Critical Assessment of India’s Policy of Massive Retaliation from Kautilyan Lens

Nivan Bagchi


India’s history is embellished with the philosophical meanderings of many brilliant minds, upon which Kautilya occupies one of the tallest of positions. Kautilya’s Arthashastra has been written as a conceptual framework to provide timeless knowledge to its readers. Some scholars have argued that Kautilya’s imprint can even be seen in India’s foreign policy. Michael Leibig (2013) uses Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of “habitus” to assert that Kautilya’s arthashastra has latent influence in Indian policy making. “Human beings”, according to him, “in society have both personal and collective histories which constitute his or her habitus and thus condition his or her perceptions, thinking and acting.”(Liebig 2013: 107). Liebig supports his assertion by drawing a link between Kautilyan and Nehruvian vision of building a strong economy first to sustain the military.

Historically too, Kaushik Roy (2007) talks of how the replacement of Arthashastra by Manusmriti in the middle ages spelt doom for the Rajputs since the latter emphasised chivalry and just war which couldn’t keep up with Islamic invader’s hard militarism.

Indian scholarship, currently has been trying to develop a non- western theory of IR. Shahi and Ascione (2015:1– 22) and Amitav Acharya (2013) have argued for going beyond eurocentrism , aiming at breaking the epistemological dominance of western perspectives and moving towards post western understanding. Unfortunately, India has not invested enough on Kautilya and so he is not taught in any ‘principal IR theory courses’ and though Arthashastra has much to offer for theorizing IR, the universal applicability of his ideas is not acknowledged.(Behera 2007: 352).

It would, however, still be a mistake to take Kautilya’s instructions literally. Rengger(2000:770) advises that “one of the best ways of addressing our moral and political problems is to distance ourselves from them, to see how people in distant time and space sought to identify and grapple with their problems”. The focus should therefore be to find the core essence of Kautilya’s reasoning behind his decisions rather than merely the decision itself. By using the principles that marked Arthashastra’s decision making also allow us to broaden the epistemological limitations of Kautilya.

Kautilya, unfortunately has been reduced to the concept of mandala theory and ‘shadgunya’ foreign policy which although are important, doesn’t cover the entirety of Kautiyan perspective. This article, firstly, attempts to look at his methodology of ‘anvikshiki’ which is a rare eclectic attempt at combining orthodox Samkhya-yoga with unorthodox lokayata school of Indian philosophy. This overall builds a complex character of chanakya that bridges the rationalist-reflectivist debate in IR. Secondly, an ideal king that kautilya envisions, is discussed who possesses almost a stoic demeanour. Thirdly, quotes from Arthashastra and its later commentaries are used to prove Kautilya didn’t advocate wanton destruction as its critics claim but was a rationalist motivated by the goal of lokasamgraha (welfare of people) advocating restraint in conquest. Fourthly, the flexibility inscribed within the instructions of arthashastra are highlighted which are contingent upon dynamic relative power between states and circumstances.

All these features of arthashastra are simultaneously used to make a strong critique against India’s nuclear policy of massive retaliation.

History of the Development of ‘Massive Retaliation’

The policy of massive retaliation was first articulated by John Foster Dulles in the Eisenhower administration in 1954. The logic was to save money while simultaneously maintaining USA’s extended deterrence to its allies since ground troops were much costlier than an arsenal of nuclear weapons.(Nagal 2015:4). It was later on replaced in favour of ‘flexible response’ in the US.

Although India detonated its first nuclear bomb under operation ‘Smiling Buddha’ under leadership of Indira Gandhi in 1974, it was much later, under Vajpayee administration in 1999, that India decided to weaponize its nuclear capabilities. Following its successful nuclear tests, in August 1999, the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) issued India’s draft nuclear doctrine. It maintained a position of ‘assured retaliation’ [in the event of nuclear attack] on the premise that deterrence works only on the logic of punishment.(Pant 2018:110). Over time the volume of retaliation further increased as in 2003 the policy of ‘punitive retaliation’ was changed to the current position of ‘massive retaliation’.

Indian policy makers, unfortunately, have gone into a tailspin, since Pakistan developed low yield ‘Nasr Missiles’ as Tactical Nuclear Weapons (TNWs). Scholars have concluded that “the most likely use of nuclear weapons in South Asia pertains to Pakistan availing its TNWs against Indian armed forces.” (Pant 2018:112). In the event of a small nuclear attack by Pakistan, it can effectively mean Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD).

The logic of the advocates of massive retaliation camp is that it can be a strong deterrent to Pakistani nuclear use. They believe that a limited nuclear war is an oxymoron.(Ahmed 2014) Any nuclear attack is bound to create escalation. So before there can be a piecemeal increase where most of India’s nuclear strikes are sacrificed, India will be better positioned to act while most of its weapons are still intact.

Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran (Joshi 2015), defended India’s nuclear doctrine and posture saying:

[If India] is attacked with such weapons, it would engage in nuclear retaliation which will be massive and designed to inflict unacceptable damage on the adversary. As I have pointed out earlier, the label on a nuclear weapon used for attacking India, strategic or tactical, is irrelevant from the Indian perspective…Any nuclear exchange, once initiated, would swiftly and inexorably escalate to the strategic level. Pakistan would be prudent not to assume otherwise as it sometimes appears to do, most recently by developing and perhaps deploying theatre nuclear weapons.

Pakistan doesn’t have a declared nuclear policy but their public comments have hinted towards a low nuclear threshold. They will use nuclear weapons even if India tries to carry out a naval blockade or promote insurgencies inside it. However, unlike India, Pakistan appears to be gradually moving away from a position of simple deterrence and massive retaliation to a posture of “complex deterrence with flexible response” (Tasleem 2016).

Some scholars have raised doubts regarding India’s do or die position. Many argue that massive retaliation has been unable to act as a deterrent suggesting that ‘all it did was spur accelerated production of weapons-grade plutonium, warheads, and missiles by Pakistan’

(Karnad 2013), while others suggest India doesn’t have the capability, cost and intention (Biswas 2013) to take such an extreme position in the first place.

The following sections will seek to establish the key teachings of kautilya and use it for critiquing India’s doctrine of massive retaliation.

Kautilyan Teachings & Critique of ‘Massive Retaliation’

Kautilya And Morality

Much has been written about unscrupulous practices in Arthashastra. “Kosambi has written that in Kautilya’s Arthashastra, there is not the least pretence at morality, whilst Erich Frauwallner says that Kautilya has no moral scruples, and T. W. Rhys Davies labels Kautilya as depraved at heart.”(Boesche 2002: 259) One of the first western scholars to study Kautilya, Max Weber (1919: 25) asserts, “truly radical ‘Machiavellianism,’ in the popular sense of that word is classically expressed in Indian literature in the Arthashastra of Kautilya.” Roger Boesche (2002:270) compared Kautilya’s with Arthashastra with The Prince to further explain that Machiavelli wrote a more moderate book than he could have by omitting discussions of spies tortures, assassinations, because he loved the republic, trusted the people and wanted the people to share in government- ideas that remained foreign to Kautilya.

However, to accuse Kautilya of being an advocate of immoral means would be absurd (Bhagat 1990:189). Recent scholarships have presented a more nuanced position of Kautilya, one that gives morality an important position in his line of thinking. This position is revealed when one looks rigorously in Kautilya’s methodology.

Kautilya uses a methodology of “Anvikshaki” for writing Arthashahstra that combines orthodox “Samkhya- Yoga” with unorthodox views of “Lokayata”.This leads Kautilya to develop a theory that reconciles Realpolitik with Moralpolitik something which traditionally has been antithetical in the realist writings of both Morgenthau and Waltz. Kautilya’s Arthasastra supplies an “‘eclectic theory of IR’ which makes reflectivist-moralpolitik (i.e. abstract universal ideals of the protection of the earth) as a ‘necessary condition’ for the pursuance of rationalist-realpolitik” (Shahi 2018:116)

Kautilya tries to emphasize that the state has a duty to help humans pursue 4 goals: dharma(morality), artha(material), kama(sensual desire), moksha(liberation from cycle of rebirth). The orthodox samkhya-yoga emphasizes abstract notions of dharma and moksha as important while lokayata which emphasise material gains, says kama and artha are important. Arthashahstra therefore becomes an amalgamation of both.

Stuart Gray (2014: 640) buttresses the point on the nature of ‘interdependence’ between artha and dharma in Kautilya’s Arthasastra:

“Kautilya should not be read as privileging artha over dharma. He does not argue for artha’s superiority but rather for its harmonious integration with the other goals of human life. That is, dharma, kama (desire, including the sphere of physical, sensual delights), and moksha (liberation from the cycle of birth and death, the ultimate goal of human existence) all depend upon artha to flourish in a codependent fashion.”

In realism survival of the state is the most important. For Kautilya the end goal is not always yogakshema(survival), but “Lokasamgraha” (happiness of the people). Kautilya believes that a ruler with unhappy subjects is hard to govern anyway so the stability of the monarch is linked to the happiness of the subject. In the happiness of the people lies the ruler’s happiness, Their welfare is his welfare. “The ruler shall not consider what pleases and benefits him personally, but what is pleasing and beneficial to the people.”(Subramanian 1980:167). In fact, Bandhopadhya (1980 as cited in, Bhagat 1990:187) stresses the contractual relationship between the king and the people. “The king, moreover, was a “constitutionalist [who] promoted [people’s] welfare at all times, in all places, and cost.” (Dikshitar:1953 as cited in Bhagat 1990: 193)

Interestingly, Kautilya makes a clear distinction between happiness [and benefit that flows from lokasamgraha] as the end and power as the means of the king’s foreign policy (Bandyopadhyaya 1993, as cited in Shahi, 2018:40). Kautilya then goes on to articulate 3 types of power necessary for a sovereign to achieve the goal of lokasamgraha: intellectual (stronger counsel), physical(army and economy) and valor (psychological).

Interestingly in the arthashastra there is also no clear distinction between the domestic and the international like in the modern westphalian order. Deepshikha Shahi (2018:114) writes,

“Only those rulers (of own state or other states) can succeed in sustaining their legitimate exercise of power in international politics who act as a fountain of justice (dharmapravartaka) and make minimal use of organized violence to accomplish not only survival (yogakshema), but also benefit and happiness of all (lokasamgraha), including the subjects/citizens belonging to ‘national self’/‘inside’ and ‘other/s’/‘outside’

“To Kautilya, war [too] is often discussed as an extension of internal violence and

Punishment.” (Brekke 2006:126) Kautilya’s emphasis on happiness of the subject and his reconciliation of realpolitik and moralpolitik gives us insights about his thoughts regarding India’s policy of massive retaliation.

Clearly, it will be “immoral to endanger a populace with counter annihilation.”(Nagal as cited in, Joshi & O’Donnell 2019:155). Kautilya would advise a policy where both the goals of yogakshema and lokasamgraha are protected. In the case of a massive retaliation, both the goals in fact are endangered since Pakistan sensing nuclear annihilation will attack back, which will ultimately put a question mark on the survival of both the states while happiness of the people will just be an afterthought. Remember, happiness of not just their own people but the people ‘outside’ is important to kautilya as demonstrated earlier. Indian policy therefore, should blend realpolitik with moralpolitik and accordingly curtail the excessive use of violence to its bare minimum so that India can continue to sustain its image of dharmapravartaka.

Ideal King

In the ‘saptanga theory of state’ that Kautilya propounds, the king is the most important person. Logically, he sets some standards that the king must inculcate within him. Kautilya’s ideal king must be someone who doesn’t fall victim to rage, who possesses somewhat stoic demeanour, who doesn’t get overly happy with victory and neither sad after a thumping defeat.

“A truly Kautilyan ruler who must control and conquer the six basic nature ( šatrusadvarga ): karna (lust), kopa or krodha (anger), lobha (avarice), mana (vanity), mada (insolence), and harsa (levity)”(Kangle 1960, cited in, Sil 1996: 106). He must endeavour to be a king of righteous character, who must perform what he ‘has promised to do, irrespective of good or bad. For Kautilya, thus, control of the senses is the basis of state and of statecraft. Kautilya even forbade the royal princes from “indulging in wine and women, since the degradation of princes was sure to affect the fortunes of the country. (Sil 1985:117) In Kautilya’s own words: “A king … having no control over his senses quickly perishes, though he be ruler up to the four ends of the earth (Bhagat 1990:193).

The legitimate exercise of power in international politics necessarily demanded, according to Deepshika Shahi( 2018:143), “a ‘detached’ (non-selfish) attitude in personal (re)actions/karman of the rulers, whereby they were expected to remain ‘actively engaged with’ yet ‘consciously distanced from’ success and failure.”

In an event of nuclear attack from Pakistan, a massive retaliation from India is bound to be elicited from the point of retribution. However, India’s response to the breakdown of deterrence must not be informed by objectives of “revenge seeking” and “venting rage” as they “have no place in the decision matrix.(Koithara 2012, as cited in, Joshi & O’Donnell 2019:155). Kautilya reprimands rulers, who are unable to control their urges. Anger is not advisable for a ruler. “In all cases, declares Kautilya, an offence concerning women or relatives, professional rivalry, hatred of opposition, market association… any of the legal disputes, the origin is anger. Anger results in murder.”(Subramanian 1980:187). Rationality would dictate that further escalation is stopped if lokasamgraha is the ultimate aim. According to Kautilya, “rulers swayed by anger have been killed by people’s fury, it is heard.”(Subramanian 1980:168).

An extension of Kautilyan logic would therefore mean that India’s policy should be strictly cold and calculating in terms of response, taking every variable into account while formulating a proportional counter, without getting swayed by anger of both the ruler himself or that of the public.


Kautilya as we know divides different immediate neighbours into 3 categories: ari(enemies), mitra(friend) and samanta(rival). Kautilya does advocate military options against a weaker power as he prescribes, “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.”(Rangarajan 2000: 548). Although Pakistan from a Kautilyan standpoint, of state’s saptanga comparison, would be considered a weaker power, but again, Kautilya is not advocating any vacuous action. His judgment is contingent on ‘cost’. Since nuclear power brings strategic parity in terms of destruction, it will not be advisable to attack.

Kautilya while advocating the use of violence issues some strict criteria that needs to be met or else it wouldn’t be prudent to attack. Although quite obviously he doesn’t talk of a nuclear war. However, of all the wars that Kautilya talks about, ‘dharmayuddha’ is the closest to a nuclear war since that is the only time when both states will have to face each other head on. He then goes on to lay down certain rules that should be kept in mind when fighting an open war (dharmayuddha)

The conditions when a king should advocate a dharmayuddha are: (Rangarajan 2000: 711) “(i) his army is superior, (ii) his instigations [in the enemy’s camp] have been successful, (iii) all precautions against dangers have been taken.” In the modern context, superiority of a conventional army is rendered somewhat useless in the face of a nuclear war. When we talk of nuclear stockpile, surprisingly Pakistan compared to India, has slightly more number of nuclear weapons (Biswas 2017). Secondly, If we are talking about nuclear war, all precaution against danger is rather impossible to be taken. Pakistan has the “Shaheen” series of Medium Range Ballistic Missiles (MRMB). India is soon going to procure ‘S-400’ air defense system from Russia, despite this India’s massive size will not allow any technology available currently to offer full protection throughout its territory.

Kautilya’s writings clearly have echoes of restraint when talking of ‘annihilation of his enemy’ whenever costs are high. The point of restraint is most clearly articulated when Kautilya talks about the ‘fate of those who are conquered’. Rangarajan (2000:727) translates, “after routing the enemy’s army, the conqueror shall destroy an enemy of inferior power, except when he has reached [the sanctuary of] his own territory or is ready to sacrifice his life.” Interestingly, this is again a synthesis of prudence and morals. Kautilya reasons that soldiers fighting for their lives can turn vicious. This probably will escalate the cost of warfare and so is discouraged.

Furthermore, Kautilya reminds the potential conqueror state (vijigishu) how practical it is to

be just toward the subjects because “the subjects, when impoverished, become greedy; when greedy, they become disaffected; when disaffected, they either go over to the enemy state or themselves kill the unjust king” (Kangle 1997, as cited in, Shahi 2018:107) Here we should again remember Kautilya doesn’t make a distinction between ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ of the state when advocating the policy of Lokasamgraha.

G Bhagat (1990:199) remarks the following regarding how Kautilya wishes the conquered be treated which again keeps the ‘welfare of people’ in mind:

“The victor was to “cover the defects of the conquered king by his own virtues and by doubling his own virtues by good administration, by concessions, gifts and honors, and thus contribute to the contentment and good of the new subjects.” In case the enemy is slain, “his property or family members should not be touched and the near relative of the slain king should be installed on the throne.” The king was also advised to adopt the manners and customs, dress, language and laws of the conquered peoples. Further, the victor was to honor their gods, and reward the men of letters, the orators, and the religious people by gifts of land, goods, and remissions.”

In fact Kautilya’s writing is peppered with such restraint. While talking about siege warfare to capture forts, “Kautilya doesn’t approve the burning down of the fort as the conqueror will be left with nothing then.”(Rangarajan 2000: 729)

As per Kautilya’s calculations when deciding on potential conquest, “if a vijigishu has a choice to attack a strong king who is unjust or a weak king who is just, it should attack the stronger king, because the stronger king’s subjects, weary of injustice..might even join the war against him.” (Shahi 2018:107). Kautilya also remarkably suggests if benefits arising from peace and war are the same, then peace is to be preferred.

The undercurrents of restraint along with a degree of ‘proportionality’ is established while responding to an enemy in other hindu texts from the past. Thus, Nitishahstra gives a proportionate response to different scenarios,(Kamandaki, as cited by, Torkel Brekke 2006: 128)

“If an enemy tries to appropriate parts or the whole of the kingdom, or kidnap members of the royal family, or take control of forts, the king should adopt conciliatory measures of gifts and should restrain his impulses towards confrontation. The king must meet insults and arrogance with a show of respect and conciliation rather than aggression and if an enemy kills one of his allies, the trouble should be diffused through other means than war.”

If India fails the test of restraint and proportionality, all her allies she has built relations with for years, will be against her. The global consensus has always been against the use of nuclear weapons. Using it against another country, especially civilians, will put public opinion against us. India will have a hard time explaining its decision to the world. Whatever is left of India post a nuclear flashpoint, will have to bear the legacy of immeasurable deaths.

Kautilya, as we have seen, puts a great deal of emphasis on the cost of conquest. When the cost of conquest is high, such as in a nuclear war, he would clearly advise restraint on the part of the ruler which would be the exact opposite of the policy of massive retaliation. A logical extension of this philosophy of restraint can also be seen in the Hindu concept of Chakravartin.


In Hindu philosophy, ‘chakravartin’ is a recurrent concept whose chakra(wheel) can travel from one end of the Indian subcontinent to another without any obstructions. Other words are also used to describe the concept with little variations. The ‘chatooranta’ state is that whose authority extends up to the remotest antas (limits) of the chatoor (four) quarters (Sarkar 1919:410) In the Artha-shastra, he is again also called chakravarti, for the territory of such a chatooranta is called ‘chakravarti ksetra’. Every king was potentially Chakravartin, the Sanskrit term for a benevolent universal ruler, rather than seen as the king of a particular territory (Bruneau 2014:239). This indicates that national boundaries during those times must have been more fluid.

This policy of trying to unite the whole subcontinent under one vijigishu has been dubbed by some scholars as expansion and imperialism abroad (Ray 1947:734). However, even while advocating for such expansion, Kautilya is not someone who calls for wanton destruction with no regard for human life. He interestingly even here evokes the greater purpose of lokasamgraha.

For sure, this extended exercise of power by a chakravartin calls for an arduous exercise of both personal rational authority (i.e. visesa dharma that strives for utilitarian material well-being for all) and personal spiritual authority (i.e. samanya dharma that searches for deontological spiritual well-being for all (Chemburkar 1999, as cited in Shahi 2018:70) Kautilya believes that a chakravartin can end the ambition of all vijigishu and establish peace. The creation of peace will end matsanayay. Conquest therefore, is undertaken in Kautilyan calculus with the goal of lokasamgraha since the establishment of peace can finally lead to the welfare of the people. This however should once again be looked at as synergy between realpolitik and moralpolitik since conquest, along with the moral undercurrent, would also help in augmenting the resources(artha) of the state which is the goal of realpolitik.

Thus, commenting on conquest, Kautilya writes, ”a ruler who administers justice on the basis of four principles: righteousness, evidence, history of the case and the prevalent law shall conquer the four corners of the earth” (Subramanian 1980:171)


At the onset Kautilya seems like a person who gives fixed instruction based on geographical determinism but a closer examination of arthashastra reveals an eclectic character of his work. Unlike other ancient texts that are deontological, Kautilya from a utilitarian standpoint changes instructions according to changing power dynamics and circumstances.

Deepshikha Shahi (2013:6) takes note of Kautilya’s flexible approach.

[Kautilya] sanctions unpredictable shifts in the exercise of foreign policy as a consequence of corresponding shifts in identities and interactions, thereby belying any constancy in terms of time and space. Kautilya warns, for instance, that an ally who might do harm or who, though capable, would not help in times of trouble should certainly be exterminated by the vijigishu. Likewise, if the treaty is no longer to a king’s advantage, then the vijigishu should violate the treaty.

Identity construction is again a cornerstone of the Kautilyan system. As we know he makes a distinction between his ari(enemy) and samanta (rival). According to him, ari is someone who is the king’s sworn enemy who has the same royal pedigree as the king and directly challenges the king’s legacy. On the other hand a samanta is someone who is at conflict with the king at that point in time but in the future, interest also has the possibility to converge. Therefore, relations between neighbours have a dynamic nature.

Scholars have also pointed out ‘prescriptions [in](sadgunya theory) [for].. maintaining a flexible position for regulating and enhancing one’s relative power in the mandala’(Bisht 2020: 81). Accordingly, Kautilya believes one should sue for peace with a stronger enemy and attack a weaker enemy as discussed earlier. But here again, since power of an enemy is judged on the basis of saptanga elements of the state, it is subject to vary according to different points in time and so policy to be advocated is also likely to be subject to review.

Kautilya’s writings are also a huge break from the past. In previous hindu texts, war was either simplistically made a matter of dharma, that kshatriya must fight irrespective of cost or a matter of static power where weaker kings should just give up. Kautilya criticised both views which is brilliantly brought out in this section of arthashastra: (Shamasastry 1915, as cited in, Brekke 2006:127)

“When a king of poor resources is attacked by a powerful enemy, he should surrender himself together with his sons to the enemy and live like a reed (in the water). Bharadvaja says that he who surrenders himself to the strong, bows down before Indra. But Vishalaksha says that a weak king should rather fight with all his resources, for bravery destroys all troubles, this fighting is the natural duty of the warrior (Kshatriya), no matter whether he achieves victory or sustains defeat in battle. No, says Kautilya, he who bows down to all like a crab on the bank of the river lives in despair; whoever goes with his small army to fight perishes like a man attempting to cross the sea without a boat. Hence a weak king should either seek the protection of a powerful king or maintain himself in an impregnable fort”

Bravery doesn’t have any intrinsic value. Bravery has value for Kautilya only to the extent that it makes the warriors better fit to win a battle

India’s policy of massive retaliation fails on the point of flexibility. Replacing the current policy with flexible response can bring a degree of ambiguity into it, which can also be much more credible, and potentially serve as a greater deterrent. Raja Menon(2014) doesn’t advocate flexible retaliation but still is an advocate of downgrading massive to punitive has a similar line of reasoning. He writes,

“ [An] option is to remove all references to “massive”, substituting it with “punitive”. This is of huge consequence. First, it reinforces India’s intention to punish terror with conventional war. Second, it deters the use of TNWs at the perceived nuclear threshold to fight “past” it. Third, it signals the readiness to fight an escalatory nuclear war and therefore the threat not to go there.

Responding with conventional warfare would also not needlessly take civilian lives, would come at a lesser cost and it’s in tandem with the “cold start doctrine” where India can take a huge chunk of Pakistani territory as an asset for future negotiations.


Carl Sagan once said “The nuclear arms race is like two sworn enemies standing waist deep in gasoline, one with three matches, the other with five.” In the event of nuclear war, Kautilya would recommend a policy which fulfils both the goals of yogakshema(survival) and lokasamgraha(happiness of the people) where a preference might be given to the former, without undermining the latter to the point that it becomes irrelevant.

The policy must also minimize the use of violence and promote restraint and the principles of proportionality while securing India’s core objectives. The monarch must not fall victim to rage and be completely rational. A chakravartin cannot rule over a pile of nuclear waste.

It is most likely that Kautilya would advocate a policy of ‘assured retaliation’ with ‘flexibility’ because of the ambiguity it offers to the vijigishu. Assured retaliation would be maintained because Kautilya states that “in the absence of punishment, the strong swallow the weak”(Subramanian 1980:188). India can either respond with a conventional warfare as discussed earlier, or it can advocate one of the sadgunya policy of ‘yana’(preparation for war) as Vajpayee did in ‘Operation Parakram’, following the Parliament attacks. Recently in 2019, India, under “mission shakti” demonstrated technology to destroy satellites while they were still in orbit. This means in the event, Pakistan uses a TNW, India can destroy Pakistani satellites and paralyse their ballistic missiles which would cripple Pakistan’s military, nuclear and economic capabilities while simultaneously being proportional, rational, calculative, satisfying the principles of realpolitik without completely negating moralpolitik and also cognizant of the concerns of the international community. However, the theoretical groundwork of such a response is beyond the scope of this article and maybe pursued by others.

Indian civilization has been marked by remarkable continuity, with intellectual works & thinkers of the past often exercising their influence as quotations from public debates to dinner table conversations. However, Kautilya’s timeless work deserves a far greater position than a few random quotes, it deserves a position where its epistemology is academically grounded, and its influence widely respected and its geographical reach unconstrained.

Photo Source:The Future

About The Author

Nivan is currently pursuing MA (Hons) Political Science from Delhi University.


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