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One Hundred Years of Kautilya's Arthasastra

P. K. Gautam was a Consultant at Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. Click here for detail profile.
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  • IDSA Monograph Series No. 20

    This work establishes the need for relevance of Kautilya's Arthasastra to contemporary security studies. It shows Why not much progress has been made by identifying reasons for its neglect. The paper provides an overview and an update of various academic and scholarly controversies on its age and authorship, and also on the misperceptions which abound on Kautilya himself. Overall, Kautilya has been treated unfairly in the disciplinary fields of political science, realpolitik, geopolitics and statecraft. It is not that Kautilya invented human behaviour, which was never idealistic, but he only observed truths that still survive or even thrive today in the enduring principles of statecraft and diplomacy.

    Since independence, political leaders, policy makers and academics have acknowledged his ideas and have argued for the revival of his work for contemporary times at par with thinkers from other civilizations. The work also makes a case for scholars and policy makers to revisit Kautilya in an a-political manner. There is a need for value addition by identifying the opportunities and gaps in knowledge. This will facilitate reinterpretation of his work for contemporary times. This demands a new multidisciplinary impetus of research. Kautilya's contribution to political thought and theory needs to be placed at a high pedestal. This is possible now using his work which encompasses disciplines of linguistics, political science and theory, history, military science, defence and security, international relations, internal security, intelligence studies, management and leadership, to name a few. All nations and especially countries of the Asian subcontinent sharing ancient civilisational traditions need to claim him.

    About the Author

    The author joined IDSA in 2005. He has been researching on non traditional security, Tibet and military issues with a number of publications. He is at present researching on indigenous historical knowledge with focus on “Strategic Vocabulary on the Art of War : An Interpretation of Kautilya's Arthasastra”. His other work on Kautilya includes “Relevance of Kautilya's Arthasastra”, Strategic Analysis, Vol.37, No.1, January-February 2013 and “Understanding Kautilya's Arthashastra: In Praise of Rote”, World Affairs: The Journal of International Issues, Vol.17, No.1, Spring (January-March 2013).

    He is the co-editor of two forthcoming publications Indigenous Historical Knowledge : Kautilya and, Kautilya: Creating Strategic Vocabulary.

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