Kautilyas Theory

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  • Topic: Maurya Empire, Chandragupta Maurya, Chanakya
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  • Published : March 24, 2011
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Abstract: Kautilya was the key adviser to the Indian king Chandragupta Maurya (c. 317-293 B.C.E.), who first united the Indian subcontinent in empire. Written about 300 B.C.E., Kautilya'sArthasastra was a science of politics intended to teach a wise king how to govern. In this work, Kautilya offers wide-ranging and truly fascinating discussions on war and diplomacy, including his wish to have his king become a world conqueror, his analysis of which kingdoms are natural allies and which are inevitable enemies, his willingness to make treaties he knew he would break, his doctrine of silent war or a war of assassination against an unsuspecting king, his approval of secret agents who killed enemy leaders and sowed discord among them, his view of women as weapons of war, his use of religion and superstition to bolster his troops and demoralize enemy soldiers, the spread of disinformation, and his humane treatment of conquered soldiers and subjects.  

KAUTILYA's Arthasastra was one of the greatest political books of the ancient world. Max Weber recognized this. "Truly radical 'Machiavellianism,' in the popular sense of that word," Weber said in his famous lecture "Politics as a Vocation," "is classically expressed in Indian literature in the Arthasastra of Kautilya (written long before the birth of Christ, ostensibly in the time of Chandragupta [Maurya]): compared to it, Machiavelli's The Prince is harmless." 1  Although Kautilya proposed an elaborate welfare state in domestic politics, something that has been called a socialized monarchy, 2 he proved willing to defend the general good of this monarchy with harsh measures. A number of authors have explored these domestic policies, but very few scholars have focused on Kautilya's discussions of war and diplomacy. And yet, his analyses are fascinating and far-reaching, such as his wish to have his king become a world conqueror, his evaluation of which kingdoms are natural allies and which are inevitable enemies, his willingness to make treaties that he knew he would break, his doctrine of silent war or a war of assassination and contrived revolt against an unsuspecting king, his approval of secret agents who killed enemy leaders and sowed discord among them, his view of women as weapons of war, his use of religion and superstition to bolster his troops and demoralize enemy soldiers, his employment of the spread of disinformation, and his humane treatment of conquered soldiers and subjects. Historical Background

Kautilya was the key adviser to—and the genius of the strategy undertaken by—the Indian king Chandragupta Maurya (c. 317-293 B.C.E.), who defeated the Nanda kings (several related kings trying unsuccessfully to rule India together), stopped the advance of Alexander the Great's successors, and first united most of the Indian subcontinent in empire. Kautilya—sometimes called chancellor or prime minister to Chandragupta, something like a Bismarck 3 —composed his Arthasastra, or "science of politics," to show a wise king how to defeat his enemies and rule on behalf of the general good. He was not modest in his claims as to how much he helped Chandragupta, noting "This science has been composed by him [Kautilya], who . . . quickly regenerated the science and the weapon and [conquered] the earth that was under control of the Nanda kings." 4 Just after Alexander's death in 323 B.C.E., Chandragupta and Kautilya began their conquest of India by stopping the Greek invaders. In this effort they assassinated two Greek governors, Nicanor and Philip, a strategy to keep in mind when I later examine Kautilya's approval of assassination. "The assassinations of the Greek governors," wrote Radha Kumud Mookerji, "are not to be looked upon as mere accidents." 5 By taking much of western India (the Punjab and the Sindh) from the Greeks and concluding a treaty with Seleucus (Alexander the Great's Greek heir to western India), Chandragupta and...
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