Chanakya’s Letter to Chandragupta on the “Soldier”
By AIF Staff
“History does not repeat itself,” it is famously said, “but fools repeat history.” Philosopher-poet George Santayana put it slightly differently when he wrote— “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
The current affair involving the COAS(Chief of Army Staff) and the Defence minister has attracted much acrimony and generated much debate. The COAS, VK Singh has been made scapegoat and his reputation is being tarnished, while the issues raised by him are not even part of discussion. The whole debate is focused on the propriety of the actions of the Army Chief, but not on whether the bureaucracy and the government were justified in delaying the whole process of army modernization. Nearly all defence deals have been tainted by allegations of corruption by politicians and bureaucracy. Is it fair then to blame Army for delay in modernization, which in fact, is the only one of those few institutions untainted by crass commercialism so common in”Post-91″ India and a institution which is an epitome for discipline – something which is in serious deficit with our political class and bureaucracy?
Accountability from the Armed Forces is being demanded by our political masters and bureaucracy – but are those who are demanding accountability have ever been accountable to people – having betrayed their trust in innumerable instances?
Writing in The Chakra, NS Rajaram, mentions -
Some vested interests have been targeting General V.K. Singh for months. First it was his date of birth which should have been an internal matter, and now this. Why? Because, General Singh is known to be very strict; and totally against corruption and irregularities. This comes in the way of people interested in making money in defense contracts. They want him out of the way as soon as possible.
The article also contains excerpts of letter written by Chanakya to Chandragupta, on the matters of defence, and has salient points which are worth noting, especially by our idea-bankrupt leadership. The wording may not be exact, but still contains enough wisdom for the Prime Minister and the Defense Minister to read and benefit from. Kautilya discretely but firmly reminded the king that his safety and security as well as of his empire depend on the trust and sacrifice of his soldiers.
“The Mauryan soldier does not enrich the Royal treasuries nor fills the Royal granaries. He does not carry out trade and commerce nor produce scholars, litterateurs, artistes, artisans, sculptors, architects, craftsmen, doctors and administrators. He does not build roads and ramparts nor dig wells and reservoirs. He does not do any of this directly.
“The soldier only and merely ensures that the tax, tribute and revenue collectors travel forth and return safely; that the farmer tills, harvests, stores and markets his produce unafraid of pillage; that the trader, merchant and financier function and travel across the length and breadth of the realm unmolested; that the savant, sculptor, maestro and mentor create works of art, literature, philosophy and astrology in quietitude; that the architect designs and builds his Vaastus without tension; that the tutor and the priest teach and preach in peace; that the rishis meditate in wordless silence; that the doctor invents cures and medicines undisturbed; that the mason and bricklayer work unhindered; that the mother and the wife go about their chores and bring up children in harmony and tranquility; that the cattle graze freely without being lifted or stolen.
“Pataliputra reposes each night in peaceful comfort, O King, secure in the belief that the distant borders of Magadha are inviolate and the interiors are safe and secure, thanks only to the Mauryan Army standing vigil with naked swords and eyes peeled for action, day and night, in weather fair and foul, all eight praharas (round the clock), quite unmindful of personal discomfort and hardship, all through the year, year after year.
“While the citizenry of the State contributes to see that the State prospers and flourishes, the soldier guarantees it continues to EXIST as a State! To this man, O Rajadhiraja, you owe a debt: please, therefore, see to it, on your own, that the soldier continuously gets his dues in every form and respect, be they his needs or his wants, for he is not likely to ask for them himself.”
Then Kautilya, known also as Chanakya gave his king this blunt warning: “The day the soldier has to demand his dues will be a sad day for Magadha for then, on that day, you will have lost all moral sanction to be King!”
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