Severing the head of Shishupala

Very interesting article. If I may ask, what exactly is your version of “Shishupala Doctrine”?

In Mahabharatha, in case of Krishna and Shishupala, I’d argue that Krishna was already a nemesis of Shishupala, so it was just a matter of chance and counts that Krishna would slay and anihiliate the adversary after a certain number of transgressions. This did not mean that Krishna was comfortable with some aspect of Shishupala, nor does it mean that he “actually forgave Shishupala” (it was just a matter of counting the times he would trangress), nor was it a situation where two armed states were involved.

In case of India and Pakistan, India has, be that as it may, not many options of retaliation to militarily “anihilate” Pakistan, nor would it want to in its best interests, given the geopolitical situation of Pakistan and India’s ambition in the world politics. India would rather like to see a peaceful, friendly Pakistan for its own interests. The best that Indians can hope for is to isolate Pakistan and create an International consensus that should bear on that state to cease and resist.

The metaphor of Shishupala’s head severence in case of India and Pakistan might be to remove the influence of Army on the body politic of Pakistan and install a regime that is friendly to India. In other words, India the Krishna can aspire to sever the “head of hatred” from the “body of Pakistan”. If, arguably, India were to achieve that feat, their best card would be to increase engagement with the politically influential sections of Pakistan (those that most likely to win mandates), scale up exchanges between civilians across both countries, allow and create an all-expansive environment of freedom and exchanges of ideas, and creating and sharing environment across the two countries. So much so, that this mutual beneficial relationship between the “people” of the two countries would, hopefully, lead to a virtual severance of the ‘head of hatred’. Shishupala, in this metaphor, will need to neutralised.

Wishful thinking? Impractical? Unrealisable?

Will “Aman ki Asha” kind of bleeding heart liberalism achieve this? I am not sure, but even as we write this, we have more substantive collaboration being built between ordinary citizens of the two countries, such as Indian surgeons treating difficult to conduct surgeries for Pakistani patients, Indian educators and researchers are opening up their doors of knowledge to the Pakistani students and colleagues, and so on. These are in my view channels that will work, and there is no reason to believe that these are signs of weaknesses, or overlooking the war mongering of Pakistan. If India has to exert its effect and impact on the world, it has to do with the spread of knowledge and fostering an all expansive freedom and openness that will break the walls, and silos.

Mahatma Gandhi was right with his idea of ahimsa, so was Rabindranath Tagore with his clarion call to wake up his country in a heaven of freedom. The Shishupala Doctrine, as I understood from your article, is a sound plan: although in my reserved opinion, the path to nix Pakistani plans of disturbing India militarily lies by way of creating peace. A peace so transgressive that war mongering will lose out once and for all.

Sever the head of the hydra. Once and for all.

Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Environmental Health at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. Also in:

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