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India's 'Mandala' Dilemma.

Byline: Saad Javid Satti

The hegemonic machinations of the Indian foreign Ministry, India's antagonistic behavior with its immediate neighbours and 'Chankyapuri', which is the un-orthodox name of the Diplomatic enclave in New Delhi, in toto, point towards the obsession of the Indian Policy makers with Chanakya. 'Arthashastra', a book composed by the Indian Military strategist, Chanakya some 2300 years ago serves as a bible for the Indian foreign ministry even today. In order to have a deep understanding of the ubiquitous Indian Foreign policy it is imperative to have an insight of the Arthashastra.

Chanakya's most important contribution towards foreign policy formation was his 'Mandala' Theory. The Indian Machiavelli, in his 'Mandala' theory construes that relations with other states are defined by a circle that is characterized by a tug of war between the conqueror ('Vijigeesoo') and the enemy ('Ari'). The state which s a geographical boundary with the conqueror is likely to be an adversary while the one situated anywhere immediately on the circumference of the enemy's territory is likely to be an ally ('Mitra'). As per Chanakya's presumption internal stability of a state augments its external influence and, thus, plays a vital role in achieving its hegemonic ambitions.

In the wake of the 21st century South Asian Politics, India's aggressive posture in the region is actually a manifestation of the 'Mandala' theory. The Nehruvian ambitions of India and Narendra Modi's aspirations to crack the Sino-Pak friendship are an indication of India's realist strategic culture. India, as the 'Vijigeesoo', has fought several wars with the 'Ari' as evident from the various Indo-Pak wars and the 1962 Sino-Indo war. China and Pakistan a geographical boundary with India and, thus, justifies the aggressive posture of the Chanakyan Indian foreign policy.

India has left no stone unturned in isolating Pakistan ever-since the 2 countries came into existence. India's aggression against Pakistan was evident from its failure to pay the mutually agreed amount to Pakistan after the British withdrawal from the subcontinent. Moreover, India fought several wars with Pakistan and played a decisive role in the division of east and west Pakistan. India orchestrates intrusions into the sovereign territory of Pakistan through surgical strikes and repeated violations on the Line of Control (LOC), however, these are met with proportionate responses from the other side.

At the North-Eastern front India finds itself at loggerheads with the emerging economic world heavyweights; China. The 1962 Sino-Indian war was a manifestation of the antagonistic relationship between the two geographical neighbours. China and India dispute the alignment of the Sino-Indian boundary in two of three sectors. Recently, the two countries were on the brink of a full-fledge war as a result of the prolonged standoffs at Ladakh in 2013 and 2014. Apart from the boundary disputes, the US-Indo nebulous nexus is aimed at curbing the rise of China as a global hegemon. India seeks preponderance in the strategic Indian Ocean through various alliances and counter alliances with the litoral states. In a nutshell, India finds China as the 'Ari' due to its geographical continuity with its northeastern neighbor.

Forming alliances with countries that surround a state's 'Ari' or enemy is advisable as per the Mandala Theory. The exhibition of this theory in the South Asian region is the relationship of Afghanistan and Iran with India. Afghanistan and Iran have long been considered, as India's 'Mitras' as involvement in Pakistan's own strategic backyard through support of certain non-state actors is an important contour of the Indian Foreign policy. India regards Afghanistan and Iran as a launching pad for the attainment of its foreign policy objectives through de-stabilization of Pakistan and sponsorship of centrifugal forces. Therefore, having a healthy relationship with Pakistan's neighbours will aid India to maintain an assymetrical relationship with its historical regional rivals.

The Indian Foreign policy threatens to de-stablise the entire region through formation of alliances and counter alliances, which seeks to erode the balance of power in the region. The regional states must realize the Nehruvian agenda of the Indian foreign policy. It is imperative that Pakistan adopts an independent and pro-active foreign policy that is based on efficient and timely alliance and counter alliance formation in the region. Such pro activeness can only be achieved through economic stability, which precedes any well-planned foreign policy. All is not lost and regional efforts must me marginalized towards decoding and averting the menace that is associated with India's Mandala Dilemma.
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Author:Saad Javid Satti
Publication:The Nation (Karachi, Pakistan)
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Mar 13, 2020
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