DEFENCE NOTES

 

Some Muslim writers on the subject have shown traces of this Chanakyan concept of integrated Defence Management’ for example, the Siraj-ul-Muluk (‘Lamp for the Princes’) by al-Turtushi (AD. 1059-1126) which among many other instructive anecdotes for princes includes some concerning the conduct of armies and of war operations; and the Adab-ul-Muluk (‘Training of the Princes’) by Fakhr-i-Mudabbir Shah of early Ghurid Period (13th century AD) of Indo-Pakistan history which contains chapters on political and military subjects. Encyclopedia of Islam, Second edition, Vol. II pp. 504-15, and Vol. III, pp. 180-203, has two good articles with excellent bibliographies, entitled Djaysh (‘army’) and Harb (‘War’), respectively, which provide very useful introduction to the study of the history of Muslim Military Science, another important but woefully neglected subject.

Archaeologists of Sri Lanka have recently discovered inscriptions which describe in graphic detail a battle fought at the Khyber Pass about 303 BC. It was one of the decisive battles of world history. In just one military encounter that lasted only five days tables were turned on world-conquering Macedonians. Alexander’s most famous general and his successor in the East, Seleucus, was out-generalled. He had to cede all the territories conquered in the Land of the Indus and its tributaries, and --- as a sort of reparations, so to say, for what the Indus people has suffered at the hands of Macedonian invaders --- he also surrendered Badakhshan, and the whole of the Kabul and the Hari Rud valleys. Though Chandragupta’s mentor and maker, Chanakya, has not been explicitly mentioned in these Lankan epigyraphic documents, his presence behind the scene as the deus ex machina is writ large in the whole accounts. The battle-ground was chosen, the battle was fought and the peace treaty was made exactly according to the maxims prescribed by Chanakya in his Arthashastra.

The text of the Sri Lankan document and a detailed commentary on it has been supplied by Professor S. Qudratullah Fatimi’s mimeograph entitled: Battle of the Khyber (Circa, ‘303 BC), as Described in the Newly Discovered Sri Lanka Inscriptions. It is the revised and enlarged edition of the paper read by Professor Fatimi at the Second Congress of History and Culture held at the University of Sind in April 1975. Fortunately, Brig. Agha Mazhar Hussain made a summary of this important but not easily accessible mimeograph for the first issue of the Magazine of 11 Corps, Al-Khyber, 1987, pp. 19-33, under the directions of General (then Lt Gen) Mirza Aslam Beg, Hi (M), S Bt.

The Arthashastra was composed some twenty three hundred years ago, and very evidently incorporates the Takshashila traditions of Military Science going back to pre-Budha ear, that is before sixth century BC. This great classic depicts the social and political conditions of our ancient land during its hoary past. It is of immense antiquarian interest but is not an easy reading because of its paradoxes. Here we find puerile and commonplace jostling with the most profound and unique, topical and of temporary interest with and of abiding value, and utterly cynical and opportunistic with loftily idealistic and altruistic.

But we must cross these hurdles and study it deeply to meet our immediate defence crises. For, the Indians have, in a typical Chanakyan manner, canonized their "Kautilya". The Diplomatic Enclave of their capital city is named Chanakyapuri. The basic ingredients of their foreign policy are unabashedly borrowed from Kautilya’s Arthasastra.

The most notable contribution of Chanakya to political thought is his mandala theory. Briefly, the mandala, or a Circle, of Chanakya’s concept consists of an aggregate of Kings, friendly, hostile, and neutral, group around the figure of a central King very significantly called vijigishu. The dictionary meaning of the Sanskrit term is ‘desirous of victory or conquest’, ‘wishing to overcome or surpass’; Indologists like Shamasastry and Ghoshal have translated it ‘the Aggressor’, but, perhaps, ‘hegemonist’ will be the more appropriate rendering keeping in view the dictionary meaning and the general context of the Arthashastra. Professor Ghoshal further elaborates the idea of mandala and its vijishu and states, "It contemplates a system of States bound by hostile, friendly or neutral relations with an ambitious potentate --- an Indian Louis XIV or Napoleon --- as its central figure." 7 Haven’t the Indian leaders consistently played the role of the vijigishu during the last forty years ?

"In the branches of internal and foreign administration", states Professor Ghoshal while summing up Arthashastra’s concepts, "it uses the weapons of diplomacy and force with such a strong preference for the former in all its forms as to make the State administration essentially a work of art requiring the exercise of the highest qualities of intellect and character on the part of the ruler". 8 Chanakya also gave a practical demonstration of the theories he propounded which are succinctly and incisively described by Ghoshal in the above quotation. And he did it with a resounding and unparalleled success. In the East, he captured the Indian heartland; in the West, annexed the greater part of modern Afghanistan; and founded one of the greatest empires of history with its capital shrewdly located in the intellectual and spiritual centre of the conquered country. Now, the essential features of the State policy of modern India ----- some only professed, other fully or partly practised ---, namely: non-violence, non-alignment, secularsim and parliamentary democracy, appear to be the ‘weapons of diplomacy’ of Professor Ghoshal’s description, on the modern context, to achieve the goal of Vishal Bharata (Greater India).

Of more immediate concern for us is the Chanakyan dictum, "A ruler with contiguous territory is a rival. the ruler next to the adjoining is to be deemed a friend". 9 India’s consistent hostility towards her western neighbour, i.e., we ourselves , and with China, in the east; and its equally consistent amity with our adjoining country, Afghanistan and that of China, Russia --- and, recently, with the southern neighbour of China, Vietnam, and its recent collusion with the sworn enemy of Islam, Israel, spell out Chanaky’s dictum to its last letter.

But our thesis in this essay is that Arthashastra is the pioneering classic on Defence Management . Indian scholars and Indologists have been, as far as we know, silent on this particular subject . This might well be their studied silence. Does Arthasastra give us any clues to the Indian leaders’ military thinking as it definitely provides to their political aspirations ?

That is the question.10

1.    Dani, A.H., A Short History of Pakistan , University of Karachi, 1967, Vol. I, .88-9.

2.     Sarton, G., Introduction to the History of Science, Carnegie Institution of Washington, Baltimore, 1962          Reprint, Vol. I, pp.147-8.

3.    Shamasastry, R., Kautilya’s Arthashastra, Mysore Printing & Publication House, Bangalore, 6th ed., 1960, pp. 218-9; Dani op. cit. p. 100.

4.    Dodge, Bayard (ed. & trans.), The Fihrist of Nadim: A Tenth Century Survey of  Muslim Culture, Columbia University Press, New York, 1970, Vol. II, p.738.

5.    Shamasastry, op. ci. t, p. 463; Ghoshal, U.N., A History of Indian Political Ideas, Oxford University Press, 1959,. p. 111 (Ghoshal’s translation).

6.    Clausewitz, Karl von, On War, Penguin Books, 1974, p. 119 (Book I, Ch. I  Sec.24).

7.    Kautilya’s Arthashastra, Book Seven; Ghoshal, U.N., A History of Indian Political Ideas, Oxford        University Press, London, 1959,. pp.93-4 (italics added)

8.    Ghoshal, op. cit., p. 554.

9.    Kautilya’s Arthashastra, Book Seven, Ch. 18

10.  Prepared and written guidance based on interviews with Professor S.Qudratullah Fatimi, ex Director, R.C.D. Cultural Institute, Islamabad.

 

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