‘Our democracy is antithetical to the imperatives of governance’

Jan 27 2013, 02:42 IST
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SummaryThe Arthashastra has relevance because, as the first political treatise of the world predating Machiavelli’s The Prince by over a millennium and more, it represents the ability to set forth a comprehensive, holistic and detailed response to the pivotal issue of how to run an efficient, caring and secure political system.

Chanakya’s New Manifesto: To Resolve the Crisis within India

Pavan K Varma

Aleph Book Company

Rs.295

Pg 248

One of the great lessons that Chanakya teaches us is that laws must take into account the psyche of a people, Pavan K Varma, author of Chanakya’s New Manifesto, tells Sharad Raghavan Does an ancient text like the Arthashastra really have relevance today?

The Arthashastra has relevance because, as the first political treatise of the world predating Machiavelli’s The Prince by over a millennium and more, it represents the ability to set forth a comprehensive, holistic and detailed response to the pivotal issue of how to run an efficient, caring and secure political system. The sheer audacity of this vision makes it relevant today.

Does this relevance translate into specific actions that can be taken to improve governance, etc, or are they vague guidelines?

In response to the situation when it was written, the Arthashastra has no waffle. It eschews ambivalence, and while eclectically considering possible options, is precise in its recommendations. This is precisely the spirit in which I have written Chanakya’s New Manifesto.

In your book, you prescribe an increase of FDI in defence manufacturing past 49%—that is, you would allow foreign companies to own controlling stakes in arms manufacturing units based in India. Is this prudent?

The goal is not the quantum of FDI you allow, but the ensuring of national security. If this goal is served by allowing greater investment from abroad, I see no harm in it. We would not be the first country utilising such an instrumentality. Of course, all such investments would need to be within a policy framework that preserves our essential interests.

You argued that such an idea makes sense because we already import a majority of our weapons. But surely, there is a difference between importing and allowing foreigners to build those weapons within India...

India lies in the most troubled neighbourhood of the world. We have over 10,000 km of a disputed boundary with two consistently hostile countries—Pakistan and China. We have a 7,500 km coastline. We have 15,000 km of boundaries with seven countries. We have externally-sponsored terrorism and home-grown terrorism. Two-hundred districts in the country are in the control of Naxal insurgency. The need for us to be able to appropriately defend our security interests is non-negotiable. It is so for all countries, especially major powers. In such a situation, what should we do? Our indigenous defence industry

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