This article was first published in ThePrint
The gameplay on the chessboard of global politics continues to cast its shadow on India’s relationships with the United States, China, nations of the sub-continent, and within its own federal units. For the skeptics of Kautilya’s continued relevance, the contemporary geopolitical chessboard underlines the chief tenets of Kautilyan rajamandala, or ‘circle of states’ – a concentric, geopolitical conception of the inter-state realm typifying friend-foe relationships.
Ironically, if there is one country that eminently exemplifies the Kautilyan template in international conduct, it is China – who was till the Ladakh episode, the quintessential madhyama (middle king) of the inter-state realm. A middle king is defined as “one with territory immediately proximate to those of the Ari (enemy) and the conqueror (hypothetically Pakistan and India respectively), capable of helping them when they are united or disunited and of suppressing them when they are disunited.” True to this definition, China had skilfully calibrated its dynamics with Pakistan and India. It had entered into a negotiated agreement (samdhi) with India (roughly co-equal then) through the Border Peace and Tranquility Agreement of 1993 and several other agreements of 1996, 2003 and 2012, at a time when a stable neighbourhood was vital for its economic growth.