Kautilya's Doctrine Dominates India's Pakistan Policy
By Riaz Haq
“Every neighboring state is an enemy and the neighboring state's neighbor is a friend.”
― Kautilya, The Arthashastra
The name of Kautilya, meaning crooked, is invoked by former Indian foreign secretary Shyam Saran's book “How India Sees the World: Kautilya to the 21st Century”. This invocation of Kautilya in the title of the book makes the above quote about "neighboring state is an enemy" particularly relevant to how Indian policymakers like Shyam Saran see Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Who was Kautilya?
Kautilya (“crooked”) is believed to be the pen name of the ancient Indian minister Chanakya who served Chandragupta Maurya, the founder of the Mauryan Empire (322 BC-185 BC). German sociologist Max Weber once called Kautilya's Arthashastra “truly radical ‘Machiavellianism’ . . . compared to it, Machiavelli’s The Prince is harmless.”
Arthashastra on Foreign Policy
Some of Kautilya's Arthashastra’s "wisdom" deals with international relations and foreign policy which is laid out mainly in books 7, 11, and 12.
Kautilya presents a theory of international relations called the “circle of states,” or Rajamandala. It says hostile states are those that border the ruler’s state, forming a circle around it. In turn, states that surround this set of hostile states form another circle around the circle of hostile states. This second circle of states can be considered the natural allies of the ruler’s state against the hostile states that lie between them. Put more succinctly, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
Influence on India's Pakistan Policy:
Kautilya's Rajamdala (Circle of States) can be seen in action today in India’s foreign policy. It sees Afghanistan as a natural ally against Pakistan. Similarly, it sees Japan as a natural ally against China.
To understand how India uses Afghanistan against Pakistan, let's examine what former US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says: "India has always used Afghanistan as a second front against Pakistan. India has over the years been financing problems in Pakistan".
Bharat Karnad, a professor of national security studies at the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi, recently acknowledged India's use of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) terrorist group against Pakistan in an Op Ed for Hindustan Times. Karnad believes US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is trying to get Pakistan's cooperation in Afghanistan by asking India to cut its support of the TTP. Then he added that "Severing relations with TTP will mean India surrendering an active card in Pakistan and a role in Afghanistan as TTP additionally provides access to certain Afghan Taliban factions".
The foreign policy doctrine enunciated by Kautilya, the ancient Indian Machiavelli, continues to guide India's foreign policy vis-a-vis its neighbors, particularly Pakistan. Kautilya's Rajamdala (Circle of States) theory can be seen in action today in India's use of Afghanistan against Pakistan. Unfortunately, the Pakistan phobia in India is so deeply ingrained that the Indian policy vis-a-vis Pakistan is not likely to change in the foreseeable future.
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