Valmiki Ramayana is the first epic in Sanskrit; that is why it is also called Adikavya. This epic presents a captivating tableau of ideal life values. Valmiki Ramayana also has a strategic dimension that needs more attention. The place of Ramayana in the pre-Kautilya strategic thinking tradition is very significant. The contemporary International Relations Theory (IRT) is Euro-centric, status quo, and non-inclusive. Indian knowledge tradition has not been included or given due space by Western scholars in the study of International Relations. Very little has been written on the Indian perspective on International Relations.
Indian scholar Binay Kumar Sarkar initiated the discussion on the Indian approach to international Relations in 1919 with the article “Hindu Theory of International Relations”, published in the journal American Political Science Review. Later, other scholars such as V Ramchandra Dikshitar, George Modelski, G T Date, Torkel Brekke, BNS Yadav, Michael Liebig, Kaushik Roy, Amrita Narlikar and Aruna Narlikar and Foreign Minister S Jaishankar took this tradition forward. In February 2023, the publication of the book “Indic Perspective on International Relations”, edited by Dr Vivek Kumar Mishra, is a constructive initiative in this direction. Taking this link forward, this book by Dr Anoop Kumar Gupta is a commendable step.
In the foreword, the Dean of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Prof Shashi Bala, stated that many scholars were unable to understand the Indian perspective, being influenced by the literature written on the Indian knowledge system by foreign scholars. Thus many important subjects remained away from us, like science in Vedas or martial arts in Ramayana. According to Prof Shashi Bala, skill in warfare has been an integral feature of our culture since ancient times. Both arms and scriptures were equally trained in the ashrams during the Ramayana period in India. Based on dignity and ideals, paving the way for public welfare, and establishing life values, war is seen as the conclusion in the life of Bhagwan Ram in Ramayana.
The strategic culture of Rama reflected a fine flend of politico-military and spiritual-cultural ethos. In contrast, the strategic culture of Ravana is based only on materialism and military character
Strategic Culture and its relation with national security
The concept of “strategic culture” is related to national security. After India’s Independence, enough academic work has been done on the theoretical and practical dimensions of Indian strategic aspects. Still, scholars did not give proper space to the study of “strategic culture” in ancient Indian literature. Ramayana has generally been seen, understood and explained more from religious, spiritual, cultural, literary and social perspectives, but it is also an important strategic text and contains an important strategic dimension. Scholars did not pay proper attention to this crucial aspect of Ramayana. No important textual study and analysis has been done on this subject. This book by Dr Anoop Kumar Gupta is an important academic effort toward a comprehensive textual analysis of the strategic culture in Ramayana.
Ramayana can play a pivotal role in the development of Indian theory of International Relations
An analysis of the Ramayana from a strategic point of view can play an essential role in the development of the Indian theory of International Relations. The current form of International Relations theory is Europe-centric, in which emphasis is laid only on European principles and values. The main reason is that Indian scholars have not taken any serious initiative in this regard. This book can be an important departure point in making the spectrum of current International Relations theory more comprehensive and inclusive and in developing the Indian understanding of power and its use.
The book is divided into nine chapters. The first chapter discusses various aspects of strategic culture and grand strategy, along with a detailed description of the development of non-Western International Relations theories and Indian theory as an alternative. In the second chapter, discourses on the strategic culture of contemporary India have been discussed and analysed. In the third chapter, a comprehensive analysis has been made of the discourse on the strategic culture of ancient India. The following five chapters focus on the nature of strategic culture in the Ramayana. In chapter four, Ramayana’s geo-strategic environment is discussed along with the destabilising rise of Lanka under the dispensation of King Ravana. In chapter five, the nature of Ravana’s strategic thinking and an analysis of Ravana’s strategy are presented in chapter six. In chapter seven, the strategic thinking of Rama is discussed, and in chapter eight, the strategy of Rama is analysed. In the last chapter, discussing the relevance of “strategic culture” in Ramayana, it has been emphasised how the strategic reading of Ramayana is relevant in establishing the Indic perspective on International Relations Theory.
Know about the two paradigms of strategic culture in Ramyana
Thus the book mainly focuses on the strategic culture and grand strategy in Ramayana. The author has given a detailed description of two paradigms of strategic culture in Ramayana. On the one hand, there is a model of the strategic culture of Rama, and on the other hand, there is a model of the strategic culture of Ravana. There is a great difference in strategic thinking and strategic behaviour between Ravana and Rama. The core value of Rama’s strategic culture is spiritual non-dualism, while the basic fundamental of Ravana’s strategic culture is materialism. There is a wonderful balance of idealism and realism in the strategic culture of Rama, but the pattern of aggressive realism is seen in the strategic culture of Ravana.
The strategic culture of Rama reflected a fine blend of politico-military and spiritual-cultural ethos. In contrast, the strategic culture of Ravana is based only on materialism and military character. In the strategic culture of Ram, there is no hesitation to use force and adopt the path of war to protect Dharma, justice, and public welfare. In contrast, for Ravana, the power element is a means of domination, expansion, and oppression of others. Therefore, the difference between Rama’s ideology and Ravana’s ideology can be described as the difference between the ideology of Dharma and Adharma. The strategic thought and strategic preferences of Rama and Ravana have been explained very well in this book.
The author has made a very commendable and serious academic effort on the important subject of strategic culture in the Indian knowledge tradition through the textual and strategic reading of the Ramayana.