Arthashastra: Kautilya on War

                                                                   Arthashastra's manuscript                                                                                                                       Source: Wikimedia Commons

Kautilya was a
proponent of a welfare state but definitely encouraged war for preserving the power of the state. Kautilya's Arthashastra is a book of 'pure' logic, not taking any religious aspect into account. It deals with the various subjects directly and with razor-like sharpness. The Arthashastra totally contains 5363 Sutras, 15 books, 150 chapters, and 180 Sections. The 15 Books contained in the Arthashastra can be classified in the following manner: Book 1, as a book on 'Fundamentals of Management', Book 2 dealing with 'Economics', Books 3, 4 and 5 on 'Law', Books 6, 7, 8 describes Foreign Policies. Books 9 to 14 concerns subjects on 'War'. The 15th book deals with the methodology and devices used in writing the Arthashastra.



What is interesting to note is that the topic of war is the last subject in Arthashastra. War is always the last option. However, a war in certain cases is unavoidable, hence, preparation and maintenance of the army, the right moves in the battlefield and warfare strategies all are essential in the defense of a country, subjects which Kautilya tackles with the extrasensory precision.



Economics in Statecraft and War. Kautilya thought that the possession of power and happiness in a state makes a king superior hence a king should always strive to augment his power. Kautilya propounded that war is natural for a state. He said that "Power is strength and strength changes the minds".Economic power has helped shape statecraft. This element of power is very flexible. This aspect of the power is one which Arthashastra concentrates on and has highlighted 'Artha', the economics of the state in the pursuit of power. The quest for power is driven by the satisfaction of the king and his subjects in all the spheres of material well being and social acceptance. This can be achieved by a progressive and robust economy. A corollary to this fact is that the economics of a state can be used to progress the influence of the state over international issues and also used to augment the war waging potential of the state.


Whether a nation has a large or small military, its leadership does understand economics. Economics is a great tool to create conditions for further action or force a nation to change behavior. There are constraints prevalent in the pursuit of sound-economy to further the war waging capability of a state and in turn achieve the power. the resolution of these constraints is the enigma which Kautilya unraveled through Arthashastra.


2. Kautilya presents that for a King to attain these three goals he must create wealth, have armies and should conquer the kingdoms and enlarge the size of his state. This is quite interesting because he in a way does believe that a state's superiority is in its military and economic might which is what later philosophers and rulers have followed. In the case of war, Kautilya advocates the King to be closely involved in the science of war.


3. Classifications of War. Kautilya advocated three types of war: Open war, Concealed war, and the Silent War.In Open-war he describes as the war fought between states, concealed war as one which is similar to guerrilla war and Silent war which is fought on a continued basis inside the kingdom so that the power of the King does not get diluted. He believed that there were three types of kings who go into warfare and it is important to understand the distinction between the types of kings and the appropriate warfare strategy to be selected.


4. Kautilya propounded that state is not considered a massive entity but as one which combines various internal constituents – the king, the fortified city , the countryside, the treasury and the army. The power with which a state can promote its own interests over other states in the neighborhood depends on how close to ideal the internal constituents are. The four devices Kautilya used for deriving practical advice were: relative power, deviations from the ideal, classification by the type of motivation and the influence of the unpredictable. This is the core what Arthashastra addresses as the endeavor is to resolve all the constraints that arise in the quest of the state to gain ascendancy and enhance its power.


5. Warfighting tactics. Kautilya was also very harsh in narrating the exact methods of fighting a war and use of various tools to reduce the strength of a state. Kautilya wrote in detail explaining the war strategy because he was a strong proponent of social structure. He vehemently defends the state and believes that religion and morals are supposed to serve the state. In Kautilya's concept of war, chivalry does not have any place and he is a realist. Kautilya in his Arthashastra and believes that war is a means to an end for wealth and stability. He provided the understanding to resolve all the constraints which emerge to achieve the ends. Kautilya has argued that the primary constraint that a state faces is the economic constraints and many a war has been lost for want of resources. The Arthashastra has guided the king in eliminating the constraints, primarily the economic constraints in the furtherance of its interests. The use of economic strength as a means of states' power has also been highlighted by Kautilya.


6. Kautilya also took the societal structure and King's power as given and never challenged it. His focus was not on war per-se