Ethical dimension of Wars – UPSC GS4

Glorification of Wars in earlier times:
  • Hyper masculine virtues received enormous appreciation in the pre-Ashokan elite culture that considered the invasion of someone else’s territory and waging war as completely legitimate.
  • Even in the period of the Rig Veda, Indra, the god of sky, rain and thunder was also regarded as the god of war.
Ashoka’s transformation:
  • Emperor Ashoka’s transformation followed a destructive war during his conquest of Kalinga that resulted in massive bloodshed.
  • Destructive consequences of Kalinga’s conquest sparked a sense of remorse and regret in Ashoka.
  • Consequently, Ashoka publicly denounced his conquest and dismissed the idea that fame and glory are goods in themselves.
  • The onset of a transformative journey bound Ashoka with the Dhamma that expounded public and political morality with a redefined characteristic of fame and glory.
  • Ashoka’s Dhamma emphasised the central theme of ‘Sarvajana, sarvaloka hita’ which means the welfare of all living beings in this world and hereafter.
  • History remembers Ashoka as the emperor who gave up war in the pursuit of compassion, peace and humanity.
Our learnings for a peaceful present and future:
  • Age-old inclinations towards war and conquests failed to get detached from human nature despite us having travelled a long distance from the era of wars and conquests.
  • We are at an age wherein the doctrines of international peace and security are promoted in the international fora but the reality is a deviation from what is conveyed through gatherings and conferences of the international community. The recent invasion of Ukraine can be the best example that determines the existing tendency of individuals to wage war.
  • It is recommended that there is a need to find peaceful alternatives to secure the good and eliminate the devastating implications of war, invasion and conquest.
  • There is a lesson to be learned by the international community that wars are interpretations of strong aspirations to suppress the weak, thereby destroying the stability of the region, promoting hatred and disrupting the global supply chain and trade which badly impact the economy.
  • Reform is much required in the mindset of those who derive masculinity, power and glory from wars, territorial conquests and attacks.
Way forward:
Despite the well-articulated moral consciousness against war to which history is a witness, a group of powerful individuals still find an appetite for wars that lead to the sufferings of ordinary people in different parts of the world. Therefore, it is essential to replace the theories of war and conquest with peaceful alternatives like diplomatic resolutions, negotiations, dialogues and other means of peaceful settlements.
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