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Spotlight on Asia

French researcher digs into ancient India text on good governance

Audio 09:58
Ashoka pillar in Vaishali, Bihar, India. The pillars were erected across India and were inscribed with edicts by the Mauryan Empire ruler Ashoka, more than 200 BCE
Ashoka pillar in Vaishali, Bihar, India. The pillars were erected across India and were inscribed with edicts by the Mauryan Empire ruler Ashoka, more than 200 BCE wiki

In Spotlight on Asia this week, RFI's Rosslyn Hyams meets Jean-Joseph Boillot who spends his time as an academic researcher travelling between France and India.

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Boillot's latest book -  soon to be published in English in India - is called L'Inde Ancienne au chevet des Politiques (literally Ancient India on the Politicians' Bedside Table) takes parts of an ancient Indian treatise on how to rule, and what leaders should do to attain prosperity for all.

He says that Narendra Modi, apparently a fan of the Arthashashtra represents a new generation of Indian leaders who refer to their own culture's teachings and experiences rather than borrowing from foreign sources.

Boillot suggests that European politicians today take a leaf out of the book of Kautilya, the right-hand man of the Indian Maurya Empire's Ashoka who reigned some 2300 years ago.

Under the headings such as "on discipline", "on good behaviour of counsellors and ministers", "on safety of assets and persons" , "on the kingdom's vices and calamities", it sounds quite contemporary.

Boillot makes it more relevant by updating the vocabulary in his translation, while reminding us that even Ashoka, remembered as a great leader, made mistakes and lost his empire.

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