Shooter Tara Sahdev allegedly forced by her husband for conversion of religion

ABP News Bureau

Sunday, 24 August 2014 11:14 AM

New Delhi: National shooter Tara Sahdev has alleged that her husband Rakibul Hasab aka Ranjit Kumar Kohli assaulted her because of her refusal to convert to Islam. Rakibul kept Tara under confinement for one month and tortured her and forced her to convert her religion to Islam.


According to Tara, her husband made her starve and did not let her meet anybody.  He threatened to beat her up and on her refusal to convert her religion, he assaulted her badly.

After one month of torture, Tara decided to report her saga to State National Commission for Women’s chief, Mahua Manjhi and BJP leader Ajay Nath Shahdev.

Surprise is a tactic, not a strategy


August 21, 2014 02:47 IST

Modi has mystified, misled and surprised Pakistan, even giving the impression that he still regards the country as an enemy to defeat, not as a neighbour he wishes to resolve issues with


In March this year, members of the Pakistani establishment laid out the red carpet for an unusual visitor. The gentleman, who will not be named, was an envoy of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), an overseas supporter of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and was said to be carrying a message from Narendra Modi. As a result, the visitor was hosted to lunch by the Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz and the Foreign Office India desk, met with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s key adviser Tariq Fatemi, and was even invited to the Army General Headquarters.

The message he carried was simple: that once elected, the BJP government would pursue talks and push business engagement with Pakistan. He indicated that an invitation would be sent shortly after Mr. Modi took over, to set the ball rolling. There was, however, a rider. If there was a terror attack, said the RSS envoy, one like Mumbai 26/11 that could be traced back to Pakistan, their hands would be tied. A counter-attack on some part of Pakistan-controlled territory would be inevitable.

Buoyant relations 

Despite the rough rider, Pakistan’s leadership was pleased by the reach out. There are many reasons why Pakistan’s elite and military establishment, the two constituencies that decide policy on India, looked favourably towards Mr. Modi’s win. To begin with, a BJP government has proven easier to deal with in the past, and less worried about ‘domestic opinion’ and a tough opposition than the Congress has been. After all, former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was able to invite General Pervez Musharraf to the Agra summit less than two years after the two countries fought the Kargil war, when Pakistan’s stock was at its lowest in India. Second, the BJP government was able to ‘deliver’ more than the Congress did. Much in the way the Indian establishment has found it easier to get concrete outcomes from Pakistan’s military rulers, Pakistan’s establishment believes that ‘right-wingers’ deliver what moderates in India are unable to do. Finally, while they may not openly admit to it, Pakistan’s establishment welcomes Mr. Modi and the BJP as it helps keep its own constituencies in check with fears of a right-wing ‘Hindu nationalist’ government next door.

Mr.. Modi was as good as the envoy’s word, and, within a day of winning the elections, had proffered the invitation to all SAARC neighbours. The invitation went down in Indian history, and became a part of global parlance, for the boldness of the move and the all-round praise it received. Many were surprised but everyone lauded the initiative calling it a masterstroke, a strategy with vision.

The Prime Minister’s subsequent talks with Mr. Sharif, while short, made for good optics in both countries, especially given the follow-up letters between the two Prime Ministers and the gifts that were exchanged: a sari and a shawl for their mothers. Relations were so buoyant that when an Indian journalist appeared in Islamabad and wanted to know what the reaction to Mr. Modi’s visit to Pakistan would be, officials were convinced that he too was an envoy carrying a message from the Indian Prime Minister. The journalist, V.P. Vaidik, didn’t just get to meet all of Pakistan’s top leadership; he was even cleared to meet with 26/11 mastermind, a man on America’s most-wanted list, Hafiz Saeed. Access to Mr. Saeed, as any Pakistani journalist would tell you, is strictly monitored by the Inter-Services Intelligence itself, and any visit to his home in Lahore would need the highest security clearance. Even if the Pakistani government was mystified by his mission, they were too delighted by the prospect of Mr. Modi’s visit to say so.

Mr.. Modi continued to surprise Pakistan’s government, but in a good way, for the next two months. He had chosen not to react when the Indian mission in Herat was attacked just before Mr. Sharif’s visit, despite indicators that the ISI-backed Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) was behind it. When he visited Srinagar in July, he didn’t mention ceasefire violations along the Line of Control during his address to jawans. And his government didn’t react when, at a press conference, Pakistani High Commissioner Abdul Basit ruled out prosecuting LeT founder Mr. Saeed for the Mumbai attacks on the basis of India’s evidence. Instead, diplomats and officials worked hard at bilateral proposals between the two countries. Trade concessions were on the anvil, selling much-needed power to Pakistan was a deliverable, and LNG and fuel pipelines were being discussed.

It wasn’t just the Pakistan government that was surprised; most in the Indian government and many of Mr. Modi’s supporters were also surprised that the tough-talking prime ministerial candidate had now been replaced by the subcontinental leader who spoke of defeating the common enemy of poverty, and of rejecting talk of “killing and dying.” The Prime Minister’s strategy was taking shape, and his attention on the neighbourhood was giving it focus. In the past three months, Mr. Modi and his External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj have spent more time visiting and speaking about the region than perhaps any previous government has. Mr. Modi travelled to Bhutan and Nepal, while also sending Ms Swaraj to Bhutan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar. In the next few months, she will also visit Sri Lanka. Mr. Modi is expected to meet with Mr. Sharif once again in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. Therefore, when it was announced that the Foreign Secretaries would meet in Islamabad on August 25, it seemed in line with Mr. Modi’s grander strategy of squiring a new future for the entire neighbourhood, one that would be launched at the SAARC summit in November in Kathmandu.

Cancelling talks

As a result, the decision to cancel those talks over the Pakistan High Commissioner’s talks with Hurriyat leaders has raised a very big question mark over more than just those talks. If the Foreign Secretaries were meeting to lay the ground for the Modi-Sharif talks in New York next month, does that mean the Prime Ministers will not meet? Have the trade deals and the energy plans discussed so far, not to mention the entire peace process, been cancelled? Will three months of visible strategy, and all the meetings and attempts to reach out in the months preceding the elections be overturned by this decision? Should Bangladesh and Nepal, who have critical bilateral agreements with India on land, power and water, due to be cleared in the next few months, worry about a similarly abrupt reversal in decisions? Finally, which is the version of Mr. Modi’s foreign policy vision that is the real template for the world to engage with?

“Mystify, mislead and surprise the enemy,” wrote Chinese warrior Sun Tzu in The Art of War. With his move, Mr. Modi has certainly done all three, even giving the impression that he still regards Pakistan as an enemy to defeat and not as a neighbour he wishes to resolve issues with. Sun Tzu may have other things to say about a policy that mystifies and confounds everyone else as well. Surprise in such cases can at best only be a tactic in foreign policy, not a long-term strategy.


Fields Medal winner Manjul Bhargava inspired by Sanskrit and Indian ancient mathematicians

Fields Medal winner Manjul Bhargava’s 3 ideas to overcome fear of maths
Sourabh Gupta  New Delhi, August 19, 2014 | UPDATED 17:03 IST

Princeton University professor Manjul BhargavaManjul Bhargava, the first Indian-origin mathematician to win the coveted Fields Medal, says the inspiration behind his discoveries in number theory has been the classic works of ancient Indian mathematicians.

“Their works contain incredible mathematical discoveries, and were very inspirational to me as a young mathematician. The classic works of Pingala, Hemachandra, and Brahmagupta have been particularly influential in my own work,” the 40-year-old Princeton University professor told in a detailed email interview.

In the interview, he also goes on the explain how the ancients derived elegant mathematical patterns from rhythms of Sanskrit poetry and how he managed to simplify and expand the work of 18th century German maths legend Carl Friedrich Gauss with the help of Hemchandra’s Identity and a simple Rubik’s Mini-Cube.

Bhargava also offers three suggestions to teachers and students in India to make maths learning fun.

Here is the full Q&A:

Q: Can you describe for our readers, in simple terms, the nature of the number theory work for which you have been awarded?

A: I work in the area of number theory, which studies the whole numbers …, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, … and special whole numbers like the primes, and their properties and the equations that they satisfy.

My work was primarily about deciding when certain fundamental equations in mathematics (such as quadratic forms and elliptic curves) have solutions in the whole numbers. My work introduced, in particular, a new geometric method for answering such questions.

Manjul Bhargava receives the Fields Medal at the International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM) in Seoul on August 12. Photo: ICMQ: We read in an interview that you have followed ancient Indian mathematics and works of Brahmagupta and Hemchandra. Please tell us a little more about what you feel about ancient Indian mathematics, and about Vedic mathematics too, on which there is a lot of debate in India.

A: In part because of the scientific nature of the Sanskrit language, many remarkable linguistic/poetic/mathematical works were written in ancient times in India. Growing up, I had a chance to read some of the works of the masters: the great linguists/poets such as Panini, Pingala, and Hemachandra, as well as the great mathematicians Aryabhata, Bhaskara, and of course Brahmagupta.  Their works contain incredible mathematical discoveries, and were very inspirational to me as a young mathematician.

The classic works of Pingala, Hemachandra, and Brahmagupta have been particularly influential in my own work.

Q: You have said that you found inspiration to do maths through tabla playing and Sanskrit. How?

A: My greatest influences while growing up were my grandfather, a renowned scholar of Sanskrit and ancient Indian history, and my mother, a mathematician with strong interests also in music and linguistics.  As a result, I also developed deep interests in language and literature, particularly Sanskrit poetry, and in classical Indian music.  I learned to play a number of musical instruments, such as sitar, guitar, violin, and keyboard.  But I always enjoyed rhythm and percussion the most!  My favourite instrument was the tabla.  I enjoyed thinking about the mathematics of rhythm in classic Hindustani and Carnatic music.

While growing up, I learned from my grandfather how much incredible mathematics was discovered in ancient times by scholars who considered themselves not mathematicians, but poets (or linguists).  Linguists such as Panini, Pingala, Hemachandra, and Narayana discovered some wonderful and deep mathematical concepts while studying poetry.  The stories that my grandfather told me about them were very inspirational to me.

Here is an example, originating in 500 B.C., that has been particularly fascinating to me as a drummer.

In the rhythms of Sanskrit poetry, there are two kinds of syllables – long and short. A long syllable lasts two beats, and a short syllable lasts one beat.  A question that naturally arose for ancient poets was: how many rhythms can one construct with exactly (say) eight beats, consisting of long and short syllables?  For instance, one can take long-long-long-long, or

The answer was discovered by the ancients, and is contained in Pingala’s classical work Chandashastra, which dates back to between 500 and 200 B.C.

Here is the elegant solution.  We write down a sequence of numbers as follows. We first write down the numbers 1 and 2.  And then each subsequent number is obtained by adding up the two previous numbers.

So, for example, we start with 1 and 2, and then 1+2 is 3, so we have so far 1 2 3.  The next number is obtained by adding up the last two numbers 2 and 3, which is 5.  So we have so far 1 2 3 5.  The next number written is then 3+5 which is 8.  In this way, we get a sequence of numbers 1 2 3 5 8 13 21 34 55 89… The n-th number written tells you the total number of rhythms, consisting of long and short syllables, having n beats. So for 8 beats, the answer is that there are 34 such rhythms in total.

This sequence of numbers is now ubiquitous in mathematics, as well as in a number of other arts and sciences!  The numbers are known as the Hemachandra numbers, after the 11th century linguist who first documented and proved their method of generation — called a “recurrence relation” in modern mathematics.  The numbers are also known as the Fibonacci numbers in the West, after the famous Italian mathematician who wrote about them in the 12th century.  

These numbers play an important role now in so many areas of mathematics (there is even an entire mathematical journal, the Fibonacci Quarterly, devoted to them!). They also arise in botany and biology.  For example, the number of petals on a daisy tends to be one of these Hemachandra numbers, and similarly for the number of spirals on a pine cone (for mathematical reasons that are now essentially understood).

One of my favorite photographs, which I keep in my office, is of a vast field of daisies, in which every daisy has 34 petals!  (Recall that 34 is the same number that appeared as the answer to our question about 8 beat rhythms, revealing a hidden connection that mathematicians now understand.)

This story inspired me when I was growing up because it is a wonderful example of a simple idea that grew into something so omnipresent, important, and deep- unraveling surprising and beautiful connections among different realms of thought.  There are many examples of this phenomenon in mathematics and its sister areas; I grew up learning many examples stemming from Sanskrit poetry, and is one of those things that always makes a mathematician’s eyes light up.

Manjul Bhargava (second from left) addresses a press conference with three other Fields Medalists Artur Avila (first from left), Martin Hairer (third) and Maryam Mirzakhani (fourth) at the International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM) in Seoul on August 13. Photo: ICMQ:  We were pleasantly surprised to know that Ustad Zakir Hussain gave you lessons in tabla. How was he as a teacher?

A: I first started learning music from my mother, who sings and also plays the tabla.  When I was maybe 3 years old, I used to hear my mother playing tabla often, and I asked her to teach me to play a little bit.  She tried to teach me the basic sound “na”.

She demonstrated the sound to me, and I tried to mimic her to reproduce the sound, but nothing came out. I was hooked! I always loved the beauty and the intricacy of the tabla sound and repertoire, and how it also perfectly complemented sounds on the sitar, or vocal, etc.  

I learned with my mom first, and then with Pandit Prem Prakash Sharma in Jaipur whenever I visited there.

I met Zakir-ji when I was an undergraduate at Harvard.  He came to perform there when I was a third year student. I had the exciting opportunity to meet him afterwards at a reception, and he invited me to visit him in California (where he lives).  I have had the great pleasure and privilege of learning from him a bit off and on since then. He is not just an incredible artist, but also an amazing teacher.  

More than that, he has been a wonderful and inspirational friend, and he and his whole family – in both California and Bombay – have been such a huge source of love, encouragement, and support to me for so long, and I am very grateful to them for that.

Q: You are known to use magic tricks in your class to explain points. As a professor, what would be your three suggestions to teachers in India to create interest in maths in the classroom, especially among students who fear the subject?

A: – Maths problems should be motivated not just through the sciences, but also through the arts: puzzles, toys, magic, poetry, music – these should all form a key part of the mathematics classroom.

– Students should not be taught to solve problems in a robotic way; instead, they should be guided to discover key mathematics ideas on their own. Maths should be a creative exciting process of discovery!

-Maths should be interactive and collaborative.  Students should be encouraged to discover things together, and work together.

This is how mathematics research is, and so this should be reflected in the classroom!

Manjul Bhargava at a press conference at International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM) in Seoul on August 13. Photo: ICMQ. Again as a professor, what would be your advice to students who fear the subject? Any books or online resources you would recommend.

A: When people see mathematics done as described above, as a playful, creative, interactive subject, they see that it is not terrifying at all – it is beautiful! Among my favorite books as a child that taught me a lot about the fun of mathematics were those of Martin Gardner, e.g., his book “Mathematics, Magic, and Mystery”.

Q:  You are famous for finding a simpler way to express Gauss composition law through Bharmagupta’s work and Rubik’s Cube? Can you explain how you did it?

A: Gauss’s law says that you can compose two quadratic forms (i.e., expressions of the shape ax^2+bxy+cy^2, where a, b, c are fixed whole numbers and x and y are the variables) to get a third such quadratic form.

I was in California in the summer of 1998, and I had a 2 x 2 x 2 mini-Rubik’s cube in my room. I was visualizing putting numbers on each of the corners, and I saw these binary quadratic forms coming out, three of them. I just sat down and wrote out the relations between them, and realized that I had found a simple description of Gauss’s law. It was a great day!

I can give more details if you are interested: A very classical question in mathematics is: what whole numbers can be expressed as the sum of two squares?  (i.e., what whole number values are taken by the polynomial x^2 + y^2, for whole number values of x and y?) For example, 5 is such a number, because 5 = 1 + 4 = 1^2 + 2^2, but 7 is not.

One ancient theorem about such numbers is: if you take two whole numbers that are each a sum of two squares, and you multiply them, then you will always again get a number that is a sum of two squares!  (Please try it!)

The reason for this is the following remarkable identity: (a^2 + b^2) (c^2 + d^2) = (ac – bd)^2 + (ad + bc)^2.

This identity gives an explicit method for taking two numbers that are each a sum of two squares, and expressing the product again as a sum of two squares.  

This identity was discovered by Diophantus in the third century, and is a first case of Gauss composition: We are taking an expression of the form x^2 + y^2, and multiplying it with another expression of the form x^2 + y^2, and we are ending up with a third quadratic expression, also of the form x^2+y^2!

More generally, for any number n, if you take two whole numbers that are each a square plus n times a square, and you multiply them, you will always end up again with a number that is a square plus n times a square. This is because of a generalization of the above identity, discovered by Brahmagupta in 628. 

It was not until Gauss that this phenomenon was fully understood.  Gauss found all triples Q, R, S of quadratic expressions such that: if a is any value taken by Q, and b is any value taken by R, then the product ab will always be a value taken by S.  In that case, we say that “the composition of Q and R is S” (in Gauss’s law of composition).  For example, the composition of Q = x^2 + ny^2 and R = x^2 + ny^2 is again S = x^2 + ny^2, due to Brahmagupta’s identity. 

Gauss showed that, in general, S is essentially uniquely determined by Q and R, so it makes sense to say that S is the composition of Q and R.  (By “quadratic expression”, we mean here an expression of the form ax^2 + bxy +cy^2, where a, b, c are fixed whole numbers, and x and y are the variables.)

Gauss discovered this law of composition in 1801 in his famous work Disquisitiones Arithmeticae, but it took about 20 pages of complicated calculation to describe the composition law in general.

In my Ph.D. thesis, inspired by Rubik’s cubes as you mentioned, I found a very simple way to formulate Gauss composition, which took only a few lines to describe. (Please see, e.g., pages 10, 11, and 12 of this link).

This new perspective on Gauss composition also led me in my Ph.D. thesis to 13 new laws of composition, which applied to higher degree polynomials and to polynomials in more than 2 variables (Gauss composition applies to binary quadratic forms, i.e., degree 2 polynomials in two variables).

Previously, it was thought that Gauss composition is an isolated phenomenon that applies only to quadratic expressions in two variables.

My Ph.D. thesis work showed that it was in fact part of a much larger theory. That’s probably more than you wanted to know! 🙂

Q:  Do you think maths is a natural gift or can it be inculcated in students by proper guidance?

A: I think it can be a combination of both, but proper guidance/encouragement/inspiration is perhaps the more important aspect. A student’s talent and interest has to be fostered and cultivated in order to truly bloom.

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With the National Security Advisor and his deputy both coming in from think tanks, there naturally has emerged a good feel in this knowledge sector. However, there are structural issues which need attention and India has a long way to go before research and policy get positively locked, say Uttam Kumar Sinha and Rajiv Nayan

In one of his initial addresses, on June 8, 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasised the need for think tanks to enrich and bolster policy-making. The occasion was the release of a report published by a foreign think tank. Paradoxically, the report created an impression that Indian think tanks are unable to generate such work and that the Indian policy-making process receives little input from the think tank community. Is it true? Partly — in fields such as economics and trade, Indian think tanks have made impact in policy-making, while in the security and strategic areas, the role has been limited due to many factors.

Modi, however, is quite clear that India needs to work, in his own words, on “skill, scale and speed” if it wants to have a footprint in global affairs. This catchphrase was made in the context of China during the visit of the Foreign Minister Wang Yi, signifying the need for capacity-building and investments in research and findings (skill); ability to introduce big ideas while not losing sight of ground realities (scale); and for quick decision-making and policy implementation (speed). This is where think tanks, described as ‘hybrid creatures’ or ‘brain trusts’, come in, using the spaces between Government, business and academia to link knowledge with the complex business of policy.

In a world of transformative change, Governments find it increasingly difficult to obtain all relevant information and knowledge to justify policy decisions, especially as many policy pronouncements have potential consequences. The gap between knowledge and policy is driving the demand for advice and advisory bodies. It is hard for elected Government to function today without being accountable and transparent. Consequently, its delivery mechanism has to be dependent on evaluation, a process that requires greater investment in translating research into policy option.

The why, what and how of think tanks

Think tanks are not monolithic and defining them is problematic. There are several definitions and typologies based on different criteria. The Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program (TTCSP) of the University of Pennsylvania, that publishes the annual Global Go To Think Tanks Report, considers think tanks as “generating policy-oriented research, analysis and advice on domestic and international issues that enable policymakers and the public to make informed decisions”. Think tanks in a way can be cost-effective to kickstart a new policy initiative or open up a discussion or even test a new idea.

Think tanks were greatly influential in the democratisation processes in many Latin American countries in the 1980s. Equally, they have played central roles in the remaking of the British Labour Party and German Social Democrats as a ‘Third Way’ in the 1990s. It is now well known that George W Bush administration’s security and foreign policy was greatly influenced by the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). From politics to economy and from military to diplomacy, think tanks in China providing consultation and advice to the Government have seen a phenomenal growth. Today, China has the second largest think tanks in the world after the US. The world clearly is a closely knit one — of networks between politics, public relations and between lobbying companies, corporates and think tanks.

While all think tanks may be characterised as the ‘bridge’ — not all of them do the same things or have the same degree of financial and intellectual independence. Think tanks are often criticised for not being scholarly (meaning shallow), but also admired for their proximity or links with politics or business (meaning networking). But what truly should be common to think tanks is the ability to come out with bold statements, or to present a big idea or even to give an interesting angle to a story in the media. As the relevance of think tanks grows, some critical questions continue to emerge: What is the credibility of the think tanks research or, in other words, how do they produce knowledge? How and in what ways are think tanks influential in advising on policy formulation? Is it objective and balanced expertise or partisan advice? It is interesting to evaluate these in the Indian context, in particular with national security think tanks.

Their role in the Indian context

India has had experiences of think tanks working on defence and security issues, but there is no accurate measurement of how much they have influenced polices. While in many parts of the world the fusion of think tanks to policy is refined, in India the why, what and how of a think tank role is still an unsettled debate and tends to get lost in the rigmarole of decision-making. The TTCSP report places three Indian institutions in the world’s top 65 national security think tanks. The Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) is ranked 38, followed by the more recent Centre for Land Warfare Studies at 48 and the Observer Research Foundation at 52.

Interestingly, some section of the strategic community refuses to accept organisations like the United Service Institute (USI) of India as a think tank. Ironically, almost all writings on think tanks recognise the London-based Royal United Services for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI) established in 1831 as a classical think tank. Sceptics maintain that the USI of India is tasked to promote ‘strategic culture’ through events and not by conducting research. Another view maintains that the Centre for Land Warfare Studies, the Centre for Air Power Studies and the National Maritime Foundation are hardly think tanks, but merely lobbyists for their respective services. These assertions are not based on sound logic or facts. In reality, all are engaged in what any typical think tank is supposed to do.

The problem is systemic with an over centralised decision-making that is often ignorant and chary of engaging with the think tanks. So to suggest that the policy process is not getting enough input is merely deriding and scoffing think tanks. Policymakers should be warm to accept intellectual inputs. The problem, therefore, is of the policy environment in which Indian think tanks are operating and this requires radical changes. Moreover, the meaning and value of knowledge itself in the 21st century is different — knowledge is for what it can do. The internet revolution and globalisation are pushing information rapidly in the public domain. The exclusivity of information with a few, as in the past, is no longer relevant today, and the elitist approach to decision-making in times of complex interconnectivity can only lead to lame and rickety policies. No one sector has a monopoly on wisdom.

The think tank sector in India is unlike the US where there is a ‘revolving door’ between the bureaucracy and the policy research community. Think tanks in the US find various entry points and have multiple opportunities to convey their ideas and expertise, including the Congressional hearings. In India, this process is inherently difficult but there is undoubtedly a requirement to reorient the national security policy-making process with rather than without think tanks.

Do Indian think tanks have the capacity to contribute to the decision-making for national and global security? Despite operating against heavy odds, think tanks have contributed to the national security discourse and continue to do so. Not all research and findings are policy-oriented and not all works are adopted, but some do find way into the policy output. However, think tanks will have to undergo major transformation. While most of the think tanks have a general idea of what they want to achieve not all have a clear plan to ensure success. Think tank analysts seldom plan or strategise their impact and get swayed with the tag of advising and influencing policymaking without knowing how to advise or how to influence. Public policy is a competitive area with too much noise and researchers will have to know the audience.

Think tankers also miss the wider objective, for example sensitising and alerting issues, forming a network of common experts to collaborate for specific purpose, what is known as ‘collectivising intelligence’, and establishing contacts in the Government, security agencies and the media to communicate ideas. Think tankers will need to acquire a new set of skills and arm themselves with new methods. Social network analysis, net assessment, scenario building have made unique difference to policy decision, especially by suggesting options based on various situations. Indian think tanks have to use new methodologies going beyond the traditional methods, such as net assessment and scenario building. Soon the Indian think tanks and universities should be capable of developing new and advanced methods in India.  Ideas and inputs need to have legs to reach the policy door. Until think tanks develop, package and market ideas, their role will be ineffectual.

In India, admittedly, the acceptance rate of think tank inputs is low in policy exercise. But it doesn’t need to stay that way especially in times of new international situations where quick thinking and responses are required to handle unexpected crisis. As India’s world view and involvement enters a more comprehensive period with sweeping changes, Modi will need to push the system and the national security apparatus for actively engaging with think tanks and including them in Government work. There is nothing schizophrenic about think tanks. In fact, the synchronisation will only help create an environment that enables new thinking and bold approaches with an end objective of well-prepared policy outcomes.

Managing think tanks in a changing world

The leadership issue has always been one of long standing debate, particularly in Government-funded institutes. Currently, most of the defence and security think tanks including IDSA, the grand daddy of them all, are monopolised by the retired community of civil bureaucracy, diplomacy and the armed forces — what is pungently described as institutions with retiring rooms. Is there something wrong with this picture? It depends on how one looks at it and from which angle.

At one level the argument is a convincing one that since think tanks are policy-oriented and not universities, Government officials with experience in the nitty-gritty of decision-making and the intricate knowledge of the system are well-suited to head think tanks primarily to facilitate and synergise research and bureaucracy. The problem is that the retired tag has little traction in the Government and those who retire to head institutions are immediately put on the margins. Does it then merit a serving high-ranking official to head a Government think tank? It would seem rational as the chosen person will carry the official weight to channel thinking into the policy circle, but this ‘revolving door’ approach has to be streamlined and the selection has to be a considered exercise and not seen as ‘officials-in-exile’ from the Government.

Importantly, after completing the stint there has to be an incentive of a more powerful and challenging position in the Government. Another constituency that aspires to lead strategic think tank is the Armed Forces. There is a growing belief amongst military personnel, as they compete for post-retirement positions, that soldiering and strategic thinking is akin. A thinking soldier is a hedge against strategic uncertainties but to expect a retired military man to break intellectual entrenchment or to advance evidence-based and informed policy ideas is probably expecting too much. Eventually, with a hierarchical civil bureaucracy a military head will only end up bookkeeping.   

It is an irony that the discussion on think tank leadership finds strategic analysts on the sidelines. Can they not head think tanks in which they have contributed for long years? If they are part of the strategic community and strategic thinking — and there are many world-acclaimed Indian strategic experts — why cannot they assume leadership role? Unfortunately, the voice for ‘giving research institutes to researchers’ has not enjoyed acceptability in the bureaucracy; a reflection of the age-long contestation between merit and power. The debate will continue but most importantly whatever headship a think tank ends up with, the question is whether those in charge understand the dynamics of think tanks. Surely, think tanks want leadership that extols ideas, encourages conceptualisation and backs its researchers rather than propagate bureaucratic functioning. It is time to defocus on the leaders and concentrate on making research purposeful. Think tanks’ bosses will come and go but professional researchers will continue to occupy the intellectual space. However, they should be prepared for demand for more rigorous innovative research in quick time.

Some believe that the Government funding influences the outcome of think tanks, and as a result independent ideas are not generated. It is a myth. IDSA is a good example, having enjoyed unmitigated freedom in research and thinking with hundred per cent funding.

In Europe, Government funding gives more credence to research project. According to an estimate, around 70 per cent of the funding of the leading US think tanks comes from the Government. On the contrary, industry or foreign funding does not guarantee that research will be without strings attached. Funding is critically important for think tanks, but how they manage their resources is equally important. It is pitiable to see gross administrative bulge in think tanks where funding is fundamentally for research and researchers. While Government-funded think tanks of advanced industrial countries invest in field trips for better results, in India austerity is cited as the reason for denial. It is a different matter that grants are spent on frivolous matters and extending patronage to something which has nothing to do with research.

Think tanks are a great strength to the country and enrich public policy debates.  IDSA, which will soon mark 50 years of existence, is a testimony to that. Its outreach through its peer reviewed publications and website, according to Alexa ranking, outshines many acclaimed think tanks like SIPRI, Chatham House, Carnegie Endowment and IISS. The legacy of IDSA is in building a strategic culture and collective national expertise, which every Government should have the right to call upon them when taking critical decisions. Sure the Government faces budgetary constraints but it should not deter thinking and the spirit for reforms and solutions. Modi’s strong vision for India is a rally call for think tanks. If we miss the opportunity to intervene properly in global security governance in which think tanks are serious actors, the country will dither in the long run.

The writers are senior researchers at IDSA


No Plastic bottel for water – san-francisco Bans on Plastic water bootle.

सैन फ्रांसिस्को दुनिया का पहला शहर बन गया है, जहां बोतलबंद पानी की बिक्री रोक दी गई है ..नौ महीने चली बहस के बाद .. ये निर्णय हुआ कि नागरिक अपनी बोतल में… मुफ्त पानी उपलब्ध कराने वाले पॉइंट से पानी ले सकते हैं… बहस में उन्होंने माना … कि प्रकृति द्वारा प्रदत्त जीवन के लिए अत्यावश्यक … जल का बाजारीकरण नहीं होना चाहिए … अफ़सोस हिंदुस्तान में लोग जहां प्याऊ चलवाते थे … कुंए, तालाब खुदवाते थे … वहां विदेशी कम्पनी लूट रही हैं … और सैन फ्रांसिस्को हिन्दुस्तानी विचारधारा अपना रहा है … कि पानी कभी बेचा नहीं जाना चाहिए ….!
यदि उक्त लेख आपको उपयुक्त लगे तो इसे यथासंभव विस्तारित कर भूखे को रोटी और प्यासे को पानी देने की हमारी प्राचीन परंपरा को संबल दे ।

“Hindutva is the identity of our nation” – Mohan Bhagabat

Bharat and Hindutva are akin to the flow of the Ganga which assimilates Yamuna and many other rivers and yet maintains its sanctity and harmonious nature and is still known as the Ganga and has been flowing continuously since time immemorial. The same was conveyed earlier by Ravindra Nath Tagore and S Radhakrishnan too, which was reiterated by Shri Mohan Bhagwat during opening speech of VHP’s Golden Jubilee celebrations at Mumbai. He said there     “Hindutva is the identity of our nation”.Mohanji At Nagpur Vijaya Dashami utshav