Drawing a parallel between the Pandavas in the Mahabharata and brand building as an exercise in statecraft, Union External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Friday said that the Pandavas spent their lifetime in building a brand, which enabled them to be perceived as ethical characters despite orchestrating some deviant strategies to win the epic war.
Speaking at a virtual discussion related to his new book ‘The India Way: Strategies for an Uncertain World’ organised by the International Centre, Goa, Jaishankar also said that delivering Covid-19 vaccines to other needy countries, was an act of a good and smart foreign policy on part of India.
“A lot of traditions and accounts of politics, focus a lot on outcomes and basically how to kind of play around with the roles, play short cuts, deceive and there is a premium put on deception. You know you are smart, because you fool the others,” Jaishankar said.
“Now my point is, that works up to a point. You become a serial deviator from the norms and rules. At some stage people are going to figure it out. The point I make about the Pandavas is… look, they spent their whole life building (a) brand. At the end of the day, finally it is not that they do not do bad things, or did not do things which were not ethically or conventionally or morally correct,” Jaishankar said.
The External Affairs Minister said that many characters in the Sage Vyas’ epic like Dronacharya, Bhishma, Karna and Duryodhana were killed by the Pandavas using devious means, but because of the Pandavas’ overall track-record of being ethical and just, such deviations were overlooked through history.
“Dronacharya was killed when he had put down his weapons, Bhishma was killed by putting a woman upfront, knowing that he would not shoot back. Karna was killed while digging out a chariot wheel from the ground… Finally, Duryodhan was killed by being hit below the belt,” Jaishankar said.
“At the end of the day, because their record was good, they were seen as the more ethical party. The deviations… well it’s ok, sometimes you know people do these things, whereas if you make that a practice, you do not get that latitude. The world will not give you the same degree of understanding. That is why I said, being morally good, ethically good, definitely has its own value, but it also is a smarter way of doing politics,” the Foreign Minister said.
Commenting on India’s foreign policy initiative of providing Covid-19 vaccines to other countries, Jaishankar said, “I think for a country like ours, to say, ‘I am vaccinating our people, but I will help others who may not have access to vaccines’… I think it is good, it is also smart”.