Circles of Influence by Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani

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US President Donald Trump’s New Year tweet has disturbed the entire country due to the fact that he totally ignored Pakistan’s sacrifices made during the war against terror. All political leadership and schools of thought are rightly on one page to ask the government to review its US foreign policy.

A state while defining its foreign policy, especially one to deal with a superpower, has to no doubt be very tactful and careful. Being a Pakistani, it must be an honour for us that hundreds of years ago, a wise philosopher born in our territory successfully demonstrated the art of designing an effective foreign policy to deal with state-to-state relations. Belonging from what is today known as Taxila, Kautilya or Chanakya, was a teacher, philosopher, writer and adviser whose wisdom helped an ordinary man like Chandragupta establish the great Maurya Empire. Chankaya was known for possessing all good qualities of the Brahmins defined in the Holy Vedas, such as kindness, capability to forgive, follower of truth, self-control, hatred for sin, knowledge seeker and a promoter of education. Chandragupta, following his valuable advice defeated armies of Alexander The Great, a superpower of that time.

Almost 2,500 years ago, Chanakya authored the ancient Indian political treatise Arthashastra. The book, originally in Sanskrit, is often referred to as ‘The science of politics’ but I call it ‘The book of peace and prosperity’ as it also provides guidelines for every ruler to maintain peace and stability on national and regional levels. Traditionally, every ancient Indian king was required to study this book to learn the art of good governance. The teachings of Arthashastra seem to be applicable even in today’s modern world. As a royal adviser to the Maurya Empire, Chanakya presented his theory of international system called the ‘Rajamandala’, meaning the circle of states. He emphasised on every state forming a circle of neighbouring states wherein the hostile states are required to fulfil interests of the most powerful state.

According to him, it is quite natural for a ruler to increase their circle of influence and territory to the greatest extent possible. Similarly, the rival of the powerful state also forms its respective circle of influence. The hostile state located within the circle of the first state has two options, either to accept the authority of the neighbouring state or join the circle of the second state so as to maintain regional stability. This is the logic Chanakya used to define the universal truth that my enemy’s enemy is my friend but due to our lack of knowledge about him, we criticise Chanakya, assuming that he taught us to keep pleasant relations with non-neighbouring countries.

Elaborating on his foreign policy, the philosopher discussed in detail that a state’s self-interests and security come above all else, and that it must be any ruler’s topmost priority to pursue these national interests. He believed that pushing the state towards peace and progress is a prerequisite to ensuring a peaceful society. Chanakya was completely aware that there generally are foreign elements behind unrest in any state, and in this regard, he advised rulers to follow a responsible foreign policy that takes into consideration the situation and relations with the other state.

Chanakya described six important diplomacy tactics in Arthashastra; ‘samdhi’ (making peace) which means entering into peace agreements with other states; ‘vigraha’ (waging war) meaning to crush enemy states through military power; ‘asana’ (do nothing) when there is nothing to gain from either signing treaties or waging wars; ‘yana’ (preparation for war) to scare the enemy state; ‘samsraya’ (seeking protection) to get help from stronger state for the sake of people and ‘dvaidhibhava’ (dual policy) to deal with multiple enemy states at once by making peace with one rival state for the purpose of weakening the strength of the other enemy state..In his book, he observes that bilateral relations with other states can never be permanent as they depend on varying level of interests. According to him, mutual interests bring two states closer, after a state achieves its interests, it can observe one-sided coldness in bilateral relations.

Today, we cannot afford a confrontation with the US but we can seek guidance from Chanakya’s teachings for a better understanding of the Pak-US bilateral relations. Pakistan has no doubt been a part of the US’s circle of influence since day one but the recent Jerusalem issue in the UN has proved that other global circles are also emerging. Keeping all sentiments aside, Pakistan must not get involved in irrelevant conflicts of other states instead should react wisely and face the American pressure smartly. We must not forget that the prime objective of an effective foreign policy is to secure peace in the country.

The writer is a member of the NationalAssembly and patron-in-chief of thePakistan Hindu Council.

Twitter: @RVankwani

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