Opening remarks by Dr. Arvind Gupta, DG, IDSA at Workshop on Kautilya
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  • October 18, 2012

    Event: Workshop on Kautilya

    National Security Adviser,
    Participants of the workshop,
    It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the IDSA Workshop on Kautilya. I am particularly grateful to Shri Shivshankar Menon, the National Security Adviser, for readily agreeing to our request to inaugurate today’s event. Shri Menon has been a supporter of IDSA’s efforts to promote strategic thinking. His presence here today will give a boost to IDSA’s Project on Indigenous Historical Knowledge. The Workshop on Kautilya is the opening event.

    The workshop has been the brain-child of Col. P K Gautam. Col Gautam has been passionate about establishing the relevance of Kautilya’s Arthshastra in contemporary security studies. In a recent paper, Col Gautam has pointed out how Kautilya has not been treated unfairly in the academic fields of political science, realpolitik, geopolitics and statecraft. He has also made a case for scholars and policymakers to re-visit Kautilya and study his work from different dimensions. Col Gautam has worked hard for several months to organize this event.

    We hope to achieve three key goals from the workshop today. First, we would like to bring together Indian scholars and experts, who have been studying Kautilya and have more than passing interest in his work. The group of scholars, who have gathered today, will hopefully be expanded further.

    Second, we would like to establish that India has a long tradition of strategic thinking, which needs to be brought to light. Western scholars have held and many Indians agree that India has no culture of strategic thought. Nothing can be farther from the truth. We need to rediscover India’s strategic thought. We do not know enough abaout it. In the recent years Chinese strategic thinkers like Sun Tzu has become a rage with international scholars. Machiavelli, well known to many, is perhaps a minor figure when compared to Chanakya. Indian scholars of IR, political science, security studies, foreign policy should consciously base their research on Indian strategic thought and practices. Kautilya should get his well-deserved place in security studies within and outside the country. We hope that studies pertaining to indigenous historical thought will become more popular in the universities and think-tanks and younger scholars will be attracted to them.

    Third, it is our hope that through the studies of Kautilya, impetus will be given to the study of regional literature, thinking of other Indian thinkers and strategists, who wrote and spoke in regional languages. We also need to rediscover the Panchtantra, the Mahabharata and Tamil Sangam literature to better appreciate Indian strategic thought.

    Although it is believed that Kautilya’s works were discovered in 1905, there are a few books in the British library which were published in the nineteenth century. For instance, there is reference in the catalogue to a book published by Capt N Chiefale on Kautilya published in Rome in 1825. In 1867, a book titled, Laghuchanikoraja Nitishastra was published in 1867 in Gujrat. In 1887, a book titled Chanakya was published in Paris by E.Maneoseur. In 1891, Ramachandra Ghosh published a book on Morals of Chanakya in Calcutta. These books are available in the British library. A serious effort should be made to collect and study these and other works and to explore whether there was an interest in Chanakya and his Arthshastra even in earlier times.

    India abounded in regional Chankayas too. A number of European travelers who came to India in 15th-16th century and visited different parts of India, have written about the kingdoms and rivalries among them. Some of these writings indicate the prevalence of practical thinking in different kingdoms.

    Today’s workshop is a modest first effort towards encouraging a systematic thinking on India’s strategic thought.

    I must add here that this effort will remain a one time affair unless it is supported by the government. We have to consciously launch academic programmes in the universities, improve the conditions of our archives and manuscripts to encourage the study of Sanskrit and Indian languages and preserve them. We also need more archival material for research Only then will a systematic study of indigenous historical knowledge can be promoted.

    I am most grateful to you for having taken time and encourage this workshop.

    Thank you.