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October 20, 2017
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Kautilyan Theory of Arthashastra Relevant in Today’s Statecraft, says Shyam Saran

New Delhi: Reflecting on the resonance of Kautilyan theory in the day-to-day practices of statecraft, Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS) Chairman and former Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran said that the categorization of what constitutes ‘national power’ has been amply defined in Kautilya’s Arthashastra.

Mr Saran was speaking on the occasion of the book launch of ‘Kautilya’s Arthashastra: an Intellectual portrait–Classical Roots of Modern Politics in India’ and ‘The Arthashastra in a Transcultural Perspective: Comparing Kautilya with Sun-Zi, Nizam al-Mulk, Barani and Machiavelli’ at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) on January 12.

Commenting on several elements of Arthashastra that are relevant even today, the former Foreign Secretary said the importance of a good ruler and a good counsel, based on knowledge and wisdom as advocated in the Arthashastra, are critical in even today’s political set up.

Also speaking on the occasion, Professor Subrata K Mitra, Director, Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS), National University of Singapore (NUS) noted that the Arthashastra covers all the broad aspects of political, military, social, economic, and cultural life, and the diverse components of power that are the constitutive elements of the state – absent in the discourse of Plato and Aristotle, the two founders of the Western philosophical tradition.

Of the two books launched, ‘Kautilya’s Arthashastra: an Intellectual portrait – Classical Roots of Modern Politics in India’ showcases the endogenous politico-strategic thought that underpins and drives India’s rise in the 21st century. The political institutions and processes in contemporary India have remained deeply grounded in its pre-modern political heritage, succinctly codified in Kautilya’s Arthashastra.

Written by Subrata K Mitra and Michael Liebig, the book explores these themes through such bridge concepts as the ‘modernity of tradition’ and the ‘re-use of the past’ in tackling contemporary political problems.

‘India’s strategic culture according to Professor Mitra and Dr Liebig, endures despite many colonial attempts to extinguish it. It is therefore important to understand that past and gauge its impact’, stated a read out message from Professor Rahul Mukherji, Head, Department of Political Science, South Asia Institute that was read out to the audience.

‘The Arthashastra in a Transcultural Perspective: Comparing Kautilya with Sun-Zi, Nizam al-Mulk, Barani and Machiavelli’, edited by Dr Michael Liebig, and Dr Saurabh Mishra, is the product of a collaborative effort by the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi; South Asia Institute, Heidelberg University; and Institute of South Asian Studies, National University Singapore.

The volume explores the philosophical systems, thought-figures and ancient cultural spaces, on the path from India to Europe, looking for any possibility of Kautilya’s Arthashastra, the most comprehensive and systematic text available on art of governance from ancient India, having interacted and influenced the evolution of international relations and Political Theory that are considered as originally European intellectual contributions.

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