Maintenance window scheduled to begin at February 14th 2200 est. until 0400 est. February 15th


Forgot Password?

    Defense Visual Information Distribution Service Logo

    Decisive Point Podcast – Ep 3-42 – COL Tyrell O. Mayfield – Indian Perspectives: Insights for the Indo-American Partnership

    Decisive Point Podcast – Ep 3-42 – COL Tyrell O. Mayfield – Indian Perspectives: Insights for the Indo-American Partnership

    Advanced Embed Example

    Add the following CSS to the header block of your HTML document.

    Then add the mark-up below to the body block of the same document.



    Audio by Kristen Taylor 

    U.S. Army War College Public Affairs

    To buttress stability in the Indo-Pacific, the United States must understand how India sees the region and the world. The theories and ideas of Kautilya, a leading but little-studied Indian philosopher, provide significant insight into Indian perspectives on strategic partnerships and silent war. India has lived out Kautilyan perspectives in its recent foreign policy; therefore, a US understanding of the Indian perspective could advance the national security interests of both countries, clarify recent Indian security responses around the world, and provide a basis for a mutually beneficial pursuit of a free and open Indo-Pacific.

    Read the article:

    Episode transcript: Indian Perspectives: Insights for the Indo-American Partnership

    You’re listening to Decisive Point, a US Army War College Press production focused on national security affairs.

    The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Department of the Army, the US Army War College, or any other agency of the US government.

    Decisive Point welcomes Colonel Tyrell O. Mayfield, author of “Indian Perspectives: Insights for the Indo-American Partnership,” which was published in the Winter 2022–23 issue of Parameters. Mayfield is the deputy foreign policy advisor to the chief of staff of the US Air Force. He holds a master’s degree in international relations from the University of Oklahoma and master’s degrees from the Naval Postgraduate School and the US Army War College. He’s the co-editor of Redefining the Modern Military: The Intersection of Profession and Ethics, published in 2018.

    Your article discusses Indian philosopher Kautilya. I look forward to hearing about this. But first, thanks for being here, Ty.

    COL Tyrell Mayfield

    Thank you, Stephanie. It’s my pleasure, and I’m glad to join you. I just want to open by making sure, it’s clear that our conversation here today reflects my own thoughts and not the policy or position of the Air Force, the Department of Defense, or the government. But I’m very happy to be here, and I look forward to talking with you.


    We’re glad to have you. Let’s just jump right in and get started. Please briefly explain Kautilya’s perspectives.


    Sure, so the writings of Kautilya . . . first of all, he’s a leading Indian philosopher, and I find them a useful lens for understanding India’s pursuit of national interests. Kautilya was an Indian statesman and a political advisor who emerged around 300 BCE and provided a realist outlook on geopolitics through his foundational work. Importantly, Kautilyan theory provides a culturally and historically informed construct for thinking about Indian behavior and Indian interests and Indian foreign policy. And his logic continues to influence strategic thought today. And I think it’s manifest in some of India’s national security interests in its assessment of its geography and its international relations, which I hope we get to talk a little about.


    You assert in your article that the United States needs to understand how India sees the region and the world. And you suggest that the theories and ideas of Kautilya might lend some insight here. Give us some context. What’s the situation in the Indo-Pacific right now as it applies to this topic.


    Sure, well, the United States is clearly identified the PRC, China, as its pacing challenge. And the US has been trying desperately for a number of years, maybe a decade now, to pivot away from Southwest Asia, pivot away from Europe, and to focus on the Pacific with an eye on controlling, or at least shaping and influencing the rise of the PRC. India is central to advancing American interests in that region. It’s an enormous state and a huge player in the area. But it’s been a difficult partner for the United States to approach. This concept of kind of strategic autonomy and independence—it’s deeply embedded in Indian culture—has made it a difficult partner to approach.

    But I think it’s worth noting that India has like three core national security interests that I’ve identified in this article, and that they align with US interests in the Pacific. So, I think the first one there important to note is that Indians are interested in sustaining the international system, which has helped give rise to their power and influence. And sustaining this international system—something that the West and the United States is very interested in—allows India to continue to develop economically and address its societal development and economic development. And those are the things have given rise to Indian power. And the second interest is deterring Pakistan, clearly, and trying to avoid that conflict from reigniting. But this links Pakistan and China, these are two state actors whose futures and interests in the area have become deeply intertwined, which also leads us to a third national interest for India, which is maintaining hegemony and its traditional sphere of influence. Chinese encroachment into the Indian Ocean region is a complex issue. It’s something a lot of states are dealing with, and it’s something that the United States is trying to help those states address and control. And so I think these are the three areas where US interests are definitely aligned with Indian interests.


    Let’s talk about the mandala theory. You use this to address strategic partnerships and silent war. Will you expand on that for us?


    So, the mandala theory is just really how Kautilya envisions the geography around him and neighboring kingdoms and how he saw it and how he thought about it. And so just trying to maintain their influence in that region, Kautylia described this kind of as emanating from the subcontinent, which we think of as India today west through what was then Persia (today, modern-day Iran), north to what is modern-day Afghanistan, and then east to kind of the Bay of Bengal. That region. Thdose basically comprise the eight member nations of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation. That geography really hasn’t changed for India, though I think now they’re looking much further South right into the Indian Ocean, where maritime competition has certainly become a more modern aspect of the situation.

    And the mandala theory, basically, it’s adjoining states become kingdoms or states which need to be addressed or controlled. And Kautilya was a little bit of a realist, or actually very much a realist, and so those adjoining states either have to . . . He is a classical realist in his assertion that states have to, you know, either seek or suffer conquest. So India sees itself in realist terms relative to Pakistan and China and then those states which are adjacent to them—kind of if you think of it as like a checkerboard or concentric circles would be another way to think of it—are states which India can find alignment with and support to pursue its national interests. So that’s where these ideas of strategic partnerships come in, which are really just a Cold War relic. Something of the Soviet Union began, and it allowed the Soviet Union to work bilaterally, kind of outside of the international system—the construct to bilateral agreements. And I think the example that I used in the paper here is India’s strategic partnership agreements with Afghanistan, which they’ve had two of them. But because they’re an alignment tool, they are nonbinding, and they don’t force India to act militarily in any way. And when they no longer served the purpose or weren’t useful, India was able to abandon them.


    Did you want to talk about silent war?


    Yeah, so I think this concept of silent war is really just a way for states to . . . perhaps competition is the best word for this, right? For states to compete short of conflict. When Kautilya, would think of an adjoining Kingdom that was a strong kingdom or a dominant kingdom, a dominant power adjacent, when direct confrontation isn’t the tool then it’s just a long-term campaign of kind of in Kautilyan parlance to be harassment and weakening. But I think today we talked about that in terms of competition. And I think that alignment, again, plays a huge role here versus alliances, and so I think the Quad is an interesting kind of a lens to view Indian alignment through. And so the Quad has kind of been revitalized here in the last few years. It had two in-person meetings and has fielded this new maritime Domain Awareness Initiative, which is a great construct and really shows Indian interest in aligning with other powers in the region to help balance against China, which is obviously what a lot of the states in the Indo Pacific are trying to do right now.


    I’m glad you brought up China. What are your recommendations for how the US can gain Indian partnership and address US National Security interests of managing a rising China?


    Persuading India into a full security partnership with the United States is probably unlikely. It certainly wouldn’t be easy. I also don’t believe that it is necessary. India’s use of these bilateral strategic partnership agreements is consistent with Kautilyan foreign policy and the logic, and so I think if you think of it that way, then it’s not necessarily surprising that the Quad rests, kind of at the center of India’s foreign policy under Prime Minister Modi. Kautilyan logic drives India to avoid alliances and seek alignment, and so I think the United States, we have to exercise a certain amount of strategic empathy here and just understand India and how India sees the world. And if alignment is the tool which they display a preference for, then I think addressing that with them and finding places where we can seek alignment and our interests are aligned.

    So one of those is at the National Security Council. I’m sorry the United Nations Security Council. Obviously, there’s a lot in play right now. There has been some talk for reform at the United Nations Security Council. And India is one of the states which is very much interested in seeking a permanent seat at the UN on the Security Council there. And so an interesting kind of aspect in their strategic partnership agreements that they sign is that when they sign these with other states, one of the bylines in there is that they will support India’s pursuit of a permanent seat at the Security Council. So Security Council change or change to the UN Charter would take a very long time. But I think it’s something that the United States could put forward or at least begin to have the conversation. And even if it didn’t go anywhere, it would highlight India and kind of give a nod to their power and influence and their importance on the international stage.

    And then lastly, I think I’ll come back to the Quad, and I think it’s important to understand the Quad is a diplomatic tool and alignment of diplomatic and information and, in some instances, an economic instrument of national power. And I think it’s really important that the United States be very deliberate in not militarizing the Quad because I think once that does that, then the Quad would take on an aspect or kind of a tone or tenor, which the Indians would be very much disinclined to participate in because what they don’t want to do is antagonize China militarily. And so I think we, as the United States have to be disciplined in letting the Quad be what it is; it’s a very powerful diplomatic and information tool, and it shows a great deal of alignment.

    So I just think as it pertains to the Indo-Pacific, South Asia, and American foreign policy, the United States, we have to be patient here. And we have to break our reactive approach to foreign policy there and just be purposeful about our engagement with India and work hard on securing a partnership that demonstrates alignment and is beneficial to both states.


    Do you have any final thoughts?


    You know this is an interesting area, obviously . . . an area of foreign policy that’s of interest to the United States, and I think that it’s important and useful to look at it through the lens of another state that we want alignment with that we want to partner with. And a lot of times, I think India is misunderstood, and that is in some ways understandable. And they can be a difficult partner to approach, but this idea of strategic autonomy and independence that India has always maintained doesn’t mean that they can’t be partnered with. And it doesn’t mean that we can’t find areas of alignment, and I think the first step to that is understanding India. Understanding how India sees the world and then just rethinking our approach to that.


    Thanks so much for sharing your insights on this topic. Very interesting.


    Yeah no, I appreciate it, and I appreciate the opportunity. Thank you very much.


    Learn more about Kautilya, his perspectives, and what they might mean for the Indo American partnership at Look for volume 52, issue 4.

    If you enjoyed this episode of Decisive Point and would like to hear more, you can find us on any major podcast platform.



    Date Taken: 12.15.2022
    Date Posted: 06.20.2023 15:08
    Category: Newscasts
    Audio ID: 74956
    Filename: 2306/DOD_109718219.mp3
    Length: 00:11:50
    Artist US Army War College Press
    Album Decisive Point – Season 3
    Year 2022
    Genre Podcast
    Location: US

    Web Views: 14
    Downloads: 0
    High-Res. Downloads: 0