Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year Wishes and Thoughts 2012

I have always tried to write a personal message to family and friends on the eve of the New Year even in the old days when it was fashionable to send printed cards. Now that it is all electronic, greetings have become even more impersonal as, at the touch of a button, you can greet all contacts. I think it will be a bit more meaningful to share some news and thoughts with friends and relatives, particularly with whom one is not in regular touch.

Many of you have sent greetings and good wishes to Lekha and me on the occasion of Christmas and New Year. Please accept this note as personal acknowledgement of your kind thoughts. We also wish you the very best for 2012. We look forward to hearing good news from you and your family all  through next year.

The year 2011 was fairly peaceful and pleasant for us. Sree, Roopa, Durga and Krishna in New York reported personal successes. Shree and Sharu moved from Delhi to Dubai and began enjoying their new home. I continued with my reading, writing and speaking in India and abroad. A second term on the National Security Advisory Board turned out to be rewarding throughout the year. I was also invited to the India-UK Round Table and I enjoyed the first meeting in Surajkund.
A totally unexpected offer to serve as the Executive Vice-Chairman of the Kerala Higher Education Council came in October, marking a change in routine. Working for the Kerala Government for the first time has its own challenges. I was pleasantly surprised that political parties on both sides in Kerala supported my appointment. Life has become hectic with numerous meetings with a multitude of stake holders and many invitations to speak at conferences and seminars. I am also trying to maintain my reading and writing on foreign affairs. The Kerala International Centre and my weekly television programme on foreign affairs continue as before.

The year began with a happy note as Lekha's brother's daughter, Prarthana got married. The year ended with an addition to the family when Radhika, Lekha's sister's daughter and Hari decided to bring home a baby, Rukmini, to be their daughter.

We had a major loss this year when our close friend since 1980, Dr Mathew Illickal, passed away in New York. He and his wife, Lilykutty took care of us each time we went to New York, having been friends with us during our postings to the US. I happened to be in the US when Dr.Illickal died after a short illness and I was able to attend his funeral and pay my tribute to him.

My book on the Shashi Tharoor campaign was published this year and it was released in Thiruvananthapuram by the Kerala Chief Minister. The book was well received and sold throughout the country and it also received good reviews.

Another project that started this year was the NSS Institute for Civil Services in Thiruvananthapuram. The NSS leadership gave me a free hand to plan and execute the project and it is going well.
Lekha has been busy running a Karuna Short Stay Home for cancer patients and their care givers near the Medical College Hospital. She and her associates have manged to run it and also feed the hungry every week in the Medical College during the year 2011 and expect to do so in the new year also.
In Kerala, the major event was the change of Government. Though the new Government has only a narrow majority, the Government under the immensely popular Shri. Oommen Chandy has been working with vigour. The opposition is also very active. The treasure found at the Padmanabhaswamy Temple and the dispute over the Mullaperiyar dam attracted world attention. Both the issues need to be tackled with utmost care.
Corruption issues and the Anna Hazare movement engaged national attention throughout the year. The setback to the Hazare movement at the end of the year showed that the general public has reached another level of tolerance of corruption.
In foreign policy, India developed the art of hedging to such an extent that it is difficult to see the direction it is taking. But skilful management of day to day issues is quite visible.
The world is gearing itself for another recession in the wake of the Euro crisis, but Barack Obama seems to be recovering from his loss of approval at the end of the year. Protesters have replaced the terrorists as the news makers this year, but we do not know yet what the protesters will accomplish. The Egyptian and Libyan springs are turning into nightmares already and this may slow down democracy movements elsewhere. Stability may appear more desirable than a chaotic quest for democracy.
2011 was a horrible year for nuclear power. I was personally alarmed by the Fukushima accident as I watched the developments with bated breath. Any such accident can set the clock back on nuclear power for years. It is no point saying that nobody died in Fukushima of radiation or swearing that all other plants are safe. Such arguments carry  no conviction. The world must think how it can move away from dependence on nuclear power one day, however distant that day may be.
All said and done, 2011 was not only a year of fear, but also of hope. Let us sustain the hope in the New Year and build a beautiful 2012.


Friday, December 23, 2011

Inaugural Address at the Colloquium on China at the Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam. Dec 23, 2011

I am grateful that the Mahatma Gandhi University has invited me to inaugurate this colloquium on China. I welcome this opportunity to return to foreign affairs in the midst of my preoccupations with the issues of higher education in Kerala since the last two months. 

I am glad that this colloquium is under the auspices of the KPS Menon Chair. Though Shri. KPS Menon was identified with Indo-Soviet ties by the time I came to know him in Moscow, he had a pioneering role in Sino-Indian relations. We know his contribution through his books and the legends about him, but I know personally how charming and gracious he was. I congratulate Prof. TV Paul on assuming the Chair established in the name of one of our greatest diplomats.

I am no expert on China, but I have followed Sino-Indian relations and I have occasionally expressed my views on them. The last time I wrote about China in December 2010 soon after the visit of the Chinese Prime Minister to India provoked a response from the Global Times, the voice of China. I said then: “ We have assurances from those who know China well that that 1962 will not happen again. They contend that China is no more an isolated dragon… As it has grown large and powerful, it has become domesticated and would like to tango with the elephant. The elephant can relax in the thought that the dragon will not step on its toes or its fiery breath will not incinerate it.”

I went on to say, however, that there was clear evidence to show that there were more contentious issues between the two countries in 2010 than in 1962. I made a list of the issues that provoked a war in 1962 and a list of issues that plagued the relationship in 2010 and drew the obvious conclusion that the second list was longer. In addition to the land occupied by China in Ladakh and Kashmir, their claim of Arunachal Pradesh, the stapled visa, more nuclear stations for Pakistan, and the disappearance of 1600 km of the border between India and China in Chinese maps. The only silver lining was that India and China were cooperating at the international fora. “Otherwise, those who know China would not be complacent enough to think that the Chinese threat is an illusion”, I concluded.

In a sharp reaction to my article, The Global Times, the official voice of China said, “Some people in India continue to make provocative statements with regard to China-India relations. A few days ago, former Indian Ambassador, Mr.T.P.Sreenivasan made an irresponsible assertion that the future of China-India relations is bound to result in conflict. He also said that “the current state of China-India relations is even worse than 1962.” The Global Times did not deny the points raised by me, but quoted the then Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and our President to the effect that the friendly relations between the two peoples would last for generations.

In my article, I had commented positively on India-China cooperation in the multilateral arena. I would like to examine today whether this cooperation is entirely benign or dictated by selfish considerations on the part of China.

The most recent occasion when India and China worked together was at the Durbin conference on climate change. The Chinese delegate was the first to support our Environment Minister when she said that India would not surrender the principle of burden sharing between rich and poor. “We should maintain the principle of common, but differentiated responsibility”, said the Chinese delegate. But a close examination of the Chinese position since the Rio summit of 1992 will show that China has been hiding behind India in the climate talks, while increasing its CO2 emissions, reaching a higher level of emissions than the US. China’s share in emissions is 23%, while the US has 18.11% and India’s share is only 5.78%. Our argument of per capita emissions suited China and it argued for equity, but it worked closely with the developed countries before and during the Copenhagen conference for a new consensus on climate, which eventually resulted in the virtual rejection of the Kyoto Protocol. Faced with the possibility of being subjected to mandatory cuts in emissions, China decided to let the US off the hook. It was the shift in the Chinese position that resulted in a Copenhagen package, which was rejected by most developing countries. China hides behind India in the environment debate, but works with the developed world to protect its own interests.

The situation is not very dissimilar in the case of trade, another area in which India and China cooperate in the multilateral system. Both India and China are committed to an open, fair, equitable, transparent and rule based multilateral trading system, in cooperation with other developing countries. We demand measures to eliminate trade distortions and to open their markets. At the same time, China has itself imposed trade restrictions on certain items in India and built up a trade imbalance with us. Even while professing solidarity with the developing countries, China has been making deals with the developed countries to develop its own trade.

In fact, the fundamental posture that China adopts in the UN is that it is uncompromisingly on the side of the developing countries. The joke is that a Chinese representative said that “China is a developing country and it shall always remain one.” China sees itself as a developing country and identifies itself with the G-77 without becoming a member. Even when it is vying for the position of world number one with the US and hobnobbing with the other permanent members, it finds it convenient to have the developing country image. The celebrated Chinese veto against Waldheim over and over again when he sought a third term as the UN Secretary General endeared China to the developing world. There are other examples of this kind. But China rarely confronts the western P-3 and has developed the practice of abstention, which, in effect, is a positive vote. The Charter prescribes that the concurring votes of the five permanent members are necessary to adopt a resolution, but many crucial resolutions, including the last one on Libya, which were adopted with Chinese abstentions. The double face of china in the UN needs no further elaboration.

As members of the Asian Group, India and China often come face to face for posts in which both are interested and in the name of cooperation, we make adjustments and let China retain positions for years together. This year, however, India decided to challenge China’s effort to retain a position on the Joint Inspection Unit after serving on it for ten years continuously. India had not served on it since 1977 and was fully entitled to it on the basis of rotation. Even though the Chinese candidate happened to be the Chinese Ambassador to India, we decided to contest and won it with a clear majority. I am sure that China must have played its solidarity card to persuade India to withdraw. Our victory in the first ever direct contest between India and China was indeed a landmark for us in the UN. The presumption that a permanent member can win any election was proved wrong several times in the case of the US because the US often took positions against developing countries, but this is the first time that another developing country confronts China and defeats it. This shows that the world at large has begun to question China’s profession of being a champion of the developing world.

China’s position on the expansion of the Security Council is a classic case of double talk. China professes that it supports the interests of the developing countries, most of whom wish to see an expansion. In the case of India, China maintains that it wants India to play a bigger role in the Security Council. But China has not even gone as far as the US in support of the Indian aspiration. China hides behind the US in its opposition to the expansion of the Security Council and it will not hesitate to use the veto if the situation warrants it. China is firm in its position as a permanent member and acts in that spirit even when giving lip service to G-77 solidarity.

India-China cooperation is the first casualty when India-Pakistan differences come to surface. We are aware as to how China argued in favour of a nuclear deal for Pakistan. When it failed to block the US-India deal, China supplied two reactors to Pakistan in open violation of the NSG guidelines. Pakistan’s objection to the expansion of the Security Council is also a factor in the Chinese position.

In conclusion, I would suggest that we should be cautious about China not only on our border, but also at the UN and other multilateral fora. China will not hesitate to be adversarial even there if it feels challenged by us.

Thank you.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Quality in Higher Education and Research: Par with International Standards

By T.P.Sreenivasan.

(Remarks at the Conference of Vice-Chancellors, Kochi. Dec 16, 2012)

I am grateful to the Vice Chancellor of Cochin University and the AIU for inviting me to participate in this conference of the top educationists of India. I was delighted also to hear an inspiring address by the Chairman of the University Grants Commission.

Diplomacy, they say, is so important that it cannot be left to the diplomats alone. Similarly, education too is too important to be left to educationists alone. Perhaps, it is for this reason that I have been asked to head the Kerala State Higher education Council, which I represent at this conference.What encourages me is the fact that some good educationists have become good ambassadors and some good ambassadors have become good educationists in the past.

The theme of today's discussion on quality of higher education in India with reference to international standards will itself raise controversies. World class education and international standards have been rejected by some sections of the Indian intelligentsia. When I said at the Kannur University the other day that I was sad to know that none of our universities or IITs had figured in a list of world class universities, I was told by an economist that he was not bothered about such lists, which made odious comparisons.He would prefer to have our own system of education, focusing on our culture and traditions. My observation that my endeavour is to make our graduates competitive nationally and internationally, he said that the purpose of education was to create " organic intellectuals". I would not go into that debate now. I would merely examine whether some of the methods used in other countries can be helpful to us in improving our own standards.

If the objective of giving world class education to our students is accepted, international standards and systems of education must be studied and an effort should be made adopt the best practices, wherever they are found. I would bring some of these to your attention and discuss how we can adopt them for our own needs.

We claim that we have succeeded in enhancing quantity, if not quality, in education. but the fact of the matter is that our gross enrollment ratio is only 15% and we are planning to increase it to 30% by 2020.This would mean 30 million students more, 1000 universities more, 50,000 colleges more and one million teachers more, as pointed out by our HRD Minister at the recent Washington summit. The Foreign Education Bill, when enacted, will facilitate entry of foreign universities, but such universities  will not be able to repatriate profits. They would, however, benefit from their exposure to Indian academic life, it was stated. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton  pointed out that there was a wide gap between India's needs and what the US can do. But we can certainly benefit from some of the reforms introduced in other countries.

Developing countries are generally resistant to western concepts for fear that they will impose cultural, political and economic priorities of imperialism. Ideological crystallization has led to reaffirmation of the sovereignty of states and the belief that quality has been colonised by consumerism and commoditisation of education.

Quality evaluation and assessment are fairly new features of education in Europe and the United States.Till 1990, it was believed that quality was implicit in university education, but gradually, the concept of external evaluation came to be accepted. As a result, external examination system was introduced in the UK, the US adopted a system of accreditation and Ministerial control of education became fashionable in much of Europe. With massification, internationalisation and marketisation of education, it became necessary to evaluate higher education despite calls for autonomy of universities. India adopted the assessment and accreditation system in recent years and NAAC has been a success in aiming at excellence and equity driven growth in higher education. Following this example, the Kerala State Higher education Council has decided to explore the possibility of setting up a state assessment machinery to continuously assess institutions and teachers, with a view to providing them incentives for better performance.

Professionalization of education is another feature that we can emulate from the western world. Students are diverted to professions early in life. The community colleges in the US provide models for training and retraining the work force and creating employment opportunities.

Academic freedom, autonomy and accountability are well defined in western education. Academic freedom is universal and absolute, while autonomy is parochial and relative. Universities are accountable to a variety of clients, in addition to the Governments. They are accountable to the students, the parents and the business community. We must remove intellectual fetters from the universities, but hold them accountable to the society. Autonomy should not be used to undermine accountability.

Emphasis on research even at the undergraduate level is another feature of western education we should emulate. Research can play a central role in promoting informed deliberations. Research remains abysmally low in India even at the graduate level and this needs to be changed in accordance with international standards.

Frequent changes in curriculum to reflect the changes in society is a feature of western education. In fact, changes in curriculum become forces for social change in certain circumstances. In the US, the curriculum swings from tradition and conservatism to experimentation and growth as social movements become the key motivator for curricular change. In our system, curricular changes are few and far between. A dynamic curriculum should be the hallmark of any vibrant education system.

Education in many countries need to cope with increasing diversity in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, class, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability. Higher education has a role in achieving the promise of democracy and a pluralistic society. In India, diversity is a reality that has been taken into account in educational reform. Some of the experiments in other countries to cope with diversity by prescribing different methodologies may be relevant to our own higher education.

My point is not that our quest for quality in higher education should be guided only by international practices and standards. We should suit our own genius and circumstances in fashioning a system of our own. My effort was just to point out certain features of external experiences, which may be relevant  to our reform efforts.

Thank you.


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Kanthari, the chilli that makes a difference By T.P.Sreenivasan I was at an unusual convocation at what was till recently called the International Institute for Social Entrepreneurs on the Vellayani lake in the outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram. As the graduates walked up to me to receive a sash and a diploma each, it became evident that each one was physically challenged in one way or another. Each one needed help, either of another person or a cane. They were all of different complexions and different sizes and ages, ranging from 18 to 60. But each one was smiling and each one had a plan for the future. One wanted to open an internet cafe in Palestine, another wanted to open a school in Kenya, yet another one wanted to set up a home for AIDS patients in Zimbwabwe. They were brimming with hope and confidence and determined to make a difference to the world. Sensing the mood of the graduates and knowing each one of them closely, the promoters of the institution on behalf of the "Braille without Borders Foundation", Sabriye and Paul announced a change of name, "Kanthari". The Malayali audience was surprised and amused that an institution is named after the smallest and the most potent chilli in the world. Sabriye and her team had indeed studied the Kanthari well. She said it grew wild in the backyards of homes with no tender care, it produced colourful and potent chillies that would make a big difference to the palate, when eaten cooked or uncooked and no one will forget the Kanthari once it has been tasted. These graduates, she said. were like Kanthari in every respect. Sabriye, blind herself and determined, is indeed a Kanthari, which has already made a difference to many people in different parts of the world. The name 'Kanthari' also resonated, by chance, with Gandhari, the legendary wife of Dhritarashtra, who voluntarily blindfolded herself in empathy with her blind husband. Sabriye and Paul, two Germans, who spent twelve years in Tibet, helping the blind there, won the approbation not only of Tibetans, but also the Beijing authorities, who awarded them an honour given earlier to Marx and Engels. They found their way to Kerala in 2009 to find a beautiful spot, which, ironically, Sabriye herself and most participants would not see. They had immense success with volunteers, donors and bewildered well- wishers who helped them set up a home for about forty participants from around the globe. Social projects that improve the quality of blind, visually impaired people and marginalized target groups were devised and invitations went around the world. It made no segregation between the able and disabled, educated and uneducated, young and old. Those who were admitted in the last three years were people who had overcome significant life challenges ranging from vision impairment, dsability, poverty, war, discrimination and exploitation. Having experienced or witnessed atrocities of various kinds. they had a passion to make the world a better place and the strength to be forces of good rather than victims of circumstance. The graduates will return to their homes with the necessary skills to succeed as social entrepreneurs such as management, public speaking, communication, leadership, fund raising, budgeting, book keeping and others. The course has been curtailed from eleven months to seven to have two groups per year. Some are self supporting, while others have scholarships. The graduation this year celebrated "One World, Many Flavours" and I shared my experience of living in different cultures. The flavours differed so much in different countries in food, drinks and manners, but human beings were the same, I said. To take just one example, the national drink in different countries differed so much that it alone would pose a challenge to outsiders. The participants appeared to have lost all barriers during their stay at the Kanthari. They seemed fully equipped to face the challenges of their life ahead with no inhibition about their disabilities. They had turned themselves into kantharis, with enough spice in them to change the world -

Friday, December 02, 2011

Prof .K.A.Isaac Commemoration Lecture 2011
Education for a Changing World
Dec 2, 2011

I am delighted to be back in the precincts of the Kerala University Library, where I spent the best part of my best years as a student of the UniversityCollege. I was invited here on an earlier occasion in connection with the acquisition of UN documentation by the Library, but today I am here as the Executive Vice-Chairman of the Kerala Higher Education Council to pay my tribute to the legendary librarian of Kerala, Prof.K.A.Isaac, by delivering his Commemoration Lecture, 2011. Even during my days here as a young student between 1961 and 1966, Prof.Isaac was well known for his scholarship and administrative skill. If I remember right, the University Library moved here at that time and I was among the first batch of students who benefited from the change of venue. In my view, Prof.Isaac was not just a great librarian and a great teacher; he transformed library science and the profession of librarians into a noble and sought after vocation. Till his time, nobody had thought that there was not only science, but also art in taking care of books and making knowledge available to those who seek it. Long before the advent of the computers, he made it possible for students like us to find the right books at the right time. The librarian was as important as the teacher. His contribution will be remembered for long by those of us who were fortunate enough to use this library.

If you had asked me to deliver this lecture two months ago, I would have chosen a different topic, but still connected to the dramatic changes in the world.. I would have spoken of, say, Indian diplomacy in the new world context. Today, my thoughts are focused on higher education in Kerala in the context of the changing world. Like diplomacy, education must also change to suit the needs of the new world, which is changing at a bewildering pace. No other time in history has mankind been subjected to so many changes in a single lifetime. If we look back at the world of just twenty years ago, we would realize the speed and extent of the changes that have overtaken us. Today, we have begun to look upon a person without a cell phone or an email address as though he came from the Neolithic age. But none of us had even heard about such things even twenty years ago. We have no clue what we will be writing with or what we will be speaking into in the next ten, or even five years.

In such a situation, our education today is aimed at a generation which will run this state, this country and this world in the next thirty, forty or fifty years. The question to be asked is whether the education we provide to our children will be beneficial to them in the years 2030 or 2050, about which we know very little. Unless we can comprehend the changes in the offing and try to devise a dynamic education system, we shall be doing a disservice to the future generations. The case for critically examining the curriculum, overhauling, updating and injecting life into it needs no further elaboration.

We have to assess the content of our curricula to identify what to keep, what to cut, and what to create, and where portfolios and other new kinds of assessment fit into the picture. We have to examine programme structures to see how to improve our use of time and space and grouping of teachers and students. We have to see how technology is transforming teaching and how to take advantage of the natural facility of students with technology. We have to identify the best resources for helping students become informed users of multiple forms of media. The challenges of globalization are no less important. At the same time, we have to instill in them enduring values and beliefs that will lead to healthier local, national and global communities. Above all, we have to find the thinking habits that students, teachers, and administrators need to develop and practice to succeed in school, work and life. In other words, our educational institutions should be transformed into learning organizations that match the times we live in and the world in which our children and grandchildren are likely to face.

This bewildering catalogue of reforms required in education have been identified by educationists in other countries too, but the challenges are more acute in India and particularly Kerala, where our graduates have to seek employment in countries, where life is changing even at a faster pace. If we cannot cope with the changes in our own backyard, it is even harder to anticipate the needs of other parts of the world. Needless to say, the changing world has made changes imperative in our education system. Changes have been made in the past and sometimes parents and students have lamented frequent changes with no apparent purpose. There has been no dearth of Commissions and Committees, recommendations or exhortations. Education remains like a patient, whose illness has been diagnosed and medicines prescribed, but no treatment administered.

One can also argue against major changes, as some do even today. Our graduates have done reasonably well in different countries and have competed successfully against the graduates of the best universities in the world. We have even instances of self made men, with little or formal education, rising to become millionaires. When we have to educate the masses with scarce resources, we have to focus on quantity rather than quality. Huge investments are not necessary for Kerala model development, which has registered indicators that can match those in the developed world. If the system has largely met our needs, do we need to make massive investments on innovation and reform?

None of us has ready answers to the need for educational reform, but from the diagnosis made by experts, one can at least identify the direction in which we should go. Since increasing educated unemployment is a pressing issue, the obvious answer is to set up courses that will increase the employability of our graduates. We need to anticipate new avenues of employment and design courses that will equip our graduates for these jobs. Weakening of student motivation can be dealt with only by incentives and disincentives. Increasing unrest and indiscipline in campuses should be handled with tact and firmness. Deterioration of standards demands better teachers and better methods of teaching.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh identified politicization of university education as a curse. This is not to be confused with student politics. University campuses have thrown up some competent politicians and more people with talents and skills will enter politics only if they have early training and experience in politics. What ails the system is the tendency to politicize appointments in education at all levels.

Our university system is particularly resistant to change. When experiments and innovations are attempted, they are resisted and if they are enforced, they are implemented half-heartedly. Such innovations as the merit promotion scheme, faculty improvement programme, vocationalisation of courses, and semesterization of courses, annual self appraisal report, college development council, academic staff colleges and refresher and orientation courses have faced different degrees of resistance.

Privatization of higher education has helped in many ways to fill the gap between our needs and the paucity of state resources. The globalization and liberalization have demanded such infusion of private initiative, innovation and entrepreneurship. But private institutions sometimes find it difficult to resist profiteering and further, they accentuate the social divide. Kerala can be legitimately proud of several private institutions, which constantly strive to reach excellence. In fact, some of them have the potential to become world class institutions. Combined with greater participation of the industry at the planning level and increased investment, the private institutions should be able to make a major contribution to educational reform in the state.
The need for reform in education for a changing world is beyond question. The magnitude of the problem and its complexity are such that changes can become only gradually and slowly. But an important and immediate need is to give all institutions a level playing field and give them an equal opportunity to achieve excellence. The world had committed itself to expend nine percent of its GDP to education and health at the dawn of the millennium. Many countries, including India, have not reached that target as yet and a movement has started, in which children demanded, "Nine is Mine". Additional resources and imaginative and innovative changes are needed to have an educational system for the changing world.

Against the backdrop of the need for reform and innovation, the role of the Kerala Higher Education Council is modest. It is less than five years old and its impact on higher education is yet to be felt. But it has already made a beginning and the new Council, less than two months old, has formed its Agenda 2012, consisting of implementation of some of the decisions of the previous Council and some new proposals. The Agenda 2012 is neither comprehensive, nor exclusive. We are open to suggestions and proposals from the academic community and experts. A consultative process has already begun and our doors remain open. As it stands today, Agenda 2012 reads as follows:

Existing Agenda

1. Programme of Scholarships
2. Restructuring Undergraduate Education
3. Erudite Programme
4. Journal
5. Review of University Acts
6. Restructuring of Postgraduate education
7. State policy on Higher Education
8. Anti-ragging Campaign

New Agenda
2. Institutions -Industry Linkages
3. Building of Institutions of Excellence
4. Training Programmes for Teachers
5. Students and Teachers Exchange Programmes
6. Seminars and conferences
7. Assist the Government in setting up an IIT and Malayalam University
8. Vision 2030 (Education)
9. Right to Education Act- Special Course for Teachers

An additional thought that the Council has is to seek collaboration with some of the world class universities. A Kerala delegation was in London last week to attend an important meeting of the UK-Kerala Forum organized by a British Member of Parliament, Mr.Virendra Sharma, who has developed extraordinary interest in British investments in Kerala after a recent visit to Kerala. He is being characterized as Kerala's Member in the British Parliament. He not only chaired the meeting, but also involved his friends in the British Parliament and major British agencies and companies in the consultations. Our Minister, Mr. Shibu Baby John, our MP, Mr. Anto Antony, our MLAs, Mr.Mons Joseph, Mr. T.U.Kuruvilla and Mr. Randathani participated in the consultations. An enthusiastic group of private entrepreneurs in the UK and in Kerala facilitated this important event, which was held in the British Parliament building itself. I have had detailed consultations with universities and other institutions in the meeting itself and outside. Similar consultations will be held with institutions in other countries. I have no doubt that fruitful collaboration can be established within the guidelines for such cooperation established by the Government.

India has a long tradition of running world class institutions, which have attracted scholars from other countries of the world. Some aspects of the ancient system of Gurukulam education are being rediscovered today. But the influence of the colonial system and the educational system devised to meet its needs have been largely responsible for the deterioration of our standards and distortion of our objectives. Today, even our best universities do not figure on the list of the best world class universities. The time has come for us to build institutions of excellence once again, rooted in our traditions, but capable to meet the challenges of change.

Thank you.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Kerala's Voice Heard in a British Parliament chamber for the first time

Anto Antony, a young Congress MP from Kerala became the first to speak about Kerala in the hallowed precincts of the British Parliament building. The occasion was an unprecedented meeting of the UK-Kerala Business Forum in a chamber named after William Pitt, chaired by Virendra Sharma, MP of the House of Commons. The honour was shared by Kerala Minister Shibu Baby John and former ambassador T.P.Sreenivasan, VC, KSHEC, who answered questions from the British MPs gathered there for the occasion. In attendance was a large contingent of Kerala businessmen in the UK

Antony spoke of the cultural links between India and the UK and the features that make Kerala an ideal destination for British tourists and investors. He laid out a number of avenues for cooperation between the UK and Kerala. He made a convincing case for investments in education, infrastructure, IT, health care, waste management, renewable energy and others.

In the discussion that followed, the British M.Ps raised a number of questions, including Communism in Kerala, the caste system and tourism potential. The Kerala delegation gave convincing answers and the gathering agreed that collaboration projects should be initiated immediately, given the potential of Kerala and the keenness of the British industry to diversify its presence in India.

In a separate session with the concerned British agencies and industrial houses, supplemented by leading Kerala businessmen, again chaired by Virendra Sharma, Antony and Sreenivasan made specific proposals for collaboration. These were analyzed by the concerned agencies in a preliminary manner and it was agreed that as many British businessmen as possible should attend the Investment Forum being planned in Kochi in 2012.

The following areas were identified for preparation of detailed studies by the two sides:
Waste Management
Power and Energy

As for modalities, it was suggested that the Kerala side would submit to the UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) detailed proposals for a dozen projects. Kerala would work initially with Middlesex University and the Commonwealth Business School to explore possibilities in education and that the UK-Kerala Forum would receive British proposals and forward them to the Kerala Government.

Some members of the Kerala delegation, notably MLAs Mons Joseph and TUKuruvilla, who arrived late, participated in the informal discussions after the meeting.

Full credit should be given to the UK-Kerala Forum led by Virendra Sharma MP, Philip Abraham, George and Pius, who not only made perfect arrangements in London, but also made every effort to ensure adequate representation from Kerala.

Anto Antony MP was extremely enthusiastic and gave strong leadership to the Kerala delegation. His interaction at all levels helped the deliberations.

The only snag was that several members could not get their visas on time.The visa issue was noted as detrimental to the growth of business relations.

As the first meeting of a new initiative by Virendra Sharma and a group of Keralites in the UK, it was a great success But efficient follow up action is essential to move forward.

Vice-Chairman, KSHEC

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Inaugural Address of Kalpatha 2011 by

Former Ambassador T.P.Sreenivasan

Vice-Chairman, KSHEC at Technopark on Nov 19, 2011

Thank you for inviting me to inaugurate Kalpatha 2011, a two day national conference on the topic of "Business Innovation The New Age Survival Mantra". You have invited me at a time when I am in the process of reinventing myself. To put it in computer terminology, I am struggling to put new software into the hardware that is accustomed to a different set of circumstances and demands. After being an evangelist of foreign policy and strategic thinking, I have now moved to the academic world, with a mandate to help the Kerala Government formulate its policy on higher education. My only consolation is that there have been several diplomats before me, who made the switch and done as well in academics as in diplomacy. In a way, my own appointment as the Executive Head of the KSHEC is an innovation on the part of the Government of Kerala.

I have agreed to speak here today not because I have much to say about innovation, which is now a vast subject for discussion in the business world. I am fascinated by your commitment to uphold the recent trends and issues in management and bridge the gap between the corporate world and academia. In fact, the first new topic that my Council adopted for implementation was the Institution-Industry interface, a programme of close interaction between educational institutions and the industry.

The nature of interaction between educational institutions and industry has changed significantly over the years in India. In the colonial era, there was little interaction between the two, as the University system essentially supplied human capital to staff the civil service and judiciary. It was not purported to cater to the industrial workforce. Post independence, graduates of Indian university system found employment in a much wider range of careers, including in industry. Other forms of university industry linkages such as industry sponsored research projects, joint publications, business incubators in universities, have started to flourish recently in certain institutions such as IITs and IISC. These institutions have witnessed higher intensity university industry linkages. For instance, all the business incubators started in academia in India can be traced to IITs and IISC. When IIT Kanpur was ranked as number one among engineering colleges, the reason was that it had received a high amount of alumni money in the form of university-industry linkages. This benefits the industry because they get young brains to work in their research and development programs and the University students get great exposure to the industry. For this very reason, these institutions are considered institutions of excellence and enjoy greater autonomy. My ambition is to create such institutions in Kerala.

It goes without saying that there is a strong connection between autonomy enjoyed by institutions like the IITs and the intensity with which it participates in the nation's innovative system. The government funding for research, which is channeled through public research institutes has not been fully utilized for the purpose intended. For this reason, the Government now proposes to create Innovation Universities with greater autonomy in matters of academics, faculty, personnel, finance, administration and in the development of a vision for the future. These universities will make our universities more active participants in the country's innovative system.

India's economic success story is based on growth in business services, including information technology services that are mainly non-patentable and do not require formal Rand D spending. This may appear comfortable in the short term, but to compete at the global level, research at the university level has to be essential part of our strategy. Absence of research will make our graduates mere labour in the world markets. New streams of technology can be invented only when education endeavors to meet demand.

A UNESCO Policy Forum concluded in 2000 that one of the most important challenges for institutional policy-makers is defining a legal framework and incentive systems which stimulate innovation at the institutional, departmental and individual levels. A balance has to be achieved between the culture and traditions of a university with existing outside opportunities for collaboration. Bringing these opportunities to the campuses is the objective of the Institutions-Industry Interface that the Executive Council is planning to accomplish.

Increasingly, industries are becoming the beneficiaries of the products of our universities and, therefore, they have a responsibility to invest in education, particularly research. We do not have major manufacturing industries in Kerala, but our graduates do work in other parts of India and abroad. Partnership with major industrial houses will benefit both the universities and the industries. Needless to say, the knowledge industry, which is growing in Kerala has even a greater stake in education and research.

Coming back to innovation in its present sense of invention and renovation, interestingly, the most innovative companies such as Google, Facebook, Twitter etc do not claim to be innovative, while those who are still trying to be innovative speak of the importance of innovation. Those who have acquired game changing technologies go beyond innovation, they create revolutions. Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg are not innovators, but visionaries, to borrow a word from an earlier era. Innovation may well be for lesser mortals, but innovation is essential for business and it is the survival mantra of today.

Innovation is traditionally measured by the number of patents a company files, but more recently there is a tendency to measure it in terms of influence and global reach. The result is a list of 100 most innovative companies in the world and the surprise is that not a single Chinese company is on the list. Yet, China has become the most prolific patent filer in the world, pursuing a national plan to become an economy based on innovation rather than imitation. The Chinese plan calls for its corporations and individual investors to file two million patents by 2015, which would dwarf the current filing in the US. The absence of Chinese firms on the list of innovators has been attributed to focusing on the domestic market first. But it will not be long before the Chinese secure global reach and become one of the most innovative countries. Like in other areas of business, China is ahead of us in patents and it is poised to compete with the US.

In education, however, vision is more important than innovation. but in the short term, innovative ideas are as important in education as in business. The search for answers is the essence of education, just as business today cannot prosper without constant search for new applications of old inventions, if not new inventions and discoveries. In the laboratories, failures are not uncommon and success comes only after repeated failures, while in education, failures can do lasting damage. But in education as well as in business, tireless efforts are essential for new concepts, new applications, in other words, innovation.

I would like to conclude with what Leonardo da Vinci had to say about the vital importance of inquisitiveness in life. "I roamed the countryside searching for answers to things I did not understand. Why shells existed in the top of mountains along with imprints of coral and plant and seaweed usually found in the sea. Why the thunder lasts a longer time than that which causes it and why immediately on its creation the lightning becomes visible to the eye, while thunder takes time to travel. How the the various circles of water form around the spot which has been struck by a stone and why a bird sustains itself in the air. These questions and other strange phenomena engaged my thought throughout my life." Some of the phenomena that bewildered Leonardo have been explained by science, but others remain. Both business and education must be constantly in search for answers to these questions, leading to innovation and vision.
Thank you.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Inaugural address by Former Ambassador T.P.Sreenivasan, Vice-Chairman of the Kerala State Higher Education Council at the first session of the Executive Council. November 2, 2011.
Distinguished Member Secretary and Members of the Executive Council,
I am delighted to congratulate you on your appointment as the members of the Executive Council of the Kerala State Higher Education Council. I look forward to working with you to enhance the value and prestige of higher education in Kerala.
You have brought to the Council a wealth of experience in the field of education. Each one of you has been chosen for your eminence and wisdom. I have myself spent much of my working life in diplomacy, but my heart has been in education. With both my parents as school teachers, I have grown up in the midst of the joys and tears of educating young minds. I began my career as a teacher and even after I returned to India after 37 years abroad, I found immense satisfaction in teaching in several universities in India and outside. I was pleasantly surprised when I was offered this position, previously occupied by a veteran educationist.
Education and diplomacy have much in common. Unlike the other civil services, the Foreign Service has very few files and it demands constant education as we change countries and continents every three years. The challenge to cope with a new country, a new civilization, a new language and a new system can be met only by remaining a student throughout. Reading, research and writing are as essential for diplomats as for academics. Perhaps, this is the reason why several distinguished diplomats, among them Sardar K.M.Panikkar, Shri.G.Parthasarathy, Shri. K.R.Narayanan and Shri. Hamid Ansari, were appointed as Vice-Chancellors. Shri.K.P.S.Menon (Sr) has recorded that he was offered the Vice-Chancellorships of several universities when he returned from Moscow. I welcome this opportunity to bring to this position my exposure to the world and my zest for igniting the young minds,in the words of former President Abdul Kalam.
Allow me to pay a tribute to my predecessor, Dr.K.N.Panikkar, and his team for building up this Council from its very beginning and for laying the foundations for making higher education in Kerala purposeful and relevant to the demands of modern times. They have introduced several reforms and suggested many more, with the help of other experts. Our first task is to give attention to these reforms and promote their implementation after critically examining them in the light of past experience and applying the correctives as necessary. The scholarships scheme, the clustering of colleges, the Erudite Scheme, combating of ragging in the campuses, the Teacher Exchange Programme, the publication of a journal etc have broad acceptance and must be pursued vigorously. The reforms on which there may be difference of opinion in the academic community should be examined with the realization that the pursuit of perfection should not endanger the existing good. The advice we give to the Government on policy formulation should be well considered, they should reflect the consensus in the academic community and they should be practical and beneficial. Effective monitoring of the programmes and utilization of funds must be one of our important functions.
The general approach I would recommend is one of continuity and change. As a student in Kerala, I was often bewildered by frequent changes in the education system. We should not subject our student community to needless experimentation and change. Our purpose should be to fashion an education system that will meet the challenges of the future. Swami Vivekananda used to say that the end of all education is “man making.” Education is “the manifestation of the perfection already in man,” he observed. Education, for him, means that process by which character is formed, strength of mind is increased and intellect is sharpened, as a result of which one can stand on one’s feet.
The lofty ideals of a broad education that will elevate the society must be upheld, but after everything is said and done, our education system will be judged by the extent to which it equips our youth to compete nationally and globally for careers. We have had a long tradition of seeking fortunes abroad and the fact that many have succeeded in building successful careers abroad is a compliment to our education system, however inadequate it is perceived to be. We should, therefore, keep an eye on the opportunities worldwide and fashion courses that will suit the needs in different countries. The system should be flexible enough to introduce courses at short notice to cater to urgent demands. Even while stressing the importance of the study of Indian languages, proficiency in the English language must be given high priority to make our graduates able to compete in the international markets. Study of international relations should also be expanded with the same objective. Needless to say, education should inculcate not only our values and culture, but also the civic sense of our citizens to make them valuable members of the society.
I hope the reconstituted Council will be thoughtful, innovative and fast in devising new schemes to bring about the necessary changes in higher education. There is no dearth of studies, reports and recommendations to choose from. But more important is the implementation of decisions in a highly complex system. We should be conscious that there is no level playing field for our academic community. While the variety of different managing and financing systems will remain, it should be possible for every institution to give equal opportunities to the academic community. The role of the Council should be to create a level playing field for higher education in Kerala. We can secure the cooperation of the multitude of agencies and administrations, whether in the Government or the private sector, only if we demonstrate professionalism, transparency and care, the very principles that the present Government of Kerala espouses.
Ideally, we should strive to elevate every institution to a level of excellence, but given the history, the availability of resources and the existing variations in standards, it is inevitable that this should be accomplished in stages. I am happy to know that the centre has already agreed, in principle, to establish an IIT in Kerala in the 12th plan. We, as the Council, should advise the Government of Kerala to take the necessary steps to establish an IIT in Kerala at the earliest. Similarly, the proposed Malayalam University and Open University should be established as soon as possible. We already have institutions of repute in Kerala. I would suggest that we devise a scheme by which a number of these institutions are selected for intensive efforts to turn them into institutions of excellence. We might begin with a rating mechanism for colleges so that improvement can be noted and incentives given to deserving institutions. The selection can be made from the Colleges that volunteer to join the scheme. One element of the scheme will be the linking up of these entities with national and international institutions of excellence. If the Council accepts this scheme, it should be submitted to the Government before the end of the year.
We are required to prepare our programme for the 12th Plan in a matter of days. This requires urgent thinking on what we can accomplish in higher education in the next five years. Nationally, this is a time for introspection and self appraisal to see whether we can usher in an era of high quality teaching and research. We read with consternation recently that a country which attracted knowledge seekers from around the globe to Nalanda and Takshila does not have a single university to find a place in international ranking. Shri. JAK Tareen, the Vice-Chancellor of the Pondicherry University has identified three major differences between Indian universities and well known world class universities, which prevent us from attaining excellence. “First, Indian universities and colleges totally lack in critical mass of students, secondly , the undergraduate programmes are fragmented from the university campuses, and, thirdly, the existing affiliation system of colleges to universities is the bottleneck of their autonomy and freedom to grow with innovations. These issues need to be addressed for our universities to attain global parity, though other issues of faculty, infrastructure, laboratories, library and a conducive ambience are as important,” he states. We shall have to meet again shortly to suggest measures to be included in the 12th plan to meet our aspiration to create a knowledge society.
I would emphasise the need for the broadest possible consultations with the stakeholders on a continuing basis. In this, I would solicit the participation of all members of the Council. I shall begin consultations on a regular basis with groups and individuals from next week and I would urge you also to do so in designated constituencies. We should visit as many institutions as possible within a short time to get new ideas and thoughts. We should increase our interaction with the universities in the rest of India and abroad. We do not claim monopoly over wisdom and we hope to gain our insights from the continuous interaction with the academic community.
The message that should go from this first meeting of the Council is that KSHEC will work with the clear purpose of making a difference to higher education in Kerala to enable our youth to meet the challenges of the present and future. We shall do this without fear or favour, affection or ill will and we expect, in turn, the full cooperation, support and goodwill from the entire academic community and the public at large. The doors of the Council will remain open for ideas, suggestions and recommendations and I invite the public to interact freely with me and the members of the Council.
I wish you the very best as we embark on a journey together. I have great pleasure and honour to inaugurate the first meeting of the Executive Council.

Thank you.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Consequences of fear
T P Sreenivasan
Last Updated : 31 Oct 2011 11:07:39 PM IST

Terrorism won its ultimate victory when fear gripped the world forever. We see the consequences of it everywhere. Nobody can envisage a world without elaborate security checks at airports, hotels and other public places. The effort, the inconvenience and the expenses incurred on security checks at airports flow out of fear. One of the symbols of a changed world after 9/11 is the security check, which makes people stand in line in different stages of undress to prove their innocence. Someone said that the worst punishment for Osama was not death, but a decree that he should go through security checks again and again at a US airport for the rest of his life. He would know only then the horrible heritage he had bequeathed.

The US changed more than the rest of the world after 9/11. It felt most vulnerable even with a nuclear arsenal, which could destroy the world many times over. It was stunned into the reality of the power of the future. The re-election of President Bush was itself a direct consequence of the fear America felt. The people of the US were convinced that no one else could ensure homeland security, which had become the new buzz word. No wonder he went after Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden in his war against terror. But the US strategy of dealing with enemies too changed out of the same fear. It does not assassinate its enemies or invade countries any more. It has found it necessary to use an uprising, if it exists, or invent one if it does not. ‘Do not meddle with the US; if you do, we will bring democracy to you’, seems to be the warning. In an earlier era, justice was swifter and action was more direct. Today, it is social networking that is used to ignite the fire of democracy that engulfs the once powerful dictators. Stealth rather than military strength plays the crucial role in bringing them to justice.

Those who may have watched the final moments of Saddam, Osama and Gaddafi may have noticed some common features. All of them lasted much longer than expected; the news of their death having been flashed across the globe long before they were found and executed. When their killings came, it looked as though it was a mere formality. We had come to expect the killings as they were seen by many as the enemy of the people. The Americans and NATO, as the case may be, were mere executioners. Questions even remained as to who pulled the trigger. The possibility of their own people having dealt the final blow was left open.

The new dispensation of regime change is catching on, but the question to be asked is whether it would have made any difference to the United States if the three had lived on. Did the movements that the West create to brand them as enemies go out of control? Was the final decision to eliminate them taken by the West or by the people who were ruled by them? Perhaps, the United States transferred their fear to the people of the world, particularly to the people of Iraq and Libya in the case of Saddam and Gaddafi. With short memories, the general public began to see them as dangerous and rejoiced in their elimination. The crowds in Benghazi did not look as though they were ruled for 42 years by the man who lay dead in a public mortuary.

The three men, who became villains in the eyes of the world, were not suddenly discovered as the causes or consequences of 9/11. The US had seen them as enemies even before. Saddam and Osama started off as benefactors of the US and beneficiaries of Western largesse. Gaddafi had challenged the US and the Western world in many ways on different occasions. But they were dealt with differently in the past. Senior Bush defanged him with the mother of all UN resolutions, which crippled Saddam’s government, but left him intact with minor doses of humanitarian injections. Osama and Al-Qaeda had inflicted wounds on the US in many parts of the globe, but he and his lethal outfit were not pursued with the same vigour as was done after 9/11. Gaddafi was allowed to survive even after Lockerbie. The sudden decision to eliminate him did not arise from a new threat, but from a new opportunity and the underlying reason to pull the trigger must have been the new fear that has gripped the West after 9/11.

The grim scenes of the death of the three men seemed to convey a message. They were found, after a long search and major sacrifices in men and material, as helpless humans with no power to defend themselves. Certainly, the message is that the US and the West will pursue their enemies to the last hideout, whether it is a drain, a secret cave or a fortified bungalow. The images of the three men at the mercy of American soldiers or their protégées will be a lesson to others who may inflict losses to the US or the Western world. It will not be long before local revolutions spring up in those countries, leading to humanitarian interventions and elimination of leaders who are out of step.

Fear is perhaps the most lethal of emotions and it can easily be transferred to countries and peoples by linking up even isolated incidents to certain individuals. The thought of a nuclear-armed Saddam had the whole world trembling and no one knew where Osama would strike the next. Who does not fear a ‘mad dog’ with a record of unpredictable behaviour? The protests were, therefore, drowned out by the jubilation over the advent of revolutions. Even the UN secretary general sounded jubilant over the killing of a man, whom his predecessors had escorted into the General Assembly several times in the past. No one saw any contradiction in a humanitarian intervention leading to the inhuman treatment of a man. Humanity seemed to heave a collective sigh that they did not have to fear one more source of danger to mankind.

The point to ponder is only whether the fear that engendered these killings was genuine or faked in order to eliminate enemies. The answer lies in the personalities of the leaders of the Western world today. Obama, Sarkozy, Cameron and Merkel are not Machiavellian enough to eliminate enemies brutally under a false pretext. They are gripped by genuine fear of harm to their people. But, in the ultimate analysis, fearful democratic leaders may do as much damage as fearsome dictators.

T P Sreenivasan is a former ambassador of India and governor for India of the IAEA. E-mail:

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Below is the text of a lecture I delivered at the famed Vienna Diplomatic Academy just a while ago. The audience was more international than Austrian and at least three Indian students identified themselves. The rather prosaic title was given by the Academy as it is the title of a course the students have to cover for their degree. The moderator told me that it was a full house despite the fact that all lectures were not compulsory. The discussion was rich, spirited and informed.

If you find in my lecture echoes of some recent speeches of Mani Shankar Aiyer, Shyam Saran, Shivshankar Menon or Shashi Tharoor, it was not accidental. I did not do a cut and paste job, nor did I plagiarise them. But I found that some of the ideas articulated by them recently fitted into my narrative and they occurred to me as I wrote. Being original was not my priority, but making my presentation effective and comprehensive. As they say, copying from one is plagiarism, but copying from many is research. I wish to thank them for being my Dronacharyas, who, hopefully, will not demand a costly gurudakshina.



The current geopolitical and economic importance of India

By T.P.Sreenivasan

I am delighted to be back at the Vienna Diplomatic Academy, where I have listened to erudite scholars and brilliant diplomats in the past. The Vienna Diplomatic Academy occupies a special place as a nursery of diplomats in a city, which is considered the cradle of diplomacy. I consider it an honour to be invited here to speak about my country, its current geopolitical and economic importance. I am grateful to the Academy and the Public Diplomacy Division of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs for making this possible. Vienna brings back fond memories of my tenure here when my good friend, Ambassador Sucharipa headed the Academy. I am sorry to hear that he passed away recently.

India has been important to the world over centuries of its civilisational history. From zero to complex philosophical concepts, India has contributed immensely to the evolution of mankind. Indian treatises on such varied subjects as rule of law, statecraft, astrology, diplomacy and even love have determined human behaviour for centuries. India is a young country, but an ancient civilization. It has played its part in the past, it plays its part today. Its image may have changed from time to time, but its importance has been beyond question throughout recorded history. A country that has given the world the Vedas and the Upanishads, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, the Bhagavad Gita, Kathakali and Kathak, the Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi will remain significant even if it does nothing more for a century. But India continues to be a dynamic power, playing its role in a changing world.

India has never been a homogeneous entity. Its diversity is its strength. It has also never been a conquering nation. Its charms and wealth have attracted a multitude of cultures to its vast expanses. Emperors and conquerors subjugated it, but it outlasted all of them. It absorbed the best in alien cultures, but never lost its identity. The India of today derives its strength from its rich heritage and its innovative spirit. Its political and economic importance today is part of a continuum, enriched by experience, innovation and triumph of the human spirit.

Today, the world hails the emergence of India. President Barack Obama declared in the Indian Parliament last year that India is not an emerging nation, it has already emerged. But India’s emergence has been celebrated before. President George Bush and President Bill Clinton before him, came to India to declare that India is indispensable in building a new world order. When India won its independence in1947 after a non-violent freedom struggle, it was hailed as a model and a hope for millions under colonial subjugation. Mahatma Gandhi, like the Buddha two thousand years earlier, became a hero to the world. “Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this walked this earth in flesh and blood”, said Albert Einstein. The excavations of Mohanjodaro and Harappa had already revealed that the civilization that existed in the Indus Valley was more advanced than anything that existed at that time. For India, therefore, being considered important in the world is not a new experience.

But it is true that India has assumed a new importance and a new stature politically and economically since the end of the cold war. It has been compared to a slumbering elephant, slowly waking up and making its presence felt in the international arena. More has been written about India than ever before. Power, they say, is shifting from the west to the east. India, as Indira Gandhi declared some years ago, has been recognized as a “different power”, different in ambitions, different in development strategy, different in political profile and different in ethos. What makes India important today is not just its phenomenal economic growth and its growing political influence, but the way it conducts itself as a responsible nation, seeing itself as an essential component of an evolving world order. It does not seek domination, but harmony, it seeks equity, not exploitation. It has not sought economic growth without care for the environment, it has not surrendered to unbridled market forces without restraint and regulation. This explains how India has escaped the worst consequences of global recession, it also explains why India has not yet attained its legitimate place in the global power structure.

India’s greatest challenge politically and economically has been in its neighbourhood. But in dealing with its neighbours, most of them smaller and weaker, India has sought cooperation rather than confrontation, peaceful settlement of disputes rather than armed conflicts or other forms of coercion. Wars have been imposed on us, but we did not escalate them. We have not held on to an inch of territory, which came into our hands as a result of war. India has been patient with boundary disputes, resorting to persuasion and logic rather than use or threat of use of force. China’s rise and assertiveness brings back memories of the disillusionment of the early sixties, when India’s vision of Asian unity was rudely shattered. But provocations are met with patience. India seeks areas of cooperation and mutual benefit even when it is encircled and threatened. Managing an adversarial relationship with China is the biggest challenge for Indian foreign policy in the next decades. The key to the future may lie in economic complementarities creating a political environment that fosters normalization. With both the countries seeking equations with others, it may take a long time for the two countries to engage with each other without external involvement.

Pakistan, “born of the same womb” as India, sees an existential threat in friendly relations with India as the question, “Why Pakistan?” may come up if they have no serious differences with India. Neither religion nor language justifies the partition and justifications are invented and reinvented again and again. But India has persisted with its peace offensive without compromising on the non-negotiables like the status of Jammu and Kashmir. India has walked the extra mile to peace despite provocations like the Mumbai terrorist attack. If only Pakistan had abandoned terrorism as an instrument of policy, there could be a breakthrough in bilateral relations. Even as it is, there are hopeful signs as Pakistan begins to recognize the imperatives of economic cooperation. The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) has begun to make a difference in the region.

With all the problems it may have with its neighbours, which entail a mix of hard pursuit of its own national interests and sympathetic understanding of the needs of others, India remains the key to stability and progress in South Asia. Its importance as a regional power is long acknowledged. More recently, India’s importance in the outer periphery of our neighbourhood has also been recognized. Secretary State Hillary Clinton travelled to Chennai recently to stress the importance of India’s benign influence in South East Asia and beyond. As against Chinese economic and military assertiveness, the countries in the region look up to India for cooperation with a friendly face.

In the international arena, especially at the United Nations, India has always worked for the common good, for the global commons, not to use it as an instrument of Indian foreign policy. India has given to the UN much more than what it has ever sought. Indian diplomacy has been responsible for seminal agreements and resolutions, which have resolved global problems and established frameworks for lasting peace. Austria has not forgotten the role the Indian Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, played in liberating Austria from foreign occupation. Improvement of relations with the United States has not diluted India’s basic position on sovereignty, non-interference, non-violence and independence of judgment. India’s record as a non-permanent member of the Security Council since the beginning of this year has raised eye brows and questions have been asked about a return to the old nonaligned vocabulary. But the truth is that the fundamental tenets of the Indian position were not altered even when new strategic partnerships were established. New strategic partnerships are, for India, a tool for enhancing international cooperation, not to seek opportunistic advantages. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke at the UN General Assembly this year not just for India, but for the entire disadvantaged world.

India’s quest for a permanent seat on the Security Council is still unsuccessful and may remain so for some more time precisely because India is not willing to become a tool in the hands of those, who are still taking no action to pursue the assurances of support they have given. Those assurances were linked to certain responsibilities, which, in their view, entail accepting the western world view and its pursuit of regime changes to suit their political and economic interests. Rightly, the Prime Minister of India moved away this year from seeking support for India to be a permanent member to asserting the need for UN reform as an essential prerequisite for the world body to become credible and effective in its mission. He has realized from the experience of a few months in the Security Council that membership of the Security Council will impose undue strain on our policies. India has not been less important in the world since it left the Security Council in 1992. If anything, it was during that period that the shift of global power from the west to the east began.

India has always been an important player in nuclear disarmament despite its refusal to join the NPT. By declaring itself a nuclear weapon state in 1998, it challenged the whole edifice of non-proliferation, which enabled the recognized nuclear weapon states to make their arsenals larger and more sophisticated. But in a short span of seven years, the US initiated the nuclear deal in recognition of India’s strength and its vast market. Today, India is no more a nuclear pariah, but a partner in non-proliferation and nuclear security.

Geopolitically, India is literally at the crossroads of the world today. It belongs to a number of political and economic groupings, which enable it to traverse geographical and political borders and benefit from multiple partnerships. India has strategic partnerships with most major powers. As a member of BRICS, India works with Russia and China, as a member of IBSA, it coordinate efforts with the two other large developing countries. It plays its traditional role in the Nonaligned and G-77. It has close links with ASEAN and several other groupings, old and new. As a non-permanent member of the Security Council, India has stood firm on principles, even as it cooperates with the permanent five. In the G-4, with Germany, Japan and Brazil, India strives to bring about reform of the Security Council. Good relations with the Arabs and Israel at the same time and the massive presence of Indians in the Gulf countries give it a unique position in the Middle East. More than anything else, G-20 has given India a forum to shape the contours of global economic policy. In all these multiple forums, India’s voice is heard with respect as it is the voice of wisdom, moderation and reconciliation.

On India’s growing economic importance, there is complete agreement around the globe. The phenomenal economic growth even in the years of recession has given India a leading role in G-20, the emergence of which democratized decision making in the economic arena. In a dramatic reversal of roles, Indian direct investment in the US has increased and assumed importance. Western leaders went to India not only to find markets, but also to find jobs for their citizens. They vie with each other to bag huge defence and nuclear contracts with offers of political concessions. When India decided not to buy fighter aircraft from the US, it openly stated that friendship would have come with it if India had bought the aircraft. If India had placed orders for the envisaged nuclear reactors and the fighter aircraft from the US, it would have saved President Barack Obama the embarrassment of rising unemployment and helped his reelection. Such is the level of economic importance that India has assumed in the world today. In the old days, American mothers told their children not to waste food because many Indian children went to bed without any food. Today they tell their children to eat well because they would have to compete with Indian children to succeed in this world. President Barack Obama once advised his people to remember that India and China were striving for the number one position in the world and the US should work harder to meet that challenge.

I have given you enough evidence of the importance India has assumed politically and economically in today’s world. Statistically, India has the second largest population, and poised to be the first shortly, it has the fourth largest army in the world, it is the fifth largest economy in the world in Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) terms and soon to become the third, after the US and China in 2012. A Japanese writer had predicted long ago that Japan would never become a super power as it did not have a large territory, a huge population and plenty of natural resources. Since India has all these with nearly ten percent growth rate, India has been described variously as a potential super power, though a reluctant one and a future world leader, even though India has several millions below the poverty line.

But what makes India a particularly significant nation today is what is called its soft power or smart power. Basically, it is the perception about a country, either deliberately projected by a Government or the sum total of its image and activities or its attractiveness. As Dr. Shashi Tharoor, the Member of Parliament from my constituency in India puts it, “hard power is exercised, while soft power is evoked.” There are many aspects of Indian history and culture that have attracted people around the globe and this soft power could be evoked in order to enhance India’s importance. India’s diversity, its tolerance, its religious freedom, its literature, its cinema and its music may have such a cumulative impact on the world that the political and economic importance is enhanced by soft power. Its manifestations can be seen in the extraordinary popularity of Bollywood in many parts of the globe, the influence of Indian soap operas in Afghanistan and Brazil, Indian restaurants in the UK, Bollywood music in Indonesia and the bindi the dot, bidi the hand rolled cigarettes and bhangra, the Punjabi dance in the US. Combined with economic strength, political clout and military strength, including nuclear weapons, smart power may well give India an edge over the others. Soft power may not be sustainable in certain cases, where the attractiveness is dulled by actual performance in domestic and foreign policies, but India has power of both the varieties to make it a significant power on the world stage.

As for the strategy India is likely to adopt on the international stage, a clear indication was given by the National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon in an address in August this year. “For a considerable time to come, India will be a major power with several poor people. We must always, therefore, be conscious of the difference between weight, influence and power. Power is the ability to create and sustain outcomes. Weight we have, our influence is growing, but our power remains to grow and should first be used for our domestic transformation. History is replete with examples of rising powers, who prematurely thought their time had come, who mistook influence and weight for real power”, he said. He suggested that India would, therefore, walk its own path in the world.

If power means the capacity to hurt or help, India is developing both, but it is not about to project them. It will bide its time as a different power till it is called upon to play a more prominent role on the world stage.

Thank you.

Sunday, October 09, 2011


By T.P.Sreenivasan

My brief presence at the IFS Day event was providential. The day just happened to coincide with a packed Sunday in Delhi and I could not have missed it. After all, "there is a special providence (even) in the fall of a sparrow." I could hardly greet all I did recognize, not to speak of getting to know younger colleagues. I left with a whetted appetite for more, a rare feeling when I normally leave a party.

I once wrote that the IFS was a service without a soul, not the people, the service. A bureaucracy can be heartless, but it should not be soulless. I explained then that the reason for the state of affairs was that we operated literally as islands and,therefore, we had no qualms about helping ourselves without any concern about hurting others.I saw today and in the last few months an effort to give it a soul, not from the top, but the bottom. Rightly so, because it is the younger members who will benefit from a service whose members relate to each other, talk to each other and understand each other. As Shyam said rightly, the platform we now have as a gift of technology is being put to good use. I would say, however, that lack of technology was not the sole reason for lack of communication. Mahatma Gandhi would have created several springs with facebook and twitter, but he was able to create a revolution in a squeaky voice and a newspaper not bigger than a four page tabloid. The younger generation should be credited with more than technology, it is blessed with imagination.

The IFS Day, for example, should have been like motherhood, to be celebrated with no questions asked. IFS must have been the only service without a day to remember its humble origins and its impressive accomplishments. The celebration this year and the plan to do it every year without any organisational support or official blessings are the signs of change of times. It has taken a whole meaning that such celebrations are not normally endowed with.

I reminisced a bit with old colleagues just enough to reconnect, but I was not overwhelmed with nostalgia at this event. It was not the occasion to gloat over old glories or to weep over lost opportunities.What struck me was the hope for the future, the extraordinary optimism that characterised the gathering, the spirit of adventure writ large on young faces. I felt confident that the IFS was ready to take up the new challenges. India does not need to be a reluctant super power any more.

I heard only some of the remarks, but I felt the most poignant words came from Venkat's wife. She did not mourn Venkat, she bristled with pride over having been married to a member of the service, as though she felt that it was the service that made Venkat a great human being and a great husband. Her faith in the service remained unshaken even in the face of the worst tragedy in her life. The service did not leave her lonely and uncared for. I know cases in which young widows were left high and dry in an earlier era.

Today was a happy day for the service as even people like me who have no more stakes in the service, having moved away to other pastures, felt that the service was in the process of securing a soul for itself. I congratulate everyone who contributed to it.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

UN Peacekeeping Operations

(A talk on Akashavani, Thiruvananthapuram on the occasion of the UN Day 2011)

By T.P.Sreenivasan

As an international organization created at the end of a

devastating world war to rid the world of the scourge of

war, the United Nations gives the highest priority to peace.

While the UN has not been able to prevent wars altogether,

its peace operations--peacemaking, peace building and

peacekeeping have played a role in ending wars, keeping

the peace, alleviating the sufferings inflicted by war and

in rebuilding nations after external and internal conflicts.

Peacekeeping has emerged as a major activity of the UN

for which the UN was awarded the Noble Prize for Peace

In 1998. “The forces represent the manifest will of the

community of nations and have made a decisive contribution

to the resolution of conflict around the world”, it was stated

in a press release on the occasion.

The phrase, “peacekeeping operations” does not appear

in the UN Charter. But it envisages situations where

the UN Security Council can authorize military action to

restore international peace and security if sanctions and

other measures do not succeed. Members of the UN have

undertaken to make available to the Security Council armed

forces and other support services to take enforcement

action. Over the years, the UN has resorted to the use

of force, but it is in peacekeeping that the UN has made

an immense contribution. It has gained considerable

experience in this area and it has evolved a set of principles

and practices, which have come to be universally accepted.

Peacekeeping has been defined as the activity that aims

to create the conditions for lasting peace after a conflict.

Peacekeepers monitor and observe peace processes in post

conflict areas and assist ex-combatants in implementing the

peace agreements they may have signed. Such assistance

comes in many forms, including confidence-building

measures, power sharing arrangements, electoral support,

strengthening the role of law and economic and social

development. Accordingly, UN peacekeepers can include

soldiers, police officers and civilian personnel. Although

civilian personnel can perform many of these functions,

peacekeeping operations are invariably commanded by

military officers and conducted as military operations.

The training and experience of the armed forces and their

discipline are of immense value in conflict situations.

The Security Council alone can authorize peacekeeping

missions and most of the operations are established and

implemented by the UN itself, with troops serving under UN

operational control. The peacekeepers remain members of

their respective armed forces as the UN does not have a

standing army. In cases where direct UN involvement is not

considered appropriate or feasible, the Council authorizes

regional organizations such as NATO, the Economic

Community of West Africa or coalitions of willing states to

undertake peacekeeping tasks.

UN peacekeepers are not expected to fight as they are

generally deployed when the ceasefire is already in place,

with the consent of the parties concerned. But they are

provided with light weapons to deal with provocations or

law and order situations. There have been cases where

the peacekeepers had to use considerable force, with

the help of reinforcements; to end flare ups in volatile

situations. Casualties are also not uncommon among

peacekeepers. The differences between peacekeeping and

peace enforcement fade in these situations.

The procedure for establishing a peacekeeping force

has been clearly established. Once the peace treaty is

negotiated, the parties involved ask the UN Security Council

for a peacekeeping force to oversee the various elements

of the peace plan. After the Security Council approves the

creation of a mission, the Department of Peacekeeping

Operations begins planning to assemble, equip and deploy

the peacekeepers. Since a number of countries are involved

in each operation, setting up a mission is time consuming.

The exact size and strength of the force are agreed to

by the states concerned and the rules of engagement

have to be developed with the consent of all parties,

including the Security Council. Farther, the soldiers or

police officers come from diverse countries with diverse

training systems and it takes time for them to work under

a single commander. For the sake of a uniform doctrine,

NATO military doctrine is followed in most cases. The

peacekeepers find the practices in UN missions different

from national practices and become impatient. But, on the

whole, the UN peacekeeping missions have functioned

effectively in many different situations.

The cost of peacekeeping operations is shared among

member states on the basis of “capacity to pay”, a complex

formula agreed to by all members. The permanent members

bear a higher proportion of the cost. In 1993, peacekeeping

costs had peaked at some USD 3.6 billion. It dropped by

1998, but went up again by 2004. The troop contributing

countries are reimbursed the cost not only of travel and

equipment, but also salaries and other expenses. But

since many member states are not prompt in paying their

contributions, the troop contributing countries, which are

mostly developing countries, end up having huge arrears in


The first peacekeeping mission, launched in 1948 to enforce

a ceasefire reached between Israel and the Arab states,

remains in operation even today and the conflict has not yet

abated. The second mission, the United Nations Observer

Group on India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), which was

established to monitor the situation in Jammu and Kashmir

is also still in existence. Following the Simla Agreement in

1972, which converted the ceasefire line into the Line of

Control, India has ceased to provide access to UNMOGIP to

the Indian side of Kashmir, but has not sought the removal

of the small UN force. Pakistan continues to insist on

maintaining this mission for political reasons and it remains

an anachronism. But many other missions have been wound

up after fulfilling their mandates.

The UN has so far completed 52 missions in different parts

of the globe, and now has 17 current missions, most of them

in Africa. The missions in Sudan, Darfur, Libya, Afghanistan

and Haiti are very active today, while those in Kashmir,

Cyprus and East Timor remain relics of the past.

Un peacekeeping operations have had spectacular

successes as well as abject failures. Complex missions

in Cambodia and Mozambique fulfilled their missions and

brought about lasting peace, while the missions failed in

Somalia, Rwanda and Bosnia. These missions were launched

without the consent of the parties concerned and without

sufficient manpower or equipment. The Rwandan genocide

of 1994 and the massacre in Serbrenica in 1995 remain blots

on the reputation of UN peacekeeping.

Developing countries contribute more troops to UN

peacekeeping operations than developed countries. The

United States has launched operations on behalf of the

UN, but they do not send troops to the forces commanded

by other nationals. NATO also prefers to operate on its

own, with or without a UN mandate. Other countries

claim operational commitments to decline invitations to

contribute troops to the UN. Some small countries like Fiji

use the opportunities of participating in UN peacekeeping

operations to train their forces in battle conditions. The

general public in Fiji complained to the UN when the Fiji

armed forces used their experience in peacekeeping to put

down protests by its own people, following a military coup in

that country.

UN peacekeeping operations are fraught with dangers

and they have suffered many casualties in the course of

their functioning. India alone has lost more than a hundred

soldiers in peacekeeping operations. Even while acting

within its mandate, peacekeepers become a target for

attacks by some of the parties in a conflict. At the same

time, UN peacekeepers have been charged with prostitution,

child abuse and other crimes against the very people they

protect. Certain studies have shown that the arrival of

UN peacekeepers has been associated with the rise of

such crimes. “The issue with the UN is that peacekeeping

operations unfortunately seem to be doing the same thing

that other militaries do. Even the guardians have to be

guarded”, observed a writer in 2004. But the UN has taken

strong action against the guilty and brought in reform to

prevent such crimes.

India is solidly committed to UN peacekeeping operations,

in which India has participated since the 1950s. We have

contributed nearly 100,000 troops and participated in more

than 40 missions. India has also provided eminent force

commanders to peacekeeping missions. Indian casualties

numbering 118 are one of the highest in the world, but there

have been no domestic criticism on this account. India’s

expertise in peacekeeping activities, such as demining,

has been put to good use in many situations. Indian forces

earned much praise in Somalia for their humanitarian

activities, while the operations themselves incurred the

wrath of the local public.

India has also been advocating reform of the peacekeeping

machinery to meet the challenges of the times and to

improve the image of UN peacekeepers. We are of the view

that the mandates given by the Security Council to the

missions are too broad and have very little correlation with

the ability of the organization to deliver. We have proposed

that the Security Council should invite non-Council

members, particularly troop contributing countries, to

participate in the decisions of the Security Council

concerning the deployment of the forces and related

matters. The field support provided to the forces needs to

be further expanded and strengthened. India fully supports

implementation of a policy of zero tolerance with regard to

conduct and discipline of troops, including sexual

exploitation and abuse. UN peacekeeping must be in

accordance with Chapter VIII and should not be

regionalized. India is also in favour of the induction of more

female peacekeepers. We also support identifying “sunset

missions”, which have fulfilled their mandates and

proceeding to wind them up. Some questions have been

asked whether India should participate in the UN missions,

which are of no particular relevance to India, in the context

of some allegations against Indian troops in the Congo. But

India remains one of the largest troop contributors, next

only to Bangladesh and Pakistan. India has also established

a centre for training of peacekeepers in New Delhi, which

attracts military officers from around the globe.

UN peacekeeping operations have been a major contribution

to the maintenance of international peace and security.

It has evolved over the years from a military exercise to

a composite operation involving not only enforcement

of peace agreements, but humanitarian assistance and

reconstruction to provide basic needs to the affected

people. It has become the human face of the United Nations

for millions of people who have become embroiled in war for

no fault of theirs. Humanity owes a debt of gratitude to the

UN as we celebrate another UN Day on October 24.

Thank you.