ISSN 2330-717X

Indian Strategic Thinking: A Reflection Of Kautilya’s Six Fold Policy – Analysis


Chankaya Kautilya was an Indian political strategic thinker around 300 BCE. His book Arthaashastra is on war and diplomacy. His book is still being analysed and discussed in the strategic community. Kautilya was the main advisor of the king Chandragupta, in his rule the biggest Hindu empire came into being. Kautilya’s desire was for his king to conquer the world. Today’s Indian strategic thinking is also somehow has reflection of Kautilya’s six fold policy. This article will discuss Kautilya’s six fold policy and analyse it with modern India’s foreign and defence policy. Kautilya’s six fold policy components are 1)-Peace, 2)- War, 3)- Neutrality, 4)- Marching, 5)- Alliance, 6)- Double Policy.

1. Peace: “The only time a king will make peace is when he finds himself in relative decline compared to his enemy”. If we analyse this dictum then we will understand that after the 1962 humiliating defeat from China, India established peace with China, because it knew that it cannot win against China. This is a clear indication of the Kautilya’s six fold policy. India is still following Kautilya’s policies to safeguard its interests and defeat its enemies.

2. War: “When a king is in a superior position compared to his enemy, he will attack and wage war.” India has always tried to subdue Pakistan. It’s clear from its current military formation. Indian II- Corps, also known as the Strike Corps, plays a key role in times of conflict with Pakistan. The II Corps holds almost 50 per cent of the Indian strike capabilities and although based at Ambala it is responsible for guarding the border with Pakistan and mainly it is Pakistan focused. India has tried to coerce Pakistan many times in the past. In January 1987, India and Pakistan nearly went to war during a major crisis accelerated by India’s Brass tacks exercises, the largest military maneuvers in the history of South Asia. A tense situation developed in which even a minor clash could have triggered a major conflict. But diplomatic activity brought in the United States and the Soviet Union. President Reagan at that time telephoned Rajiv Gandhi and President Zia, instructing them to “cool it. The threat of nuclear escalation defused the tension. Then in 2001 a terrorist attack on Indian parliament brought both India and Pakistan on the brink of war. Estimated 800,000 troops, including its two strike corps, deployed on India’s western borders, its Air force units and satellite airfields were activated and the fleet moved into northern Arabian Sea to join the western fleet for blockading Pakistan if required. Various reasons were cited behind the Indian action, including the use of coercive diplomacy to mount international pressure on Pakistan. In an expected manner, Pakistan undertook large-scale counter deployments of its troops leading to an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation along the border, which carried the danger of conflict being escalated into nuclear war, not by design, but by misperception, accident, or miscalculation. These two events shows Indian aggressive designs against Pakistan, but due to an effective response from Pakistan Indian could not impose a war on Pakistan.

Pakistan India Relations
Pakistan India Relations

Chankaya Kautilya in his book also mentioned three types of war first is open war: In which, it is a declared war against a country. Second is a secret war which entails “a sudden attack, terrorizing from one side and attack from another side”. India is effectively pursuing this dictum. India is actively involved in Afghanistan making things worse for Pakistan in Balochistan and FATA. On the other hand it is practicing its Cold Start Doctrine on eastern border to coerce Pakistan. Now Pakistan is facing two front war dilemma from Eastern and Western border. Kautilya support such warfare in his six fold policy. Third is “Undeclared War: Which includes secret agents, religion or superstition, and women against the enemies” India has already waged such war against Pakistan. Pakistan has always criticised India’s malicious involvement in Balochistan and tribal areas of Pakistan. India is also involved in the malicious activities against other neighbouring countries including Srilanka (supporting Hindu Tamils), Nepal, (supporting Maoists Separatists), Bangladesh (supporting Shanti Bahini in Chittagong hills). All these malevolent activities suggest that India is keenly following the Kautilya’s policy to intimidate its neighbours.

3. Neutrality: “If a king feels that his enemy and he are equal and neither can harm the other nor ruin the other’s undertakings, then he shall choose to do nothing.” This is what India did in 1986-87 Brass tack crisis, 2001-02 border stand off and in 2008 after Mumbai attacks. In which India first tried to coerce Pakistan militarily and politically but when it realised that it cannot win against Pakistan because of the nuclear deterrence, in the end India had to follow its ancestor’s advice to observe neutrality.

4. Marching: “When a king increases his own power and has special advantage over his enemy, he will take part in the fourth approach of Kautilyan foreign policy by making preparations for war”. India is actively following this dictum. It has carried out ten military exercises in last six years near to the Pakistan border. India has tested and experimented synergy and integration among its armed forces, quick, robust operations, day and night fighting capabilities, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, behind the enemy lines operations, air mobility and logistics, mechanised armour, artillery, infantry, NBC warfare capabilities, NCW and EW capabilities, Navy’s marine commandos, Special Forces operations, para-dropped, Strikes Corps, air fire power, and Pivot Corps were also tested in these exercises. All these elements are essential for the offensive, quick and swift operations. India will spend around US $ 200 billion on defence acquisitions over the next 12 years. According to SIPRI, India’s annual arms imports doubled from $1.04 billion in 2005 to 2.1 billion in 2009. India has plans to add 278 Sukhoi-30 MKI fighters by 2015 and almost 1000 T-90 Tanks by 2020. India has added force multipliers like RISAT-2 Satellite, A-50/Phalcon AEW system, Harpy missile-Silencing enemy Radars, Long Range Reconnaissance Observation System-(LORROS), Battlefield Surveillance Radars, (BFSR), Weapon Locating Radars (WLR), and Force Multiplication Command Post- (FMCP). All these force multipliers are necessary to improve Indian surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities for quick and swift operations against Pakistan.

5. Alliance: “In contrast to preparing for war, a king may require the help of another to protect his own undertakings. This idea of building an alliance is Kautilya’s fifth method of foreign policy. A king seeking an alliance must ensure that he finds a king more powerful than the neighbouring enemy”. India is vigorously working on this dictum. It has strategic alliance with many countries around the world including US, Russia, France, and Israel. It has signed a 10 year nuclear deal with the US in 2008, this deal would open nuclear technology and energy market for India. Its nuclear programme would undermine Pakistan’s nuclear deterrent. In a recent visit by the US President to India, both countries singed deals of almost 10 to 15 billion $. Most important component of the deal was, purchase of 10 C-17 Globemaster-III military transport aircraft for Indian Air Force. Such aircrafts would help to improve Indian air force’s mobility and reach.

Other major strategic alliance of India is with Russia. Almost 70% of Indian conventional weapon and equipment comes from Russia. It has singed many arms deals with Russia; including transfer of T-90 MBT and SU-30 MKI multirole aircraft, nuclear submarine, aircraft carrier and other weapon and equipment. In the recent visit by the Russian President, India singed 30 deals covering a wide spectrum of issues ranging from defense, nuclear energy and trade. Both have also agreed to step up efforts to achieve the target of bilateral trade of $ 20 billion by 2015. The most important deal was struck in the defence sector for the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA). It will be based on the Sukhoi T-50 platform with a possible $35 billion tab for around 250 fighters which are expected to be delivered starting in 2020. The total cost including options and the value of production will make this the biggest defence programme ever in the history of India. Other major breakthrough was in the space sector. Russia and India singed a deal granting India access to Russia’s space-based navigation system GLONASS (Global Navigation Satellite System). GLONASS can be used for both civilian and military purposes and allow users to determine their positions to within a few meters. This shows India’s pursuance of Kautilya’s policy to make alliances to improve its overall capabilities to undermine Pakistan’s national security interests in the region.

6. Double Policy: means “making peace with one and waging war with another”. According to this dictum a king must have peace with one and wage a war against other. This is what India has been doing from many decades. After 1962 war defeat, it has never tried to go for war with China. India is improving its relations with China but pursuing aggressive designs against Pakistan. Whether it is Water, Siachen, Sir Creek, or Kashmir issue, India is not ready to make peace with Pakistan. It is constantly building its defence capabilities to undermine Pakistan’s strategic interests. Such double policy is a clear cut shadow of the Kautilya’s six fold policy.
Kautilyan foreign policy offers the theory that “an immediate neighbouring state is an enemy and a neighbor’s neighbour, separated from oneself by the intervening enemy, is a friend”

It is necessary for Pakistan to monitor Indian strategic thinking and its military development and come up with adequate response. Pakistan is a democratic country with effectual military force. Its military and political leadership can play a viable role to allay threats to the national security. Political leadership must show a clear direction to the Pakistan armed forces. Political parties of the country must support the ruling government and military in any crisis situation. National Command Authority – NCA is a place where military and political leadership can sit together on issues related to extreme national security. Frequent meetings of NCA can enhance the mutual cooperation between political and military leadership. These meetings can fill the gap between civil military relations and pave the way for collective politico-military response to any threat from India. Better coordination and understanding between military and political leadership can help Pakistan to overcome its internal and external security threats.

Originally Published in weekly Pulse Magazine

Click here to have Eurasia Review's newsletter delivered via RSS, as an email newsletter, via mobile or on your personal news page.

Masood-Ur-Rehman Khattak

Mr. Masood-Ur-Rehman Khattak is working at the South Asian Strategic Stability Institute (SASSI) Islamabad as Research Fellow. He did his M.Phil in Defence and Strategic Studies from Quaid-I-Azam University, Islamabad. His major research areas are Nuclear Deterrence in South Asia, Terrorism, Non-Proliferation issues, FATA, Afghanistan and Regional Security issues. Mr. Khattak is author of a book, US War on Terrorism: Implications for Afghanistan and Pakistan, which has been published by German Publishers, Lap Lambert Academic Publishing on 31st August, 2010. Mr. Khattak has also written a Research Paper on “Indian Military’s Cold Start Doctrine: Capabilities, Limitations and Possible Response from Pakistan” - 2011, published by SASSI. He has organised/presented in scores of international conferences/workshops. Email: [email protected]

18 thoughts on “Indian Strategic Thinking: A Reflection Of Kautilya’s Six Fold Policy – Analysis

  • March 29, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    India has bigger fish to fry.
    Pakistan is just a minor irritant and small fry in the scheme of things.
    Pakistan is a democracy ?.
    Don’t make me laugh….
    India won’t make peace with Pakistan ?
    Why should they…Pakistan has been making war for 50 years….
    Pakistan should ‘ grow up ‘ and look at their own self-destruction instead of continuously blaming India for it’s troubles.
    India is leaving Pakistan and Pakistanis behind.
    The sooner they get used to it the better..

  • March 29, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    India can afford to do all that. Its GDP PPP is 4 trillion and is growing at 9% (expected to hit double digit figures next year). Pakistan on the other hand is bankrupt with a $450 billion GDP growing at 4.5% (reducing by every passing year). India will be spending $36 billion on defense while Pakistan $4.5 billion and China $90 billion. Do you for god’s sake see whom are we competing. Why would India need a 3000 Km range air superiority fighter/bomber like Su30MKI for Pakistan. Our major spending in recent years has been on air force and Navy.

    Pakistan on the other hand is sponsoring terrorism which in recent years has led to heavy toll of Pakistani lives. Pakistan is also the 10th failed state as reported by UN while India is the 2nd fastest growing nation.

  • March 30, 2011 at 6:44 am

    The type of statements made by the author and those commenting on this article probably do not have any interest in seeing their countries prosper. One must consider, what benefits(?) has such statements brought to the two countries, and also the region. Due to such thinking, a regional association (SAARC) which seven (now eight) countries of the region started long back with so much of promise is still languishing.. It will be good and in the interest of both countries, if people stop writing such articles, and stop spreading negative vibes.

  • March 31, 2011 at 6:20 pm

    It is surprising how an article like this is being purported to appear like a scholarly article.

    a) Kautilya (aka Chanakya) taught at Taxila University, located about 45 km west of Islamabad. He was instrumental in the overthrow of a corrupt and decadent Nanda dynasty; he brought about an institutionalization of taxation, public poilcy and administration, economic policy. He never desired his king to rule the world as is being claimed. He only sought a unification of the Indian subcontinent. Perhaps this itself may sound threatening to current day Pakistan. But Kautilya was working in the context of 300 BC – about a millenium before the birth of Islam. Incidentally, he advocated even then, a policy of the the state being independent of religion. Kindly do acknowledge that also as it is an important aspect that shapes even current day thinking in India.

    b)The Indian defense establishment is in the process of upgrading its overall infrastructure. This is because it has not doen any significant upgrade for decades and is having obsolete equipment. As the Indian economy has grown, it is imperative for India to have the means of protecting its economic development and assets against progressively more unstable environments like those that exist in Pakistan. This is a defensive measure and not one intended to drive fear. If there is no aggressive intent against India, why should anyone fear India? It has never invaded any country in its 3000 year + civilization.

    c) Contrary to the impression being sought to be created, all the acts of aggression have been brought about by Pakistani incursions into India. The doctrine in India has always been to protect itself rather than go out on an offensive. Kindly check your facts. The key issues of Balochistan etc are on account of your own political leadership failing its country. In India, to be honest, there is a lack of good governance in many areas. This does create an unhappy populate. We can see this in problems such as the Naxalite movement. This is more due to misrule and mistrust of your government of its own people rahter than something India is fostering.

    c) Double policy seems to a rather ridiculous charge – you should look at your establishment starting from Zia-ul-Haq’s time of using terror as an instrument of state policy. Your should examine the recurrent patterns of sending your troops disguised as independent agents as your army did in 1947-8 in Karshmir and as recently as 1999 in Kargil in a very prominent manner. Your army continues to this day to provide terrorist the cover of artillery support et al so that they can cross over into India.

    Please do not base your article on a biased view of history and flawed logic. But that seems to be a systemic problem. So you have to see what is the source of such reasoning coming up in the collective psyche of the Pakistani mindset. May sense and sensibility prevail everywhere.

  • April 2, 2011 at 5:26 am

    Hahaha.. The writer is a war mongerer… Dude…. India thinks of economic uplift of people…not like pakistan who are always into religious bigotry, killing each other, violence, growing opium… Grow up… Atleast some brains like u need not be at the level of ur fellow citizens! As far as Kautilya, he never said like the way u are making out in article. He was the one of best scholars world has seen and wanted Indian unification and he taught in Lahore… Present pakistan.. Don’t twist writings to satisfy ur mental weakness.

  • April 12, 2011 at 7:19 am

    Either this guy is a nut or a propagandist. Nobody remembers kautilya or chanakya in India. I don’t know why pakistanis fear a long forgotten ancient analyst. Funny.

  • April 19, 2011 at 10:54 am

    I don’t see a single article on “how do we fix our country and the problem with terrorism” despite hundreds of paki’s getting killed every day …these folks need to get their head checked !!

  • April 21, 2011 at 7:33 am

    yea… all they do is blame india for what they did to themselves..

  • June 3, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    Its quite surprising that Pakistani pseudo-experts of strategy analyze in detail about Chanakya’s Arthashastra and his policies!!!.
    Blaming India for all failures won’t result in any profit or sympathies to a failing state who’s budget is majorly devoted to satisfy its own Frankenstein monster created by itself!!.
    Be it Kashmir now or Bangladesh in 1970, they were and are being lost by Pakistan because of its own follies. It’s time Pakistan learn’t it’s mistakes of past and decapitate it’s self-reared truant cobra that might bite it in future and concentrate on development of its own common man.
    I,as a citizen of India, can assure you that India is not at all interested in attacking Pakistan. There’s nothing in Pakistan that will be of any use to India.

  • October 1, 2011 at 10:06 am

    i really wonder how such writers and experts get their degree from Pakistani universities posting utter nonsense.
    A real false interpretation of things and doctrine.

    1) India does not posses threat to Pakistan ? why would we want that part of land with us asking for incurable migraine for India.
    2) India’s economy is growing at a very high pace meaning thereby that india’s energy assets need long time security for which the nation is spending huge sums in its defense capabilities.
    3) Considering Pakistan as a legitimate democracy wherein the World sees it as the failed nation having links with Al-quaeda, Taliban and Hussain Haqqani Network engaged in destabilizing Afghanistan and striking US interests.
    4) India is developing its conventional arsenal of Missiles just because in case if pakistani nuclear stockpile is captured by Terrorist groups, then we have the credible 2nd Strike Capability to retaliate with nukes.
    5) India wants a peaceful srilanka, thatz why India helped Rajpakshe’s Govt. with Arms through backdoor. even India helped Srilankans militarily in 1987 in agitation with LTTE.

    AS an Indian perspective, i see Pakistan’s debacle unless they start reigning their own weed of terrorism as a tool of influence in their foreign policy.

  • October 23, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    There is no doubt that India and indians have never accepted a sovereign Pakistan. right from the beginning they have tried and are trying to subdue this great nation. i feel pity on those who think that indians are progressing… do not they see the poorest people sleeping on footpaths and ladies giving birth to children on the road sides? Pakistanis are much better in all respect. India has been trying to destabilize Pakistan through supporting taliban, Balochi rebels and other means. they forget that all Pashtoons and Balochis love Pakistan and they will die for this great country whenever it needs our blood. Bloody Indians lay off.

    • May 17, 2017 at 7:49 pm

      pakistan will become like afganistan a war torn taliban country where people cannot leave in peace non viloence should be observed at most cases .as last resort violence is necessary

  • January 6, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    India scared of China?! are you serious? Wars are fought over political ends. What possible political agenda could either of the two countries be pursuing that warrants a full blown war?

    China can outmuscle India due to their own military build up – but given the financial, political, social cost of facing one of the largest armies in tandem with a large airforce, with indian navy disrupting trade channels and oil supply lines of the starits of malacca – neither two can risk war. And never mind the ominous nuclear umbrella.

    Besides, India has ramped up significantly since the embarrassment of 1962.

    Secondly, India provoking war? My friend, propagating such careless claims in an attempt to color opinions, doesn’t reflect well on your qualifications. The Indian army cannot suspend efforts for modernization, agility and flexibility (via the excercises) because it ruffles a few feathers in Islamabad. Moreover, if educated persons, such as yourself, are wary of Indian activity, then the secondary aim of mobilizing forces – to deter the enemy through symbolism and perception management – has been achieved.

    Furthermore, despite the allegedly “overt” military signals, India has never, except for 1971, initiated military aggression, quite unlike Pakistan (flash back – 1947-48 and the armed tribals, 1965 – operations Gibraltar, operations grand slam,. 1999-kargil). If anything, Pakistan, while resorting to cowardly tactics such as employing terrorist cells is responsible for the cries of war post parliament attacks and 26/11. Abottabad…bells ringing?

    As for “secret war” in Baluchistan – please learn to look beyond state sponsored propaganda. I can appreciate the fact that RAW involvement cannot be denied, but the involvement of external agencies is only a catalyst to much larger and more complex problem of baloch resentment against pak. As for the INDIA-LTTE link – just to remind you – an Indian Prime Minister (Rajiv Gandhi) was assassinated by the LTTE – is this the level of co-operation that you were indicating?

    As for alliances, learn to look beyond the fish tank that you called pak. There’s an ocean out there. US-India alliance is borne out American wariness with the growth that China is witnessing. Pakistan barely features as an afterthought. Meanwhile, Russia and India have been loyal friends since the times of the Soviet Union – defense exchanges are nothing new.

    You, clearly need more research, before making public such outrageous, unfounded and unsubstantiated claims.

    • May 17, 2017 at 7:47 pm

      very right sir rightly replied

  • June 4, 2016 at 5:15 pm

    Masood sahib do you know khattaks are known to be great learners of Afghanistan and FATA region. You are a dark spot in their history with flimsy analysis.

  • November 13, 2017 at 7:06 am

    Bla bla bl………. pakistan and india both are responsible for their misdeeds. raw helped ltte initially no one can deny it. kashimir belongs to kashmeries and they are not happy with india as bangladesh was not happy with pakistan deal with it. india helped mukti bahini and then plunged themselves into full out war and this is what pakistan is doing now… though paksitan has done the same earlier but india had its wrongdoings in haidreabd etc. so both are responsible neither is nice….

  • November 3, 2018 at 2:46 am

    Author is a Pakistani fantasist – someone probably egged him to write such drivel under the guise of being a part of a new up and coming ‘thinktank’. Cheaper than hard currency, that’s for sure! Anyway, China pumps significant levels of FDI into India, such FDI is broadly welcomed by India, and China has on many occasions expressed its wish for harmonious foreign policy in relation to its regional allies. China actually calls the shots in Asia, as it’s already the dominant economic and military power, it faces no threats, and it has no real interest in upsetting the hegemonic influence it already wields in the region. It’s laughably absurd that China would upset its own apple cart to appease a failed state’s obsessive hatred towards another major power in the region: India.

  • January 12, 2020 at 9:59 am

    Son, the land where you reside today came within the folds of Kautilya and Chandragupta.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.