The Udaipur-based think tank, Usanas Foundation recently held a three-day dialogue – Maharana Pratap Annual Geopolitics Dialogue. The event was attended by security experts, think tanks and foreign policy specialists from different parts of the world.
India Narrative caught up with Abhinav Pandya, founder and CEO of the Usanas Foundation, who says that India is seizing the moment in a swiftly changing world order. “The Government of India is firm in its thinking and action—eliminating Article 370, banning the Popular Front of India (PFI) and taking a balanced stand on the Russia-Ukraine war”, are the examples he cites regarding resolute government decisions.
Excerpts from the interview:
IN: What was your motivation in holding this conference at Udaipur?
AP: I have always thought the international relations and foreign policy discourse is overwhelmingly dominated by theories developed in the Western world and Western campuses. Those theories were the product of their historical experiences from the Treaty of Westphalia, the separation of the church and the State where the church was excessively intervening in the State. Then the doctrines of Colonialism, Imperialism and Realism as well as the Cold War were the result of Western experiences.
Even India, despite its 70 years of independence was following Western theoretical frameworks in the training of diplomats and even the real implementation of diplomacy. I had in my mind to include our roots, ancient Indian texts on diplomacy and the Indian sanatan thought, therefore, I decided to take the foreign policy discourse out of the Delhi circles.
Most of these circles are heavily dominated by Leftist and typical European strategies. So, I thought let’s take some of these discourses and dialogue to ancient cities like Udaipur. Also, I belong to this city and secondly, this city has a unique historical importance because Rana Kumbha comes from this region. He was a mighty ruler, statesman and a great administrator who had chased foreign invaders till the lands of Iran.
Maharana Pratap was born here and epitomised the idea of defending sovereignty at any cost and kept fighting the Mughals till he sacrificed everything. If he wanted, he could have easily surrendered and saved his empire but he fought for the idea of preserving freedom. This is even crucial today because even after 70-years of independence, our minds are still colonised.
I also wanted to take the conference out of Delhi and spread awareness on foreign policy and national security to smaller cities in India.
IN: Does India’s ancient literature provide insight into international relations? And, in which texts, thoughts and philosophies do you find mention of international relations?
AP: The Indian understanding of international relations was far superior to the Western understanding. In the Western discourse we use the word foreign policy or international relations. But if today you see how foreign policy shaped and impacted global and domestic factors you will realise that it is not just foreign but has a huge implication on domestic events also.
For example, a statement by Nupur Sharma had repercussions in the Middle East. The propaganda war which had started in Qatar had repercussions on the Indian Muslim population. The extremist leaders started using the incident to incite Indian Muslims against the Indian State. There is nothing foreign about it – it is a matter of the policy of the State.
Here, we use the word ‘kutniti’ or ‘arthniti’ – which is something that can be part of the domestic governance and carry out relations with other States. So, the Indian understanding was comprehensive and wide.
We have texts like the Mahabharat, Vidhurniti, Ramayan, Nitishakt – all these texts provide excellent literature on the art of diplomacy, intelligence, how to cultivate spies, how to run the government and how to tax people. These are very comprehensive in nature. There is a text called Thirukkural by Thiruvalluvar. It is an excellent treatise on the world of espionage and intelligence. But these things need to be explored.
The entire international relations discourse revolves around Realism, Liberalism, Constructivism and a few newer theories. These three are the dominant theories. Realism says that human nature is extremely selfish and it can only fight, Liberalism says that human nature is cooperative and it is business orientated. Constructivism says that everything has a mental construct.
If Realism is an absolute theory why do States co-exist and have friendly relations. If Liberalism is an absolute theory why do States fight. All these theories are always contradicting each other.
We have a theory which has no internal contradictions. Shree Krishna Bhagwan tells Arjun in the Mahabharat that prakriti (human nature) is trigunatmak (three traits) – it means it has three states – Sat, Rajas and Tamas. If you have the personality of Sat then you want peace and spiritual upliftment. If you have Rajas then you want worldly and material pursuits like kingdoms. If you have dominance of Tamas then you have evil ideas, dark forces and laziness.
Human nature is the product of different permutations and combinations of these three different traits. If one human is the product of combinations of three different traits then the society or State is collectively made of different permutations and combinations. Therefore, international relations is also a product of these traits. An individual makes a society and the society will make a State.
This is a fine and classic understanding of international relations. Lord Hanuman went to Lanka, he was on an intelligence mission, he cultivated Vibhushan as an asset, he was also on a diplomatic mission, met Angad and Ravan and tried to convince them fearlessly. Lord Hanuman was not compromised. These are some of the examples from which we need to learn.
IN: Can you give more examples and place them in the modern context?
AP: Then there are four tactics that can be used in succession – Saam, Daam, Dand, Bhed. Saam – if you have a good opponent then by praising him and dealing with him you can do business with him. Daam is by bribing that person. Dand means punishing that person and the last resort is Bhed, which is dividing the person/opponent. These three things have to be used in succession and that leads you to Shathe Shathyam Samacharet. It means that if you are dealing with an evil enemy you have to resort to evil methods.
Coming to the modern times, if you have to deal with organisations like the Jamat-e-Islami who have the agenda of Islamising India, and the Popular Front of India (PFI) which also has the agenda of Islamising India by 1947. If you try to use the Indian Penal Code where you arrest a person for heinous terror funding crimes, and where your police machinery is wasting years collecting evidence in a terror funding case, then that person gets bail and is back on square one. That is not the right way. Here the policy of Shathe Shathyam Samacharet comes into force.
IN: You have done a lot of work on radicalisation. India has its own experiences with radicalisation which the world has largely ignored. Now that radicalisation is seeping into other societies like the UK and the USA, what is their future?
AP: These are the Deep States in the Western world who had appeased or promoted these Islamic extremists. These countries also have the Leftist and woke liberals, or even the intellectuals who had a flawed understanding of issues like the Islamic extremism and radicalisation. They openly invited and accepted Muslim immigrants in their countries who are now trying to foist their agenda on the Western world.
I am sure this is going to be a major problem in the Western world and we see the radical population increasing. See Belgium, Sweden, Denmark which have areas where the police can’t enter. The second-generation Muslims are getting into crime, drug-trafficking and terrorism.
Young girls are converting to Islam through all sorts of covert and crooked measures. This is going to change the demography and social dynamics. In some of the extremist quarters they are already talking about “Eurabia”. This is going to be a major problem in the UK. The British divided India on communal lines, now the wheel of history comes full circle and they are facing the same problem.
IN: We are worried about the UK and Europe because of the India’s experiences. But does West think radicalisation is a threat to them or are we Indians over-reacting?
AP: Now they are getting to realise it. You can see the protests and the rise of right-wing parties in Germany and in Scandinavian countries.
Radical populations are creating a menace in society through the rise in terrorism and extremism. There is a reaction in the Western society despite politicians looking at vote banks or being politically correct. But now the pressure is coming from their people. I think the West is witnessing radicalisation but it is already late for them to act upon it as they have wasted considerable time.
I guess India should play and act confidently and not seek approval or certification from Europe. If they are concerned about democracy at the cost of complete annihilation of their social and cultural norms, let them do so. We have to be firm and take harsh measures when dealing with such totalitarian and experienced entities. We don’t have to be apologetic about it.
IN: Why do a lot of Indians feel that Hindus, and Indians also, are being targeted? Are we being overly sensitive?
AP: No, we are not being overly sensitive. It is a reality when you see the Swaminarayan temples being attacked by the Khalistanis, when you see Islamist lobbies attacking India through propaganda wars.
This is not new, this has been happening from the last thousand odd years now. Hindu temples and idols have been destroyed, people have been forcibly converted. Even the Christian missionaries had their agenda of conversions.
The entire Deep State, their media machinery is against us. These are facts. We should really tell them that the Hindu population in percentage is much less as compared to Muslims and the number of attacks on the Hindu population should be seen in context. These attacks have been huge over time.
India’s cultural and civilisational roots are very strong and the people have always resisted such onslaughts. Even in medieval times the bhakti movement was a strong resistance movement at a spiritual level. Then we had Shivaji, Maharana Pratap and Chatrasal Bundela who fought against extremists and fanatics.
Today, we have the Hindu saints and monks talking about countering the terrorist and Islamist forces, not just the politicians. I am talking about people who have massive following and they are talking about the threats to the Hindu society.
IN: India has already been given a certain negative image by the Indian Left, the global Left and the Western media. How does India battle that image?
AP: We need not worry too much about this image. The West is in a perpetual state of decline – they have issues with Russia and they have internal socio-economic problems. As far as image building against India is concerned, the West has been at it right from the beginning through flawed research papers and biased articles.
How does it matter? We should have our propaganda machinery but more than that we should come up with our own narrative. We should act with confidence. We should grow at 10 per cent, we should focus on technology, on defence and if we do that, I think all these things will be neutralised.
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