. Morality was not rejected, but in any given situation the immediate considerations were dominant, while eternity provided a curative perspective. What some readers lauded as a call to fearlessness in battle, Gandhi would praise as his “spiritual dictionary.”
Against the background of the eternal verities of a religion preaching the elusiveness of any single earthly endeavor, the temporal ruler was in fact afforded a wide berth for practical necessities. The pioneering exemplar of this school was the 4th century BC minister Kautilya, credited with engineering the rise of India’s Maurya Dynasty, which expelled Alexander the Great’s successors from northern India and unified the subcontinent for the first time under a single rule.
Kautilya wrote about an India comparable in structure to Europe before the Peace of Westphalia. He describes a collection of states potentially in permanent conflict with each other. Like Machiavelli’s, his is an analysis of the world as he found it; it offers a practical, not a normative, guide to action. And its moral basis is identical with that of Richelieu, who lived nearly two thousand years later: the state is a fragile organization, and the statesman does not have the moral right to risk its survival on ethical restraint.
The Arthashastra sets out, with dispassionate clarity, a vision of how to establish and guard a state while neutralizing, subverting, and (when opportune conditions have been established) conquering its neighbors. The Arthashastra encompasses a world of practical statecraft, not philosophical disputation. For Kautilya, power was the dominant reality. It was multidimensional, and its factors were interdependent. All elements in a given situation were relevant, calculable, and amenable to manipulation toward a leader’s strategic aims. Geography, finance, military strength, diplomacy, espionage, law, agriculture, cultural traditions, morale and popular opinion, rumors and legends, and men’s vices and weaknesses needed to be shaped as a unit by a wise king to strengthen and expand his realm — much as a modern orchestra conductor shapes the instruments in his charge into a coherent tune. It was a combination of Machiavelli and Clausewitz.
Millennia before European thinkers translated their facts on the ground into a theory of balance of power, the Arthashastra set out an analogous, if more elaborate, system termed the “circle of states.” Whatever professions of amity he might make, any ruler whose power grew significantly would eventually find that it was in his interest to subvert his neighbor’s realm. This was an inherent dynamic of self-preservation to which morality was irrelevant.
What our time has labeled covert intelligence operations were described in the Arthashastra as an important tool. Operating in “all states of the circle” (friends and adversaries alike) and drawn from the ranks of “holy ascetics, wandering monks, cart-drivers, wandering minstrels, jugglers, tramps, [and] fortune-tellers,” these agents would spread rumors to foment discord within and between other states, subvert enemy armies, and “destroy” the King’s opponents at opportune moments.
The Arthashastra advised that restrained and humanitarian conduct was under most circumstances strategically useful: a king who abused his subjects would forfeit their support and would be vulnerable to rebellion or invasion; a conqueror who needlessly violated a subdued people’s customs or moral sensibilities risked catalyzing resistance.
The Arthashastra ‘s exhaustive and matter-of-fact catalogue of the imperatives of success led the distinguished 20th-century political theorist Max Weber to conclude that the Arthashastra exemplified “truly radical ‘Machiavellianism’ . . . compared to it, Machiavelli’s The Prince is harmless.” Unlike Machiavelli, Kautilya exhibits no nostalgia for the virtues of a better age.
Whether following the Arthashastra ‘s prescriptions or not, India reached its high-water mark of territorial extent in the third century BC, when its revered Emperor Asoka governed a territory comprising all of today’s India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and part of Afghanistan and Iran.
Excerpted from Henry Kissinger’s book , recently published by Penguin India World Order: Reflections on the Character of Nations and the Course of History

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