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A just war for just peace

Accepting the Nobel Peace prize in Oslo, US President Barack Obama invoked Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, but he did not forget to defend his “just war” in Afghanistan. “Sometimes war is necessary,” he said, adding, “a just war could lead to a just peace”. Suman Kapoor examines...

india Updated: Dec 17, 2009 01:46 IST

Accepting the Nobel Peace prize in Oslo, US President Barack Obama invoked Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, but he did not forget to defend his “just war” in Afghanistan. “Sometimes war is necessary,” he said, adding, “a just war could lead to a just peace”.

That Obama received the coveted prize within days of sending 30,000 more troops to battle-ravaged Afghanistan drew criticism is a different matter. Even the venerable Dalai Lama felt that the prize was given “a little early”.

This reminds me of Lord Krishna urging the Pandava warrior, prince Arjuna, on the battlefield of Kurukshetra to wage war against his unprincipled kin, the Kauravas, to reclaim the kingdom that rightfully belonged to them.

Arjuna faced the moral dilemma of killing his cousins, uncles and granduncles, which he did not consider justified even for the sake of kingdom of the three worlds — the earth, netherworld and the heaven.

Krishna was able to persuade Arnjua to take up arms for a just war in order to vanquish the forces of evil and to establish righteousness on the earth.

It was because of the persuasive skills of Lord Krishna, who delivered the message of the Gita amidst the Pandava and the Kaurava armies arraigned against each other that Arjuna shed his recalcitrance and fought the war.

What certainly clinched the issue for Krishna was his argument that soul is immortal; it is only the body, the garb of the soul, which is destroyed on the battlefield. The jiva, or the individual soul, keeps changing the garb with series of births and deaths.

Also, Krishna told Arjuna that as a Kshatriya, it was his duty to fight for a just cause, with a sense of detachment from the results of his action or the guilt of killing his relatives.

“Thy right is to action only/and not the fruit thereof/Let not the fruit of action be thy object/nor let thy attachment be to inaction,” is the central message of the Gita.