Brig. Vijai K Nair (Retd). Dr. Nair an M Sc. in Defence Studies and a Ph. D. in Political Science. He specializes in Nuclear Strategy formulation and nuclear arms control negotiations. He has considerable experience on issues related to NPT, CTBT and FMCT. Dr. Nair is currently revising the nuclear strategy for India [in keeping with nuclear transience] suggested in his book “Nuclear India.” Besides two tenures of combat duty, in service experience includes being a Member Army Experts Committee - 1989-90; Core staff officer to the Committee on Defence Expenditure 1990.
He is the Life Trustee of the Forum for Strategic & Security Studies; and, Managing Director, Magoo Strategic Infotech Pvt Ltd. An information service providing daily news updates and analyses on “Nuclear Agenda’s”.
Kautilya’s Arthasastra is the oldest and most exhaustive recorded treatise on the governance and administration of a State. When studied in retrospect the relevance of India’s ancient strategic culture on modern India’s negotiating strategy in shaping its relationship with other states becomes quite apparent. Over the past four decades the means and ends of treaty negotiations, be they at the global, multilateral or bilateral level, are strongly laced with the essence of Kautilya’s concept of sovereignty that he propagated and codified twenty plus centuries ago.
To appreciate the linkages of the past with the present, one needs to read and understand the Arthasastra across its entire range and depth, covering statecraft in all its facets as each element that goes into harmonising State and Society is interconnected in a way that changes in any one generates an across the board ripple effect.
On the concept of sovereignty Kautilya expounds on the art of inter-state relations where he deals at length on conditions under which treaties between States become necessary. “Of a treaty, (there are) the desire to make a (treaty) not yet made, clinging fast to a treaty made, spoiling a treaty made and repair of what is broken.”[iii] For example – a treaty can be broken as soon as the king was powerful enough to do so – the realpolitik of a wise politician who places the interest of the State above all else.
He dwells at length on analysing apurva (samadhi)[iv] “The examination of a new treaty in relation to conciliation and other means with their consequences, and the fixing of equal, weaker and stronger kings according to their strength, is the desire to make a [treaty] not made.”[v] In which he advises the ‘King’ on the need for akrtacikirsa [a preliminary investigation before a treaty is negotiated and entered into], and paryesanam [i.e ‘thorough investigation of possible consequences of a treaty] and of the possibility of using saman, dana etc. if the treaty is made.
Kautilya identifies the King, the minister, the country, the fortified city, the treasury, and the army and the ally as the constituent elements of the State[vi] and projects the logic that The circle of constituent elements is the basis of the six measures of foreign policy which are: peace, war, staying quiet, marching, seeking shelter and dual policy.[vii] “Among them, entering into treaty is peace.”[viii]
He then goes on to identify and explain the factors that a King must examine when selecting one of these six policy options and determine the conditions in each factor under which, entering into a treaty is in the best interests of the State – akrtacikirsa and paryesanam.
In the event the gains of both [all] parties are equal – a treaty can be negotiated. However, “if unequal, fight.”[ix] The NPT is a perfect example of inequality amongst the gains of States party to the Treaty where five States were allowed the retain nuclear weapons while the others, including India, were expected to commit themselves not to develop these means. The Indian Government came to the conclusion that the gains of some States, especially the enemy China, outstripped the benefits accruing to India, and therefore decided against becoming party to the NPT. To fight was preferable to peace. The discriminatory nature of the treaty ensured that India did not and will not accede to the treaty.
In the event the King were to think “the enemy will march against a region … [positional change] … he should enter into a treaty with stipulations as to place.”[x] The NPT stipulation that five recognised nuclear weapon states could retain nuclear weapons gave them a potential to pursue policy decisions beyond the reach of the other parties to the treaty making for a fundamental positional change. The lack of horizontal/vertical stipulations of the draft treaty, as viewed within the parameters advocated by Kautilya, precluded India entering into the treaty.
If the King were to think “The enemy will operate at a time … [of his own choosing] … he should enter into a treaty with stipulations as to time.”[xi] While the NPT stipulated a movement towards nuclear disarmament, it failed to stipulate a time frame in which horizontal/vertical movement would become equal to zero. Once again this factor added to the Indian decision to refuse to enter into the treaty.
If the King were to think “The enemy will achieve an object … [intention of gaining an advantage over other parties to the treaty] … he should enter into a treaty with stipulations as to objects to be achieved.”[xii] The logic of India taking part in the negations for the NPT was predicated on its position to achieve a stable and therefore peaceful environment by the elimination of nuclear weapons. However as it evolved the objective of the NPT was limited to contain horizontal proliferation at the 1968 level without a clear-cut stipulation for the elimination of nuclear weapons.
In Book Seven, Chapter 7, Kautilya goes on to outline the principles underlying the negotiating position and participation in treaties between states each within specific parameters pertaining to the different kinds of treaties, and the nature of the states parties to each. Besides the factors already discussed, he enlarges on other important variables such as prevailing conditions and the influence of bargaining power. All of which are discernible in India’s approach to the NPT and the CTBT.
From the interpolation of the tenets expounded by Kautilya with the negotiating behaviour and responses of the Indian Government to the numerous arms control treaties set up in the last five decades one can see a strong bias of a cultural mindset flowing from a deeply ingrained strategic culture evolved before the prevailing Western strategic culture came into being. Its significance increases substantially when one relates this to the fact that Indians were kept out of the strategic decision making loop in the management of the affairs of the State for over a century when it was a British Colony. It was only natural that the untutored Indian leadership fell back on the deeply ingrained strategic cultural heritage developed by their forefathers.
Policy makers in the international community need to analyse India’s negotiating style and policy decisions in their dealing with the NPT and the CTBT and the inter se relationship with ancient statecraft as practiced in India. The entire gamut of statecraft including foreign policy formulation bear the stamp of deeply entrenched and enduring philosophies that have been practiced over centuries at each unitary level from the family up to and including the State.
More specifically, the evolving Indo-US relationship to be of any significance in quality and period, must pass the test of deeply embedded cultural norms that have developed and codified over thousands of years. The same yardstick would be a viable means of arriving at a pragmatic conclusion of how India would deal with the FMCT, which is currently at the stage where it is undergoing a preliminary investigation before it is negotiated and entered into, and a thorough investigation of possible consequences of a treaty on India’s long-term security interests.
[i] Dharma as used with the text of the Arthasastra refers primarily to ‘duties’. However word also means ‘law’ as administered by the dharmasthas [judges] and applies as such in this context.
[ii] Usha Thakkar. Morality in Kautilya’s Theory of Diplomacy. K.P. Jog Editor. “Perceptions On Kautilya’s Arthasastra”.Popular Prakshan Pvt Ltd. Mumbai. 1999.
[iii] The Kautilya Arthasastra. [Book 7: Chapter 6: Paragraph 16].
[iv] Hostage – A temporary measure to be abrogated when one has grown in strength.
[v] The Kautilya Arthasastra. [Book 7: Chapter 6: Paragraph 19].
[vi] The Kautilya Arthasastra. The Circle [of Kings] as the Basis. [Book 6: Chapter 1: Paragraph 1].
[vii] The Kautilya Arthasastra. The Six Measures of Foreign Policy. [Book 7: Chapter 1: Paragraphs 1-2].
[viii] Op.Cit. [Book 7: Chapter 1: Paragraph 6].
[ix] Op. Cit. [Book 7: Chapter 6: Paragraph 1].
[x] Op. Cit. [Book 7: Chapter 6: Paragraph 8].
[xi] Op. Cit. [Book 7: Chapter 6: Paragraph 9].
[xii] Op. Cit. [Book 7: Chapter 6: Paragraph 10].