अथ चैत्त्वमिमं धर्म्यं संग्रामं न करिष्यसि। ततः स्वधर्मं कीर्तिं च हित्वा पापमवाप्स्यसि।
This is shlok number 33 from Chapter 2 of Bhagavad Gita. Here Bhagwan Krishna says to Arjun, “But if you wilt, not fight this righteous war, then having abandoned your own duty and fame, you shall incur sin.” With few notable exceptions, it has rarely been followed in our post-1947 foreign policy. Other strictly Indic guidelines are also largely missing.
Jaishankar invokes Ramayan and Mahabharat
Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar has revealed the names of his two of the favourite diplomats ever. More than 4 decades of his Diplomatic life tells Jaishankar that it is tough to beat Bhagwan Krishna and Bhagwan Hanuman on a strategic chessboard. He hails both of them as omnipotent. But, being omnipotent is never enough. In order to be diplomatic, one should know when to wield the iron-fist and when it is the time to remain silent. For the strong, silence is not weakness. Instead, it is a virtue and a sign of strategic autonomy.
Citing Shishupal incident, EAM Jaishankar explained how Bhagwan Krishna waits for the right occasion to thrash Shishupal, who was hell-bent on insulting him. “Today, we say we need to demonstrate strategic patience. The best example in this regard perhaps was Lord Krishna – how he tackled Shishupal, he forgave 100 times and then you know what happened,” said Jaishankar. Bhagwan Hanuman’s case is not different. He was capable of killing Ravan and the whole of Lanka himself. Nevertheless, it would be inappropriate for him since it was not part of his charter. Even when he burnt Lanka, it was because of Ravan’s insistence on burning his tail.
Also read: The reason behind India’s rise on the global stage- Jaishankar’s Krishna Diplomacy
Tracing modernity in ancient texts
In both these insistences, the onus of breaking the morally established boundary fell on to another party. Both these gods just retorted back only to re-establish Dharm, boundaries of which were crushed by Shishupal and Ravan respectively. EAM Jaishankar made no bones about the fact that he was referring to Pakistan while citing these examples.
He also traced the similarity between modern day geopolitical issues and ancient India. One of them is the multi-polar world. Even at that time, few kingdoms were with Kauravas, few were with Pandavas, while many remained non-aligned. Jaishankar summed up his analysis by stating that every top 10 geo-strategic concept has its traces in Mahabharata.
Censorship in South Block
That is some refreshing reading of India’s glorious history. It is sad to point out that this has not been the norm in the South block of New Delhi. Even after we gained independence, we never really emphasised on the Indic way of dealing with geopolitical tensions. It has its roots right in the education system. University education does contain a bit of education about Indian philosophers, but that is mere formality. The concept of weaving India’s past in the modern frame is absent.
Even in international relations syllabus of UPSC CSE exam, Indic literature finds no mention. Even optionals are no different. In a sense, it is a mockery of our glorious past. Think about it. To be foreign service officer, you do not need to be an expert on the philosophical underpinnings of past Indian rulers dealing with similar situations.
Part of the reason this censorship prevails is because it is not trendy to use Indian texts for citation. Our academic conferences are highly dominated by political lexicons of western philosophers. Names like Kant, Rousseau, Hume, Tocqueville, Machiavelli, Maxim Gorky and ideas like liberalism, idealism, realism, neoconservatism and even feminist foreign policy fetch more accolades than our own literature. Not doing that puts someone at the risk of offending bosses.
Western philosophers and ideologies are not wrong in full picture, but forgetting our own is a serious negligence.
Why so late?
Despite that, few of these officers studied and kept debating and deliberating on our history. Esteemed ones like Jaishankar made it to the top, purely on the basis of merit. He is doing a tremendous job by putting forth India’s glorious traditions in front of its own people.
Only one question is puzzling. It’s understandable that using Indic jargon won’t fetch points on the global stage. However, it is tough to understand why these voices were suppressed in domestic circles.
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