29 July, 2021

Ashoka Vs Chanakya

An account of individuals who, in Dixit's view, made a special contribution to foreign policy.

Ashoka Vs Chanakya
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53
J.N. Dixit's latest book is different from the weighty commentaries he is well-known for. It is an account of individuals who, in Dixit's view, made a special contribution to foreign policy. It's an eclectic mix, stalwarts of the national movement, political friends and rivals, early architects of independent India, politicians and civil servants. Such a large bag makes for a racy account, and even without tittle-tattle, the book is easy to read.

Dixit sees a polarity in India's political tradition, harking back to Ashoka, who stood for uncompromising morality, and Chanakya, who accepted the demands of realpolitik. Indian policymakers too are subject to these contrary pulls. Without advocating amorality, Dixit deems that national interest can demand of leaders the ability to move into greys. Gandhi thus is a hopeless case, to be revered and gently laid aside. Nehru is no better. Subhash Chandra Bose and Sardar Patel, less squeamish, draw praise, as does Shastri. High above them stands Indira Gandhi, who brought Indian statecraft to its apogee in '71.

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