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‘Krishna forgave Shishupal 100 times, you know what happened next’ – MEA Dr S Jaishankar on India’s strategic stand on Pakistan

Dr Jaishankar was replying to a media query when he compared Pakistan to Shishupal, Krishna's cousin, who was forgiven 100 times as Krishna had promised Shishupal's mother he would not punish his 100 offences.

On January 28, Minister of External Affairs Dr S Jaishankar drew a comparison between modern-day India and Mahabharata times during the launch the Marathi version of his book ‘The India Way: Strategies for an Uncertain World’. The analogy was based on one of the chapters of his book titled ‘Krishna’s Choice’ where Dr Jaishankar talked about how India’s current political stand in the world is strikingly similar to Krishna’s stand during the time of Mahabharata.

Dr Jaishankar was replying to a media query when he compared Pakistan to Shishupal, Krishna’s cousin, who was forgiven 100 times as Krishna had promised Shishupal’s mother he would not punish his 100 offences. On the 101st offence, Shishupal was beheaded by Krishna using the cosmic weapon Sudarshan Chakra.

The video where Dr Jaishankar talked briefly about current India and Mahabharta’s political similarities has since gone viral on social media.

Inclusion of mass in foreign policy

Speaking about how a country’s foreign policy should be designed, Dr Jaishankar pointed out that people of different regions perceive the same topics differently, hence it is important to think about everyone while drafting foreign policy. He noted that if a person from North India is asked about the Navy in ancient India, he may have limited knowledge about it. However, if a South Indian is asked the same question, he would proudly talk about the naval prowess of Cholas and other kingdoms.

India cannot continue to rely on others

Speaking about the supply chain and the importance of data in today’s time, Dr Jaishankar said that both elements play a vital role in today’s time. When Covid came, the world came to know how any disruption in China could break the entire supply chain. Learning from the experiences in the past, India cannot continue to rely on others for the supply chain, and we have to build our own. Furthermore, it is important to play a strategic role in the global supply chain, unlike the 1980s when we were limited to the Indian supply chain itself.

Dr Jaishankar also talked about the importance of data and how it is being monetised, and by whom. He emphasised the importance of keeping the data secure and using it for our benefit rather than relying on others to store and monetise it. Notably, suppose an international company wants to operate in India, and it uses the data of Indian customers at a large scale, like Google or Facebook, as per the law. In that case, the company has to have a data centre in India. They cannot take the data outside.

Everything has a limit and when limits are crossed, surgical strikes happen

Speaking about the strategic diplomacy with the neighbours, Dr Jaishankar pointed out that everything has a limit, and when that limit is crossed, reactions [like Surgical Strikes] happen. He gave examples of the Uri and Pulwama attacks and the response that India gave to Pakistan. He also talked about the importance of development across borders. Hitting out at the previous governments, he said that the earlier governments took the path of “no development at borders is the best strategy”, resulting in the loss of many soldiers. He pointed out how the current regime in India is working extensively on developing the borders to ensure the security and safety of India’s people.

India’s stand towards nations in stress

Dr Jaishankar also talked about how India rushed to help other countries when natural calamities happened, like in Nepal. Furthermore, India provided vaccines to many countries to fight Covid. He mentioned that lakhs of Indians study and work in different countries. To ensure they have rights in those countries, India is working on getting regulations for Indian nationals set in a way that they get equal rights as citizens.

Revolutionary change in India’s position

Dr Jaishankar said since the new government came into power in 2014, he has noticed a revolutionary change in every aspect. He mentioned that he was not talking from the government’s point of view but from the point of view of a diplomat who has seen India’s foreign policy for decades. “The changes that take place in every cabinet meeting are revolutionary,” he said, pointing out that such steps have not been taken for decades to strengthen India’s position at the global level.

‘I cannot comment on what is happening in Pakistan’

When asked about the current situation in Pakistan, Dr Jaishankar said it would not be right to talk about the neighbouring country on a public forum. However, he pointed out that, like Pandavas could not choose their relatives, India cannot select its neighbours. Speaking about the notice India sent to its Pakistani counterpart on Indus Water Treaty, Dr Jaishankar said that both countries have Indus Commissioners who will discuss the matter first. If required, MEA will intervene.

India is wrongly read by the western media

Speaking about how western media treats India, he said they use “Hindu Nationalist Government”, but no one would ever say “Christian Nationalist Government” for western countries. He noted that in India, being a nationalist is seen as something to be proud of, but it is not the same in western countries. Being a nationalist is not seen in a good way in many countries.

He said, “If you look at the last nine years, there is no doubt that government and politics of the day are more nationalistic…I don’t think there is anything to be apologetic about it. The same nationalist people have helped countries abroad and moved forward in disaster situations in other countries. So if you read next time in a foreign newspaper because they always, foreign newspapers, they like using words like Hindu nationalist comment, okay.”

He added, “So next time you read it, ask yourself, how wrongly are they reading me that they do not understand that this country is getting ready to do more with the world, not less with the world.”

During the QA session, a journalist asked, “We talk a lot about the strategic culture, and you have written about Krishna’s Choice. Why is strategic culture lacking, and how has it changed?”

“If I ask someone who was the biggest diplomat of India, I can give you in writing the person will take the name of a diplomat from a western country. If I ask about diplomacy books, they will name foreign authors. I wrote because I wanted to tell the people of India to look at their own house”, the External Affairs Minister said.

He further said, “If someone asks me who the greatest diplomat was, I will say it was Shri Krishna and Hanuman Ji. I am seriously speaking. Suppose you see them from a political point of view. What was the situation? What was the mission? How they handled it? Hanuman Ji not only completed his mission but took further steps and communicated with Sita Ji. Then took stock of Lanka and even burnt it. He was a multipurpose diplomat.”

“If we talk about the top ten strategic concepts, I can give examples from Mahabharata. If we see the world today, it is a multipolar world. At that time, what happened in Kurukshetra? It was a multi-polar Bharat. There were different kingdoms. Every kingdom was asked which side they wanted to take. Some of them were non-aligned, like Balram and Rukma. When we talk about constraints, Arjuna’s confusion fits best. He was emotionally interdependent. It was not materialistic but emotional.”, he added.

Talking about strategic patience with Pakistan, Dr Jaishankar said, “We say Pakistan did this and that. Let’s show strategic patience. The best example of Strategic patience is how Krishna Bhagwan handled Shishupal. He forgave Shishupal 100 times, and then you know what happened.”

Furthermore, he said, “There are new terms and rules based on the order. There is dignity among countries. There are some rules. What does Mahabharata teach us? Those who always break the rules start to talk about them on their end. There are so many examples. We debate that a larger country is against us. Do remember the ratio of Pandavas vs Kauravas was 7:11. Pandavas were a small army, but they won. Reputation has value. Pandavas’ reputation was better.”

He also talked about tactical adjustments and strategic deception based on the situation. Giving the example of how Yudhishthir, who had never lied in his whole life, strategically made Guru Drona believe that his son Ashvathama had died. In reality, an elephant named Ashvathama was killed. Another example he gave was of Shikhandi, a transgender whom Krishna used to kill Bhishma Pitamah. In both cases, the Pandavas could be seen as wrong, but at that time, tactically, it was the right move.

Dr Jaishankar’s book was released in 2020. It is available in multiple languages, including English, Hindi, Marathi and others.

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Anurag
Anurag
B.Sc. Multimedia, a journalist by profession.

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