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Interpretation of Concepts in Kautilya’s Arthasastra

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  • August 16, 2013
    Fellows' Seminar

    Chair: Dr Ashok Behuria
    External Discussants: Ambassador H.H.S. Vishwanathan and Dr Medha Bisht
    Internal Discussants: Dr Nihar Nayak and Mr Shyam Hari P

    Major Arguments of the Paper:

    The paper generates a dialogue between past, present and the future and attempts to understand the Kautilyan concepts such as samdhi,  vigraha,  Sadgunyadesopananta sandhi (surrender of land), bhumisandhi (pact for acquiring land), and  vyasanas (calamities) and its relevance in the contemporary state behaviour. The paper concludes that concepts of war, peace and diplomacy as given in the Arthasastra are relevant today and needs to be further studied and explored.

    Major Points of Discussion and Suggestions to the Author:

    • Arthasastra covers almost every aspect of statecraft including diplomacy. For instance, the contemporary phenomenon of honey-trap finds a very detailed treatment in Arthasastra. Similarly, the concept of Rajamandala in the Arthasastra provides a framework for understanding and analyzing the behavior of nations in contemporary international relations.
    • Governance, and accountability are the buzz words of modern democracies; these concepts are dealt with elaborately in Arthasastra.
    • The entire concept of the welfare state is found in one sutra of Arthasastra which says that in the happiness of the subjects lies the happiness of the state/king.
    • The concept of Vigraha as given in Arthasastra is similar to the concept of Détente in the cold war period and can be examined with reference to the contemporary Sino-Indian relations.
    • The policymakers today are confused between ends and means of foreign policy. In Kautilya’s Arthasastraone finds very clear exposition of what constitute objective and what is strategy in two terms Sadgunya andUpayas.
    •  Kautilya’s Arthasastra has seven Prakrits orconstituent elements of state, whereas in western conception of state only four elements find mention. Economy which is the basis of a state is missing in the western conception, whereas Arthasastra considers it as an important constituent of state.
    • Since the world has dramatically changed establishing the relevance of Kautilya’s work will require great amount of scholarship. One way to establish the relevance of Arthasastra is to explore the elements of universality in it, which transcends temporal dimensions.

    Report Prepared by Amit Kumar, Research Assistant, IDSA