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India's Foreign Policy Towards China: An Analysis

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1. The making of foreign policy is an exercise to achieve ends and means of a nation state. Conceptually it is based on long term goals and related short term objectives. It is the product of past history, geography, evolving national power and prevalent international environment, which is largely out of country's control[1].

2. Indian Foreign Policy towards China was initially based on idealism of Nehru, steered towards realism by Mrs Indira Gandhi, asserted by Rajiv Gandhi and culminated with India going overtly nuclear under Vajpayee in May 1998. From Hindi-Chini bhai bhai to potential enemy number one to great friend, India just does not know how to deal with its neighbourhood dragon that has played its cards so skilfully vis-à-vis India.

3. India's dominant geostrategic location, vast natural and technological manpower resources, a vibrant emerging economy backed by strong military and nuclear capability, visible soft power and presence of the Indian Diaspora the world over, make it an ideal candidate to be a major player in the world in general and South Asian region in particular.

4. India and China are the two major powers in Asia with global aspirations and some significant conflicting interests. As a result, some amount of friction in their bilateral relationship is inevitable. The geopolitical reality of Asia makes sure that it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for Hindi-Chini to be bhai-bhai (brothers) in the foreseeable future. If India and China continue to rise in the next few years, a security competition between the two regional giants will be all but inevitable. If India is serious about its desire to emerge as a major global power, then it will have to tackle the challenge of China's rise. A rising China will not tolerate a rising India as its peer competitor. Even if a rising India does not have any intention of becoming a regional hegemon, China will try its best to constrain India as it has already done to a large extent. And it is that containment that India has to guard against. India should make a serious attempt to manage the frictions by expanding the zone of cooperation with allies even as it tries to steadfastly pursue its national interests.

5. Indian foreign policy agenda should be driven by only India's national security imperatives. India needs to be more pro-active, consistent, and realistic when engaging China. It is time for India to realise that Its great power aspirations cannot be realised without a cold-blooded realistic assessment of its own strategic interests in an anarchic international system where there are no permanent friends or enemies, only permanent interests.

6. It would be prudent to look, into the wisdom of Kautilya's , Arthashastra, a treatise on polity and statecraft to learn the lessons on war and strategy , national power and national security and threat perception and threat assessment.

Statement of Problem

7. To study Kautilya's thoughts on strategy and analyse its relevance to the present day Indian Geo-political environment with particular regards to China.

Justification of the Study

8. Kautilya's Arthashastra has been recognised the world over as an invaluable treatise on all facets of statecraft and polity. Its eternal wisdom and timelessness can be gauged from the fact that it is still quoted by scholars, academicians, bureaucrats and soldiers alike the world over. The interest generated in this epic illustrates that the thoughts on strategy to sustain and advance a state still provides valuable lessons. The twentieth century which has seen two world wars of long duration and host of other conflicts worldwide has also generated a fairly large number of studies on strategy commensurate with the advances in technology and new methods in warfare. But there is certain universality about classical strategic thoughts which prompts academics and scholars to go back to these works both in terms of comparative analysis and their reinterpretation in the changing world.

9. Strategy over the ages has been defined in different ways reflective of the times in which they were made and the existing interstate relations and economic and social state of a nation. Higher or Grand strategy is hardly understood nor does it seem to have been practised in India. It is therefore important to study the various facets of this vital subject as propounded by Kautilya in his Arthashastra, as it is so critical for the existence and security of a nation.


10. The Arthashastra is a compendium on various aspects of statecraft and lays down measures to be followed by a king to sustain and advance a state. The contents of this treatise are very exhaustive covering a broad spectrum to include the minor details at one end to grand strategy on the other. However this study concentrates on the various facets of stratagem enunciated by Kautilya and analyse their relevance to modern India particularly with regards to China

Method of Data Collection

11. All the information for this study has been gathered from various books (refer bibliography) and internet.


12. Background. Kautilya's Arthashastra is an excellent treatise on statecraft, economic policy and military strategy. It is said to have been written by Kautilya, also known by the name Chanakya or Vishnugupta, the prime minister of India's first great emperor, Chandragupta Maurya. This chapter will include the following:-

(a) Authenticity and date of Arthashastra.

(b) Historical account of life of Kautilya.

13. Kautilya's Foreign Policy. In Interstate relations power constitutes the ability of a nation to impose its will on another nation despite resistance. This Chapter will include:-

(a) Saptanga concept of state. Kautilya's theory of the state describes the seven constituent elements of any state[2] and is an exposition of the theory of the Circle of States (The mandala theory) as the basis for a foreign policy of expansion by conquest. The seven constituents are the basis of the national power and happiness. He then relates as to how national power varies due to expansion or calamities and how pursuance of national interest is directly related to the possession of national power.

(b) Postulates of foreign policy. As a political realist, Kautilya assumed that every nation acts to maximize power and self-interest, and therefore moral principles or obligations have little or no force in actions among nations[3]. Kautilya's postulates on foreign policy international relations, national security to include internal and external security, war waging methodology to include Mantrayuddha or War by Counsel, Prakasayuddha or Open War, kutayuddha or Concealed War, Gudayuddha or Clandestine War.

14. Mandala Concept as the Basis of National Strategy. Kautilya, says that the the aggressor (Vijigishu), should conclude, peace when he finds that he is weaker than the enemy[4]; he should wage war when he finds himself to be stronger; he should adopt neutrality when assesses that neither he nor his enemy can settle the score; he should seek refuge when he is weak; and he should adopt the duel policy in a contingency requiring the help from, another ruler. War and foreign policy issues are thus decided in an ad hoc framework of political expediency. When progress is equally attainable by means of peace and war, Kautilya says that the former is to be preferred. This is so, for war involves expenditure in men and money, residence in a foreign land, and suffering.This chapter will include the following:-

(a) Mandala Theory. Kautilya believed that countries which shared a common border were natural enemies. However, any state on the other side of that enemy is a natural choice for an ally for they, too, are at risk from the same enemy. In other words, he believed in the principle of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” The idea is best envisioned by a series of concentric circles (not a normal configuration of states, admittedly, but easier to describe), which actually makes them look a bit like a mandala.

(b) Potential enemies. “A neighboring prince possessed of the excellences of an enemy is the foe; one in calamity is vulnerable; one without support or with weak support is fit to be exterminated; in the reverse case, fit to be harassed or weakened. These are the different types of enemies[5].”

(c) Alliances. A perfect ally is said to have six qualities,namely, constant, under control, quickly mobilising, hereditary, great and not given to double dealing.

(d) The six measures of foreign policy. Kautilya however believes that there are spin-offs of these, thus providing six methods of foreign policy. These are making peace, waging war, staying quiet, preparing for war, seeking support, and the dual policy of making peace with one while waging war against another[6]. One's circumstances will dictate which methods should be used.

15. Application of Mandala Theory in the Contemporary Indian geo-political Scenario. This Chapter will include the classification of friends, enemies, potential enemies, and likely allies on the basis of Mandala theory.

16. Implication of China's Rise in Indian Perspective. This chapter will include the following:-

(a) China's comprehensive strategy.

(b) Chinese Balance of power strategy in Asia.

(c) Chinese economic Strategy.

(d) China's encirclement policy.

(e) Relationship with India's neighbours.

(f) China's perception of India.

(g) India's perception of China.

(h) Implication of China's strategy on India's security.

17. Application of Kautilyan Wisdom in Sino-Indian Relation's. This chapter will include the following:-

(a) Chinese critical vulnerabilities.

(b) Indian options to counter Chinese threat.

(c) Suggested Indian Strategy against China.

“Miraculous results can be achieved by practising the methods of subversion”.

- Kautilya


1. Kautilya, also known as Chanakya [7]or Vishnugupta, was an Indian statesman and philosopher who lived around 350 B.C.E. He is one of the most famous Indian political thinkers who participated in the social and political revolutions of his age. Though he lived a long time ago, certain principles from his theory are still relevant in today's context. His most famous work is Arthashastra, translated differently by various authors, but in its most acceptable meaning, the “science of political economy[8].” The book, written in Sanskrit, discusses theories and principles of governing a state. Arthashastra remains unique in all of Indian literature because of its unabashed advocacy of realpolitik. Indian scholars continued to study it for its clear-cut arguments and formal prose till the twelfth century. After that period it lost its significance. It has again become the focus of attention of thinkers who want to see a change in the Indian foreign policy[9].

2. Kautilya was a Brahmin minister under Chandragupta Maurya[10], the first king of the great Mauryan Empire in India. The empire was the largest and most powerful political and military empire of ancient India. It was founded in 321 B.C.E. by Chandragupta Maurya[11], who had overthrown the Nanda Dynasty and begun expanding his power across central and western India. The Empire stretched to the North along the natural boundaries of the Himalayas, and to the east stretching into what is now Assam. To the West, it reached beyond modern Pakistan and included Baluchistan in Persia and significant portions of what is now Afghanistan, including the modern Herat and Kandahar provinces.

3. Many call Kautilya the first political realist in the world.[12] His work differed from existing political theory in that it talked about ways of running the administration which were based more on self interest than on morality. The frank and brutal advice he offers the king in his treatise makes Machiavelli's “The Prince” seem mild.[13] There are four different characteristics of a realist approach to international relations:[14]

(a) The assumption that human nature is aggressive.

(b) The belief that international relations will always be characterized by conflict.

(c) The belief that the foremost goal of the king shall be the protection of the state and its people.

(d) The belief that the state must be strong politically, economically, and militarily so as to minimize the possibility of an attack.

4. He thus talked about balance of power before this term was actually invented.[15] He said that the king should consider all his neighbors as his enemies and that any state on the opposite side of a neighbor is a potential ally. So, if countries were in a line, countries 1, 3, 5, 7 could be friends, as could 2, 4, and 6. But countries 1, 2, and 3 could never be friends. This status would change as soon as country 1 conquered country 2. From that very instant country 3 (a friend) would be the new enemy. This is called his ‘mandala theory.'[16]

5. It is necessary to bear in mind that the Arthashastra, “the science of wealth and warfare,” was just discovered and translated in the past century in Mysore by R. Shamasastry[17], and that until then, there was no knowledge of any such compilation, despite scant allusions made to an “Arthashastra,” and its alternative names “Nitisastra” and “Dandaniti,” in the Mahabharata[18].Thomas Trautmann dates the text to c.150 A.D. and, through rigorous statistical analysis, he concludes that the Arthashastra had several authors spanning a wide range of dates,[19] which adds to the puzzle of how historically obscure the text has been for over the past two millennia. Nevertheless, its secretive nature adds credence to its function as a handbook on efficient statecraft for kings and high-level ministers.

6. Artha has always been regarded as one of the four purusharthas,[20] yet its teachings have been relegated to animal fables and folklore. No such shastras seem to have been compiled for public knowledge, as was the case of the Dharmashastras and Kamashastras. In stark contrast to the latter, the manuscript discovered in 1902 by Shamasastry was compiled as a guidebook for kings and high-level officials, rather than the average individual. The result is a perspective advocating a top-down style of governance with little or no representation held by the general populace, and the continual maintenance of such a state with energetic leadership and extensive secret service. Though the king and upper echelons of society involuntarily accepted such authority because of religious ideals just as much as the general populace did, the Arthashastra suggests the existence of a small elite with a secular and realist outlook that actively worked to uphold this power scheme and determine the overall course of the kingdom.[21]

7. It is for this reason that the Arthashastra advocates reordering the priorities of the purusharthas, by valuing materialism over religion and morality.[22] Similarly, R.P. Kangle notes that “these ideals are meant for individuals” and that the conduct of public life was not to be guided by these rules for individual morality[23]. Management of the state necessitated realism, not idealism. It required the prudence and precise calculation of measures undertaken alongside their short and long-term consequences, which formulated the theoretical beginnings of economics: “Wealth will slip away from that childish man who constantly consults the stars: the only [guiding] star of wealth is itself; what can the stars of the sky do? Man, without wealth, does not get it even after a hundred attempts. Just as elephants are needed to catch elephants, so does wealth capture more wealth[24].” Public welfare was contingent upon the strength of the state. The latter was achieved by internal development or territorial expansion, both of which were realized through power[25].

8. The Arthashastra regards both economics and foreign policy as zero-sum games: the state would need to prosper economically lest it be overtaken by wealthier imperialist neighbors or suffer from internal rebellion by discontented government officials and military leaders. Furthermore, internal development would naturally lead to population growth and would eventually necessitate expansion, which is why L.N. Rangarajan notes that “the aim of creating a well-run state is to provide the base for expansion. Continuing with this logic, Kautilya deals in Book 7 with all the theoretical possibilities of conducting an expansionist foreign policy.”[26] Hence, the prime motive of the state was the never-ending pursuit of artha. It is only after dedicating its energies to this end can the state or king then move on to fulfilling dharma and kama.

9. This Arthashastra is primarily a book of political realism where State is paramount and King shall carry out duties as advised in his book to preserve his state. For Kautilya, military strategy was an integral part of the science of polity[27] and he made no distinction between military techniques and statecraft. Kautilya's work is so deep rooted in realism that he goes to describe the gory and brutal means a King must adopt to be in power. This could have been one reason why Ashoka, the grandson of Chandragupta Maurya whom Kautilya advised renounced violence and war thus taking the path of Dharma or Morals.

10. I will also be making a few references to the other books of Arthashatra where topics of Management have been dealt with. The areas covered under Management include - training, management education, leadership skills, selection of employees, consultation, crisis management, risk management, strategic management, corporate governance, information systems, intelligence network, competition, mergers and acquisitions, etc. among many others.

11. There are a large of theories as to who Chanakya, or Kautilya or Vishnugupta , was. Kautilya was an enigmatic whose origin is shrouded in mystery. However, all sources of Indian tradition - Brahmin, Buddhist and Jain - agree that Kautilya destroyed the Nanda dynasty and installed Chandragupta Maurya on the throne of Magadha.

12. One theory about his origin is that Chanakya was a Kerala Brahmin who somehow reached the court of the Nanda king at Pataliputra[28]. The next theory is that Chanakya was a North Indian Brahmin born and educated in Taxila[29] and that he was physically ugly, had a disgusting complexion and his limbs were deformed. As per Jain tradition, his parents noticed that Chanakya was born with full set of teeth, a mark of future king. They had the teeth removed as either parent did not want him to become a King . He became a King maker instead.

13. At a very early age little Chanakya started studying Vedas. He later also studied politics and economics. As a student and later a professor, the University of Taxila became Chanakya's breeding ground of acquiring knowledge in the practical and theoretical aspects on all walks of life. However, with the Greek armies of Selucus threatening to invade India, and the various kingdoms in the subcontinent on the verge of war and aggression with each other, Chanakya left the university at Taxila, and proceeded in his own words to strengthen the country politically and economically and to save the country from the clutches of foreign invaders.

14. In Magadha, Chanakya was insulted by the King of Patliputra, Dhana Nanda and he vowed to destroy the Nanda dynasty. He came upon Chandragupta and together, Chanakya and Chandragupta set about attacking the Nanda kingdom until finally Chandragupta was installed as the king of Magadha[30]. According to written tradition, Chanakya was a fearless person, not afraid of death, disgrace or defeat. He was compassionate of the poor and evil to schemers.

15. Chanakya then retired from active life and reflected on all that he had learnt during the process of overthrowing Dhana Nanda. Since he found the earlier works on statecraft[31] unsatisfactory in many respects, he composed his own definitive work presenting his ideas concerning the ways in which a ruler should gain power and maintain his authority. For Chanakya, military strategy was an integral part of the science of polity and he made no distinction between military techniques and statecraft. Thus came into being the ‘Arthashastra'. There is no doubt that this treatise is the work of a genius, who spoke of matters which have held relevance down the ages to contemporary times with striking infallibility. The military writings of Chanakya precede those of Machiavelli and Clausewitz by centuries but seldom has this fact been acknowledged much less credited outside India.

“The king who understands the interdependence of the six methods of foreign policy, plays, as he pleases, with other rulers bound to him by the chains of his intellect”.

- Kautilya

Saptanga Concept Of State

16. Kautilya's theory of the state describes the seven constituent elements of any state[32] and is an exposition of the theory of the Circle of States (The mandala theory) as the basis for a foreign policy of expansion by conquest. Of the seven elements, six (the King, the ministers, the people, the fortified city, the Treasury and the army) are internal elements; only the ally is an element outside the borders. The structure and organization of the six internal elements of a well ordered state are fully developed and explained by Kautilya in books I to 5. The aim of creating a well-run state is to provide the base for expansion. Continuing this logic, Kautilya in Book 7 deaIs with all theoretical possibilities of conducting an expansionist foreign policy. Before a King actually sets out on an expedition of conquest he has to take steps to guard himself against the dangers which might weaken any of constituent elements of his own state. Kautilya uses the word calamity' (vyasana) in the precise sense of any event which weakens any constituent element of a state, thereby preventing it from being to its full potential in the conduct of foreign policy or war[33].

17. This theory in one form or another (in part, as "elements of national power"), has survived to this very day as a mainstay of reflection and analysis of international politics. Kautilya enumerates the desirable qualities each of these elements should display and points out, too, that his list of elements is arranged in descending order of importance: each succeeding element is less important than the one before it, the king being most important of all. A ruler who possesses the elements of state and who wisely takes care of them "will never be defeated," he says, and then devotes the whole of Book VIII[34] to a systematic analysis of the "troubles and calamities" which might befall each one of these elements (in other words, to their 'malfunctioning').

18. The king is the focal point of analysis; he strives to maintain and improve his position knowing that the determinants of status in international society are two: "power" and "happiness": The possession of power and happiness in a greater degree makes a king superior to another; in a lesser degree, inferior; and in an equal degree, equal. Hence a king shall always endeavour to augment his power and elevate his happiness.

19. Neither 'power' nor 'happiness' is clearly or exhaustively defined or analysed. We know, however, that 'power' is to be understood as 'strength' and that it has three components[35]:-

(a) Mantrashakti; Power of counsel, deliberation or decision-making, including capacity for intrigue.

(b) Prabhushakti; The treasury and the army.

(c) Utsahashakti; Resolve and determination.

20. Thus power refers essentially to activity and application of the elements of the state, just mentioned. Happiness on the other hand is that which can be attained by the use of power. It is to some degree a measure of success of foreign policy and the implementation of its objectives, but it also indicates those qualities such as righteousness and also internal stability and not power alone that enter into the determination of international status.

21. A king's position is not, however, unchanging; his status relative to another king is variable and needs continuous attention. A king prevents deterioration in his position and secures an improvement (a desire for which is a built-in feature of the system) in two ways: by attention to the elements of his power, and by external action. Kautilya enjoins the ruler to pursue power investment: a wise king adopts policies that add to the resources of his country and enable him "to build forts, to construct buildings and commercial roads, to open new plantations and villages, to exploit mines and timber and elephant forests, and at the same time to harass similar works of the enemy"[36]. Status is also obviously affected by successes in military and other fields, but the king is cautioned to rely on strengthening his own power before embarking upon foreign adventures. According to Kautilya, and here is one of the more interesting portions of his analysis, the king's status read national power determines his foreign policy. That policy differs according to whether it is directed toward kings who are superior, inferior or equal to him. The bulk of the international portions of the Arthashastra are a discussion of the policies that may be appropriately pursued by 'superior' or 'inferior' kings[37].
Postulates Of Foreign Policy

22. As a political realist, Kautilya assumed that every nation acts to maximize power and self-interest, and therefore moral principles or obligations have little or no force in actions among nations[38]. While it is good to have an ally, the alliance will last only as long as it is in that ally's as well as one's own self-interest, because "an ally looks to the securing of his own interests in the event of simultaneity of calamities and in the event of the growth of the enemy's power[39]." Whether one goes to war or remains at peace depends entirely upon the self-interest of, or advantage to, one's kingdom: "War and peace are considered solely from the point of view of profit." One keeps an ally not because of good will or moral obligation, but because one is strong and can advance one's own self-interest as well as the self-interest of the ally, for "when one has an army, one's ally remains friendly, or (even) the enemy becomes friendly."[40] Because nations always act in their political, economic, and military self-interest, even times of peace have the potential to turn abruptly into times of war, allies into enemies, and even enemies into allies. Kautilya probably assumed that peaceful empires cannot last forever, and that conflict among smaller states is more common in history.

23. For Kautilya, this principle of foreign policy that nations act in their political, economic, and military self-interest was a timeless truth of his science of politics, or arthasastra. He did not believe that nations never act in an altruistic manner indeed, Kautilya advocated humanitarian acts that also coincided with one's self-interest but he did believe that one must assume, if entrusted with political or military power that one's neighbours will eventually act in their own interests. Put another way, one would be betraying one's own people if one did not assume a worst-case scenario. A nation forced to rely on the kindness of neighbouring states is weak and, unless it can change rapidly, doomed to destruction.

24. Arthashastra is concerned with the security and foreign policy needs of a small state, in an environment with numerous other small states. The scope for enlargement of this small state was limited to the Indian subcontinent. The area extending from the Himalayas in the north to the sea in the south and a thousand yojanas[41] wide from East to West is the area of operation of the King-Emperor'[42]. Territories beyond the subcontinent are not included, probably for the reason that the conqueror is expected to establish in the conquered territories a social order based on the Arya's dharma, varna and ashrama system. Kautilya perhaps considered the establishment of such a social order outside the limits of India impractical or even undesirable[43].

25. The guiding principles which govern the Kautilyan theory of foreign policy are[44]:-

(a) A king shall develop his state, i.e., augment its resources and power in order to enable him to embark on a campaign of conquest;

(b) The enemy shall be eliminated;

(c) Those who help are friends;

(d) A prudent course shall always be adopted;

(e) Peace is to be preferred to war; and

(f) A king's behaviour, in victory and in defeat, must be just.

26. The first verse of {6.2}, ‘Sama vyayamau yogakshemayoryonih' ‘The welfare of a state [ensuring the security of the state within its existing boundaries and acquiring new territory to enlarge it] depends on adopting a policy of non-intervention or overt action' - establish the basis for all foreign policy.

27. This non-intervention, a method designed to build up confidence between kings, is to be understood in a specialized sense. It is not a policy of doing nothing but the deliberate choice of a policy of keeping away from foreign entanglements, in order to enjoy the fruits of past acquisitions by consolidating them.

28. Vyayama, (industry or activity) implies an active foreign policy, Yoga, the objective of enlargement of one's power and influence, and, through these, one's territory. These are the two stages of policy. Both depend on the state making progress, either materially in terms of its treasury and army or diplomatically in terms of its relations with other states.

29. The problem of defence of a state is intimately bound up with the question of its foreign relations. It is from hostile states that the state needs to be defended. Foreign relations are mainly discussed from the stand point of the “Vijigisu”[45]. In other words, it seeks to show how a state, desirous of extending its influence and expanding its territory, should conduct its relations with foreign states. A state's position is determined by its relative progress or relative decline vis-a-vis other states in the neighbourhood.

30. The most important of a king's neighbours is the ‘enemy'. Among the states surrounding a kingdom, there is always one who is the natural enemy. Presumably, this is the one neighbour who has designs on the king and, in the absence of any action, will be out to attack the king. The other neighbours may be hostile (aribhavi), friendly (mitrabhavi) or vassal (bhrityabhavi). There may also be a small buffer state between the king and the enemy (antardih). However, the main target of the conqueror is always the designated natural enemy; ‘one cannot make peace with an enemy'[46]. The reason for many aspects of the analysis of foreign policy being couched in terms of the conqueror out manoeuvring the enemy, is that the enemy is also the target of the diplomacy of the conqueror. When the conditions are ripe, a military campaign will be undertaken against him.

31. Allies are important; in fact, allies are described as a ‘constituent element of a state', the only external constituent. An alliance is based on giving help. “A friend is ever a well-wisher”[47]. Kautilya gives us a comprehensive analysis of the type of kings with whom an alliance is desirable and the types of allies based on their character and motivation.

32. Since prudence should always govern choice of policy, Kautilya is against both spineless submission and foolhardy valour[48]. Therefore, peace should always be preferred to war: ‘When the degree of progress is the same in pursuing peace and waging war, peace is to be preferred. For, in war, there are many disadvantages, such as loss of troops, expenditure and absence from home'. The corollary is that staying quiet is preferable to preparing for war. Similarly, ‘When the benefit accruing to kings under a treaty, irrespective of their status as the weaker, equal or stronger party, is fair to each one peace by agreement shall be the preferred course of action. If the benefits are to be distributed unfairly, war is preferable'[49]. Even a weak king, under threat from an aggressor may sue for peace at any time, including when the fort where he had taken shelter is about to be taken.

33. Peace is also the preferred choice when the relative power equation between a king and his enemy is not likely to change as a result of any action, irrespective of whether both make progress, both decline or both maintain the status quo[50]. Of the three categories of kings, stronger, equal and weaker, peace is to be made with the first two, war is recommended only against a weaker adversary since it brings gains at least cost[51].

34. Even in waging war , Kautilya's advice is that it is better to attk an unrighteous king than a righteous one[52].

“The enemy, however strong he may be becomes vulnerable to harassment and destruction when he is squeezed between the conqueror and his allies”.

- Kautilya


35. Kautilya, says that the the aggressor (Vijigishu), should conclude, peace when he finds that he is weaker than the enemy[53]; he should wage war when he finds himself to be stronger; he should adopt neutrality when assesses that neither he nor his enemy can settle the score; he should seek refuge when he is weak; and he should adopt the duel policy in a contingency requiring the help from, another ruler. War and foreign policy issues are thus decided in an ad hoc framework of political expediency. When progress is equally attainable by means of peace and war, Kautilya says that the former is to be preferred. This is so, for war involves expenditure in men and money, residence in a foreign land, and suffering.

36. Kautilya is no less concerned with the postulates of peace, though it is, of necessity, linked with war. The Swami, he says, shall achieve progress through peace, when he, sizing up the situation, concludes that he is thereby likely to undermine his enemy's works and develop his own. The interregnum of peace, providing a scenario of confidence, should be utilised by him to undermine the development and other works of his enemy through spies, or entice the enemy's skilled artisans with tempting offers, or wean the enemy from his state-system.

37. Kautilyas concepts of international relations springs from his two basic tenets of statecraft epitomised in two phrases, world conquest and world consolidation. His six fold foreign policy visualises the inevitability of progress, stagnation and determination of the powers of the states. He suggests that foreign policy should be employed that a state progresses from deterioration to stabilisation and advancement. The doctrine of mandala associated with Kautilyas concept of diplomacy is one of the most perceptive dimension of his theory on statecraft. It is also a significant landmark in the evolution of Indian politico mil strategy.

38. The Circle of Kings Theory. The important postulates of the “rajamanadala” or circle of kings theory were as under:-

(a) A neighbouring prince possessed of the excellences of an enemy is the foe[54].

(b) One with immediately proximate territory is the natural enemy; one of equal birth is the enemy by birth; one opposed or in opposition is the enemy made[55].

(c) One with territory separated by one other is the natural ally; one who has sought shelter for wealth or life is ally made[56].

(d) One with territory immediately proximate to those of the enemy and the conqueror (own king), capable of helping them when they are united or disunited and of suppressing them when they are disunited, is the middle king[57].

(e) One outside the sphere of the enemy, the conqueror and the middle king , stronger than their constituents, capable of helping the enemy, the conqueror and the middle king when they are united or disunited and of suppressing them when they are disunited is the neutral king[58].

(f) Thus the conqueror, the ally, and the ally's ally are the three constituents of this circle of kings theory.

39. The term mandala meaning the sphere of influences, assumes that a king has natural aspiration for conquests over the king of the adjoining kingdom, for he takes the latter to be his natural enemy. As a corollary the kings natural ally is the king adjacent to the enemy king, because the two cannot be direct rivals and both of them benefits from the weakening of their common enemy. The major theme that emerges in the discussion of Mandala theory is that strength is a precondition for peace[59].

40. Kautilya believed that countries which shared a common border were natural enemies. However, any state on the other side of that enemy is a natural choice for an ally for they, too, are at risk from the same enemy. In other words, he believed in the principle of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” The idea is best envisioned by a series of concentric circles (not a normal configuration of states, admittedly, but easier to describe), which actually makes them look a bit like a mandala, hence the name. Envisioning your own country at the center (number one) and moving outward, countries 3, 5, 7, and 9 would be natural allies while 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10 would probably be enemies or “unfriendly elements”[60]. As mentioned earlier, however, allies were only “friendly” temporarily. Should country 3 conquer country 2, the entire configuration might change overnight. Some other contemperory authors have defined Mandala as a ‘statal circle', explaining that : the publicists of ancient india used to apply the term mandala to a cluster of states, the activities of which were likely to be actually brought in to play by the political actions of any one of them. The statal circle, for the purpose of strategic theorising was usually structured as a twelve state system (sometimes more or sometimes less), with one of the selected states as the “vijigisu” to serve as the mandala's orienting centre of strategic planning. The strategic circle is constituted thus as under:-

(a) A centre (vijigisu).

(b) In front of the vijigisu are five states in five zones[61], these being ‘Ari'(enemy), ‘mitra'(friend), ‘Ari-mitra'(enemy's friend), ‘mitra-mitra'(friends friend), ‘arimitra-mitra'(friend of the enemy's friend).

(c) In the rear of the vijigisu are four states in four zones, these being ‘parsnigraha'(rear enemy), ‘akranda'(rear friend), ‘parsnigrahasara'(rear enemy's friend), and ‘akrandasara'(rear friend's friend).

(d) Adjacent the vijigisu are two states,‘madhyama'(middle power), and ‘udasina'(neutral power). Madhyama is the “sovereign who is more powerful than either vijigisu or ari but less powerful than the two combined and udasina is stronger than each of ari, vijigisu and madhyama, but weaker than the three combined or the king who occupies a territory close to both the conqueror and his immediate enemy in front and who is capable of helping both the kings, whether united or disunited , or of resisting either of them individually is termed Madhyama(mediatory) king and he who is situated beyond the territory of any of the above kings, and who is very powerful is a neutral king(udasina).

(e) Thus there are four primary circle of states, twelve king's, sixty elements of sovereignty, and seventy two elements of states[62].

41. While the root meaning of ‘vijigisu' is conqueror, this term should not be taken in purely military sense. Destructive wars of conquests would risk obliterating the mandala as the interstate system. They allude to the soft power of the vijigisu in seeking not the destruction of other rajya's(kingdom's), but their submission and homage to his glory. Kautilya offered a number of options in inter-mandala relations, of which war (vigraha) is only one. The others include such diplomatic staples as the pursuit of peace through treaty or alliances and a posture of neutrality. The course of action chosen dependent on the vijigisu's sovereign circumstances, which comprise the saptanga. Kautilya states that a wise king's body of sovereignty, is the hub or nave of the wheel of state. Throwing the circumference of the circle of states beyond his friend's territory, and making the kings of those states as the spokes of that circle , the vijigisu shall make himself as the nave of that circle[63].

42. Kautilya explains that power and success[64] are important elements to make a king and thereby the kingdom superior. He say's power is possession of strength and success is obtaining happiness by economic prosperity. Power and success is three folds; the power of knowledge is the power of counsel, the power of treasury and the army is the power of might, the power of valour is the power of energy. In the same way, success attainable by the power of counsel is success by counsel that attainable by the power of energy is success by energy, and that attainable by power of might is success by might. Thriving with these the king becomes superior; reduced in these, inferior; with equal powers, equal. Therefore, he should endeavour to endow himself with the power and success, or, he should endeavour to detract these from treasonable persons and enemies.
Potential Enemies

43. Potential enemies were those to whom one showed a friendly face. They might be your ally or there might be no particular relationship between your country and theirs. But eventually, they would become enemies. Or so Kautilya assumed. After all, his politics were aimed at conquering the world, which can only be done by taking control of all other territories, most of which will fight to retain control. Assuming that Country 2 is an enemy too powerful to take on immediately. In such a case, it would be in the king's best interest to be friendly toward them until they grew weaker. But Kautilya didn't suggest the king sit passively by and wait for this to happen. Instead, it was his duty to make it happen. And, since states always act in their own self-interest, moral principles and obligations carry little or no weight in the actions between states. “A neighboring prince possessed of the excellences of an enemy is the foe; one in calamity is vulnerable; one without support or with weak support is fit to be exterminated; in the reverse case, fit to be harassed or weakened. These are the different types of enemies[65].”

44. A perfect ally is said to have six qualities,namely, constant, under control, quickly mobilising, hereditary, great and not given to double dealing. Kautilya has further explained these qualities as under :-

(a) One that is protected and that protects out of love, without consideration of money, and with relationship grown over long time is called a constant ally.

(b) One under control is said to be three fold, helping with all, with various or with great resources.

(c) One who when engaged in war with another or even when only in a light calamity , makes a pact for help is an ally under control but not constant .

(d) An ally is permanent because of exclusive feelings of friendship, fickle because of his feeling being common to the enemy, indifferent when not interested in either and feeling for both when interested in two.

(e) Kautilya cautions that he who would remain negligent about an ally who had deserted with or without reason and who has returned with or without reason, embraces death.

(f) Kautilya preaches that a large gain after a long time is preferable, if not liable to disappear and if of the nature of seed; or else vice versa.

The Six-Fold Policy Of The Arthasastra

45. Kautilyan foreign policy offers the theory that “an immediate neighbouring state is an enemy and a neighbour's neighbour, separated from oneself by the intervening enemy, is a friend” [66]. The conqueror would thus affect the line of allies and enemies, as well as the differing types of allies and enemies a conquering king has. Kautilya describes a Circle of States like a wheel with the conqueror at the hub. His allies are pulled towards him along the spikes although they may be parted by enemy territory[67] . When appropriate, the conquering king shall apply the six methods of foreign policy, regularly known as the six-fold policy, to the various components of his Circle of States. These methods work interdependently and bind others to the conqueror so he may do as he pleases with them when necessary.

46. Different teachers believe different policies. For example, Vatavyadhi taught that there were only two approaches to foreign policy: make peace or wage war. Kautilya however believes that there are spin-offs of these, thus providing six methods of foreign policy. These are making peace, waging war, staying quiet, preparing for war, seeking support, and the dual policy of making peace with one while waging war against another[68]. One's circumstances will dictate which methods should be used.

47. Samdhi To make peace, one must enter into an agreement, such as a treaty, with specific conditions. Treaties can have specific conditions, or will not have any obligations. Treaties without conditions are mainly used for gaining information on the enemy, so the king may strike after learning of the antagonists' weak points[69]. Treaties with commitments allow a “wise king to make a neighbouring king fight another neighbour to prevent them from uniting and attacking him”[70]. The only time a king will make peace is when he finds himself in relative decline compared to his enemy[71].

48. Vigraha When a king is in a superior position compared to his enemy, he will attack and wage war[72]. There are three types of war as part of this second method of foreign policy.

(a) Open War There is open war which has a specified time and place.

(b) Secret War Secret war that is sudden, terrorizing, threatening from one side and attacking from another.

(c) Undeclared War Undeclared war which uses secret agents, religion or superstition, and women as weapons against the enemies[73]. Kautilya approved weapons-of-war that tricked unsuspecting kings and fought in unconventional ways. The use of secret agents to befriend and then kill enemy leaders, “religion and superstition to bolster his troops and demoralize enemy soldiers” [74] and women who seduced the enemy as means of war were all examples of the way Kautilya believed one should wage an undeclared war.

49. Asana By neither making peace nor waging war, one acts indifferently to a situation and stays quiet. If a king feels that his enemy and he are equal and neither can harm the other nor ruin the other's undertakings, then he shall choose to do nothing[75].

50. Yana When a king increases his own power and has special advantage over his enemy, he will take part in the fourth approach of Kautilyan foreign policy by making preparations for war [76]. While preparing for war, the king must ensure that the enemies' undertakings will be destroyed while his own will come to no harm[77].

51. Samsraya In contrast to preparing for war, a king may require the help of another to protect his own undertakings. This idea of building an alliance is Kautilya's fifth method of foreign policy. A king seeking an alliance must ensure that he finds a king more powerful than the neighbouring enemy. Sometimes it is not possible to find a stronger king than the enemy; in this case one should make peace with the enemy[78].

52. Dvaidhibhava Lastly, having a dual policy of befriending one through peace and promoting one's own undertakings, whilst ruining another's mission by waging war against them is the sixth method[79]. Under this method the conqueror may have supplies and reinforcements provided from allies, prevent an attack from the rear where the Circle of States warns us there is an enemy as a neighbour, and have twice as many troops as the other. After discussing waging a war with allies and agreeing on terms a treaty is concluded. However, if the allies do not accept the obligations they are considered and treated as hostile[80].


Application of Mandala theory in the current Indian Geo-politics

53. Applying the Kautilyan theory in the above diagram, the undermentioned conclusions can be drawn:-

(a) All countries in the red circle are bound to have differences with India and enmity is possible with them. Leaving the minor countries like Bhutan,Nepal, Srilanka and to some extent Bangladesh, Pakistan and China certainly fall under the category of Ari.

(b) Of the two, China has excellent national govt, resources and constituents hence fits the description of enemy, Pakistan fits the description of enemy in the rear.

(c) The countries in the Blue circle ie Iran, Afghanistan CAR, Russia, ASEAN, Vietnam, Japan, Korea, Australia, Mongolia are to be classified as Mitra as per Kautilya.

(d) US fulfills the condition of being a neutral nation, who is powerful enough to help both or to destroy them when they are disunited.

Suggested Application of Kautilyan wisdom in Cotemperory Indian National Strategy.

54. Seven constituents of the state. India should take all steps towards strengthening the Saptanga constituents to increase its power and make it felt in the world. The following steps are recommended towards that[81]:-

(a) King ie Modern Political Establishment. Improve the quality of political leadership, make them more accountable. India needs to reform its political system to ensure the people with high qualifications and value system as enumerated by Kautilya as desirable qualities in a king[82], should be given position who take decisions of shaping Indian destiny.

(b) Amatya ie Advisors/ Bureaucracy. Reform and reorganize the bureaucracy[83] and make them more responsive to the needs of the state.A very high moral code of conduct has to be developed by the Indian officialdom to be able to fulfil the test criteria of Kautilya. The advisors should be people of vision with sharp analytical mind and knowledge of the subjects required to deal and they should be able to speak their mind and truth at all cost. National service should be the supreme consideration for them.

(c) Territory. Concentrate on human development. Our policy should be to ensure providing livelihood to every national. India should take all steps to increase the productivity of its land and look after the environment, forest, mines, pastures etc and keep their exploitation to sustainable levels.

(c) Durga or Internal Security. The aspect of internal security[84] is most important in the subject of defence of a state. Hence, a long-term strategy for internal cohesion must be developed based on Kautilya's principles on internal security and administration, and can be brought out as under :-

(i) Develop an effective state. This would imply formulation of policies that ensure the provision of basic amenities to the people.

(ii) Resolve all ongoing insurgencies in the country by formulating a multi-disciplinary approach encompassing politico-socio-economic-military initiatives.

(iii) Improving the standards of security forces at the state level by reforming its organisation and method of functioning. Strengthening the internal and external intelligence and security apparatus[85].

(iv) Honest and continuous efforts at ensuring human rights of the citizens, even in situations of unrest, terrorism and insurgency. The temptation to use state terror to counter these must be avoided.

(d) Kosa ie Economy. Poverty is the root cause of many evils of the society. Strong economy enables procurement of all necessary tools for ensuring national security and stability. In the present day context economy and trade relations have also become strong tools in the armoury of the nations to fight the silent war as propagated by Kautilya. India needs to maintain its growth rate and keep on looking for the opportunity for enhancing the same.

(e) Danda or the Army Indian nation sitting at the breakout stage of economic domination requires strong armed forces to pursue its national interests.

(f) Mitra. India needs to cultivate strong friends in the todays globalised world, who can lend support in the comity of nations. International relations require give and take and India needs to come out of moral politicking to a more pragmatic and real world and make allies who assist towards achieving national objectives without going into too much of morality factor.

55. The other measures which should be followed are as under:-

(a) Supremacy of Indian national interests should be the one and the only guiding factor in the international affairs. We should shun being the preachers of lessons of morality and right or wrong in the comity of nations rather be more pragmatic and realist in our approach. India should not blindly support or reject an international issue seeing it through the prism of morality but from the hard facts of realpolitik as the fact that the nations should act in their own self interest is the timeless principle and the main theme of the treatise Arthasastra written almost 24 centuries earlier.

(b) Power is strength and strength changes mind of adversaries and friends alike (including non state actors, warlords etc). The case in point is the rising Indo-US and Indo- Japan relations .Earlier Japan and US did not find any advantages in focussing their time and energy in relations with India however with the growing economic and military might of India these countries are recognising the need for the same and are talking of strategic partnerships, the same countries not long ago were vociferous India baiters in the wake of 1998 Pokhran nuclear tests.

(c) Importance of nationalism and national unity to ward off enemies. It thus emphasises the need of inclusive policies and not appeasement politics at the cost of others.

(d) Diplomacy as the instrument of dealing with stronger enemy and also smooth chartering of the course in the ever deceptive and complex field of international relations.

(e) More pragmatic view of alliances and treaties i.e. Rather than getting sentimentally attached India should continuously keep on weighing the utility of the above instruments in the prevailing atmosphere and be ready to make necessary changes again in the absolute interest of the nation. The guiding factor should be that alliances last as long as the interest.

(f) India should not become pawn in somebody else's game and gain, like India vociferously supported Chinese permanent membership and other issues in 50's at the annoyance of western countries and US, the same country which taught us many hard lessons in 1962.

(g) Importance of strong intelligence, counter-intelligence, and espionage agencies to further the national cause in peace and war.


56. China has been pursuing a carefully orchestrated plan for the strategic encirclement and containment of India and has been gradually enlarging its sphere of influence towards South Asia. It's foreign and defence policy initiatives are quite obviously designed to marginalize India in the long-term and reduce India to the status of a sub regional power. China seems to assume that it should have freedom of action in region without constraint by any countervailing power, while no Asian government should take any action contrary to Chinese interests[86].

Indian Strategy

57. The balance of power in Asia and global order is in a flux. United States, China, Japan and Russia will all have significant influence over the global power structure in the 21st century. Therefore any strategy India adopts must not only address the China factor but also the complex relations that may emerge between these great powers.

58. China's regional strategic compulsions, being what they are China will certainly want a peaceful international relations to pursue its economic growth. It would be unwise for India to orient herself as a countervailing force to contain China's growing strategic global interests. Neither India should be naive to the underpinning in the Chinese strategic thinking of containing India. Indian strategy to deal with China factor therefore must be multifaceted with a judicious mix of foreign policy initiatives, rapid economic growth and building up nation's military and internal strength.
Foreign Policy Initiatives

59. Aggressive Diplomacy. India has to evolve a strategy accepting the realities on ground and adjust her national ethos, without sentimental or emotional involvement. Well-articulated foreign policy and aggressive diplomacy carried with finesse will be the tools to achieve a favourable understanding and acceptance as a natural power in the region.

60. Improve Relations with Myanmar. Instead of having a "constructive engagement" as other East Asian countries did, India's policy only resulted in China making a strategic headway from about 1988 to 1992. Geo-strategically, Myanmar's importance for India arises from these factors[87] :-

(a) Myanmar is the second largest of India's neighbors and provides the Eastern littoral of the Bay of Bengal.

(b) Myanmar has a big border with China in the North, contiguous with the Sino- Indian disputed border. Military analysts can gauge the various strategic complications that arise from such a configuration in case Myanmar is under unfriendly influence.

(c) Myanmar bridges South Asia and India with South-East Asia. It also acts as a buffer between India's North Eastern States and the Southern provinces of China.

61. Recent Exchanges With Myanmar[88]. Indian Commerce Ministry has embarked upon an ambitious project to develop Sittwe port in Myanmar and to open up a sea route connecting it to Mizoram in North East India. India has evinced keen interest to procure gas from Myanmar. ONGC Videsh Limited (OVL) and Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) hold 30 % stakes in the exploration and production of gas in Myanmar's A1 and A3 off shore blocks located in Sittwe Area of Arakan State. In October 2004, the Myanmar Army had conducted military operations against the Indian insurgents operating in their territoryduring December 2005 and again in 2006.

62. Look East Policy[89]. India's "Look East" policy was developed and enacted during the governments of Prime Ministers of P.V. Narasimha Rao (1991 - 1996) and Atal Bihari Vajpayee (1998 - 2004). Along with economic liberalisation and moving away from Cold War-era policies and activities, India's strategy has focused on forging close economic and commercial ties, increasing strategic and security cooperation and the emphasis of historic cultural and ideological links. India sought to create and expand regional markets for trade, investments and industrial development. It also began strategic and military cooperation with nations concerned by the expansion of China's economic and strategic influence.

63. The important components of this policy are[90]:

(a) The strengthening of economic linkages with Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal outside the framework of the SAARC.

(b) The normalisation of political relations with the military government of Myanmar.

(c) Strengthening of military, economic and technological co-operation with Vietnam.

(d) The stepping-up of sustained political and economic interactions with the Governments of Thailand, Indonesia, Laos and Cambodia.

(e) The further strengthening of political and economic relations with Singapore and Malaysia and intensification of military interactions (joint naval exercises with Singapore, maintenance and repair of Soviet/Russian origin aircraft of the Malaysian Air Force etc).

(f) A more active association of India with the ASEAN initially as a sectoral dialogue partner and, subsequently, as a full dialogue partner and a member of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF).

(g) The active seeking by India of membership of the APEC and the Asia-Europe Summit.

64. The ASEAN countries “recognize India's role as a possible counterweight to any potential future threat from China.”[91] Veteran Singaporean diplomat K. Kesavapany has noted that ASEAN countries “envisage India as acting as a counter-balance to a possibly overdominant China in the future,” while Meidyatama Suryodiningrat, the editor of the Jakarta Post, has called on India to “become a psychological deterrent to China's increasing influence and gradual domination of this region.”

65. BIMSTEC[92]. The littoral states of Bay of Bengal (Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand) came together to form this economic association in June 1997. Myanmar has joined this grouping in December1997 and Bhutan and Nepal in 2004. This grouping aims at promoting economic cooperation between members in key areas like, Trade, Investment, Fisheries, Agriculture, Transportation and Human Resources Development. The first BIMSTEC Summit held in July 2004, renamed the grouping as “Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi Sectoral Technical Cooperation” with the same acronym.

66. India's Role in South Asia. India being the largest and politically more stable country in South Asia, has a vital role to play as regards South Asian security apart from securing its own interests in the region. India cannot achieve its larger objectives without eliciting willing cooperation from smaller neighbors. A “big brother” approach is entirely misplaced[93]. This calls for diplomatic finesse of a very high order. Some of the steps that can be taken by India to fulfill its role are :-

(a) Strategic Consensus in South Asia. India should, by continued dialogue, try to arrive at regional strategic consensus with all countries of South Asia. India needs to convince regional nations of India's legitimate security concerns which compel it to maintain comparatively large standing force. "Friendship treaties" and "joint economic commissions" on a bilateral or multilateral basis should be welcomed. The South Asian Regional Council (SAARC) is doing a commendable job in this respect and further avenues for enlarging its activities need to be explored[94].

(b) Counter Chinese Proximity to South Asian Neighbors. India also needs to be watchful of China's increasing military involvement in Myanmar and other South Asian countries. Even though China's Navy is still decades away from acquiring the long-range capability necessary to operate with some degree of assurance and freedom in the Indian Ocean, these aspects need to be constantly monitored and vectored into India's calculations[95].

80. Strategic Calculus of India and Vietnam - The China factor. "Vietnam treats India with strategic importance"[96] is what President Tran Duch Luang expressed to India's PM Vajpayee during the latter's visit to Vietnam in Vietnam in Jan 2001. The China factor weighs heavily and s prominently in the respective strategic calculus of both India and Vietnam. Prime Minister Vajpayee had in 1998 mentioned the Chinese threat as an impulse for India's nuclear weaponisation . Recently a Vietnamese Foreign Ministry official had remarked "we don't trust China"[97].

81. India's Defence Minister, George Fernandes signed a fresh protocol on defence cooperation in March 2000

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