The New Arthashastra: A Security Strategy for India
Review By :- Monica Arora
Date :- 16-01-2017
Publisher :- Harper Collins
Price :- Rs. 799.00
Pages :- 448
In the Second century, Emperor Chandragupta Maurya’s trusted aide, advisor and philosopher, the cerebral Chanakya, also known as Kautilya, compiled the ancient Indian treatise on military strategy and economic policy, known as the Arthashastra. Owing to his profound understanding of the subjects pertaining to safeguarding the military, strategic and economic interests of the mighty Gupta Empire, the Arthashastra proved to be a valuable manublocked whose relevance and application find resonance even amongst modern economic and military strategists not only in India but all over the world.
Ironically, the land where this important treatise and its author belong to, India, which comprised a critical part of the Gupta Empire, still does not have a clear or formally declared national security strategy. Observing this gaping lacuna, noted defence author and commentator/analyst Brig Gurmeet Kanwal has edited Harper Collin’s newest eco-political compilation of essays entitled ‘The New Arthashastra: A security strategy for India’. Featuring a total of twenty pieces by veterans of the armed forces such as Gen VP Malik, Adm Arun Prakash, Brig Gurmeet Kanwal; renowned names from intelligence agencies such as Vikram Sood, as well as by diplomats of the caliber of Kanwal Sibal and distinguished scholars like C Raja Mohan, Ajai Sahni, the book covers a wide range of topics comprising nuclear deterrence, defence spending, indigenisation of weapons and bracing for the wars of the future that will be fought in space and cyberspace. Chapters are also dedicated to defence policy of “other major powers” as well as a skeletal template to draw up Indian national security strategy in respect of major threats internal and external, managing the rise of China, Pakistan’s proxy war, peace and stability in the region and internal security.
In the Preface to the book, Professor Gautam Sen states that ‘The conceptualisation of national security is far beyond the realm of any single discipline because it covers the very foundation of a nation state on the one hand and the welfare, survival and continuation of human life on the other. Therefore, the approach to conceptualising security has to be inter- and multi-disciplinary.’
He also offers various definitions of the actual import of the term ‘national interest’. Political scientists Norman Padelford and George Lincoln observe: ‘Concepts of national interests are centred on the core values of society, which include the welfare of the nation, the security of its political beliefs, national way of life, territorial integrity and its self-preservation.’ Hans Morgenthau maintains that the main requirements of a nation state are to protect its physical, political and cultural identity against threats from other states. Therefore, governments try to narrow down the definition of national interest to defence, national economic security, inter-state and foreign commerce, foreign relations and the state of general national affairs.
In the ‘Introduction’ Gen VP Malik states: To deal with this entire gamut of national security issues, it has become necessary to review security threats and strategies and security management systems every few years. The security management system needs synergy and optimal utilization of all national resources, including the armed forces, to make the system efficient, resilient and speedily responsive.
In his evocative essay ‘the Future of Intelligence’ Vikram Sood writes: ‘Conventional, unconventional and sub-conventional threats occupy the minds of military planners…Smarter weapons that ‘think’, designed as precise missions to maximize damage and minimize own casualties are the trend now. Five years ago, the US military was working on miniaturised technology to make unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) the size of birds and much more lethal, making the current Predator-armed UAV obsolete…the US Navy has been researching towards building a drone army of unmanned autonomous robots for naval, aerial and ground combat.’ Such cutting edge reportage of latest technology in terms of defence and national security, both national and international, makes for compelling reading.
In his concluding piece on ‘The New Arthashastra: A Security Strategy for India’, the editor Brigadier Gurmeet Kanwal opines: ‘There can be no doubt that India’s approach to national security issues has been shaped by certain broad objectives, principles and policies since Independence. These have varied from time to time depending of the prevailing security environment. However, they have never amounted to a well-conceived national security strategy tied to viable operational plans, policymaking tends to be driven by knee-jerk responses based on emerging situations and is, hence, mainly reactive.’
He adds: The comprehensive national power (CNP) of a nation is a product of its strategic culture; its economic strength; its military power, including the state of preparedness for war; its foreign policy clout and diplomatic influence; its internal cohesion; its ability to deliver good governance and justice; the capability of its human capital; its advancement in science and technology and innovation; its knowledge and information base; its advantages of geography and natural resources; the resolve of its leadership and the attractiveness of its soft power.’
Owing to the current volatile situation post the surgical strikes in Pakistan and other strategic issues plaguing national defence and security, ranging from national and international the book comes at a critical time and makes for extremely engaging reading.