- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 6, 2002

BOMBAY India's Defense Ministry is looking for a battlefield edge against arch enemy Pakistan by studying a 2,325-year-old book on warfare.

The book of Arthashastra, written by the ancient military strategist Kautilya, offers tips on how to feed soldiers and drive the enemy insane. It contains a prescription that purports to endow soldiers with night vision.

India's Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) has joined the scientists of University of Pune and National Institute of Virology in western India to study the ancient text.

Defense Minister George Fernandes recently told Parliament that he was satisfied with progress of the project, named "Scientific Investigation of Warfare Practices in Arthashastra."

"The literature survey has been completed and now other practical experiments are being conducted by the experts," Mr. Fernandes said.

According to a Pune University report, the book says:

•Soldiers fed with a single meal of special herbs, milk and clarified butter can keep going without any other food for an entire month.

•Shoes made of camel skin smeared with the serum of the flesh of owl and vulture can help soldiers walk some hundreds of miles without feeling tired.

•A powder made from fireflies and the eyes of wild boar and some other animals could endow soldiers with night vision.

Kautilya, who was a prime minister in the court of Emperor Chandragupta Maurya in 4th century B.C. was well known as a military strategist.

In his book, he said that a ruler could use any means to attain his goal and his actions required no moral sanction.

"Our focus at present is on how humans can control hunger for longer durations and walk for longer period without experiencing fatigue," said V.S. Ghole, head of the environmental engineering department of Pune University. He is leading the project.

"Once we have made some headway, we will go into researching Kautilya's notes on night vision and other fields," Mr. Ghole said.

Soumya Ghosh, another scientist involved with the project said: "In high altitude border areas like Kashmir, our soldiers need to walk long [distances] daily. Our military establishment is quite hopeful that Kautilya's special diet will be of big help to keep their backpacks lighter on vigilance assignment and also during an emergency like war."

Another member of the team, S.V. Bhavasar, a space scientist who has spent many years researching the Arthashastra, said: "All of us are excited about the possibilities and do not for a moment think that the idea is crazy. Decoding ancient texts is not an easy task but we are very hopeful of success."

Mr. Bhavasar said the team also has plans to research ancient Hindu texts.

These include manuscripts that "claim to provide secrets of manufacturing planes which cannot be destroyed by any external force, could be motionless in the sky and even invisible to enemy planes," he said.


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