Empowering India: Accelerating Intellectual Infrastructure Renewal for Global Influence

In light of geopolitical shifts, there’s an urgent need to accelerate the renovation of India’s intellectual infrastructure, as advocated by Buddha’s aphorism “Aatm Deepo Bhav” – become your own light. While America attributed its Cold War victory to cultural exports like rock music, Hollywood, and entrepreneurship, it also championed open markets and global trade, fostering prosperity through technology diffusion. Embedded within this control lies a form of soft power, derived from intellectual dominance and cultural hegemony, which shapes global activities and perceptions.

However, recent trends signal a shift towards protectionism, prompt India to fortify its technological ecosystem and innovation landscape across five key pillars: Universities, Think Tanks, Government Schools, Publishing, and Translation.

Universities: India’s universities, once bastions of intellectual prowess, have experienced a perceptible decline in recent years due to governance failures and strategic oversights. Drawing inspiration from Rebecca Lowen’s seminal work “Cold War University,” which elucidates Stanford’s success story through its alignment with defense priorities, India is embarking on a journey of revitalization. Initiatives such as IIT Mumbai’s foray into business education and IIM Bangalore’s expansion into undergraduate programs exemplify this renewal. Furthermore, the emergence of philanthropy-funded alternatives like Ashoka University signifies a paradigm shift, offering viable alternatives to studying abroad and contributing to India’s presence in global university rankings.

Think Tanks: Bridging the gap between academia and policymaking, think tanks play a pivotal role in generating actionable ideas for effective governance. Despite facing challenges such as limited government engagement and funding constraints, India’s think tank ecosystem is evolving. With a growing emphasis on domestic resources and enhanced policy legitimacy, these institutions are poised to augment India’s soft power on the global stage.

Government Schools: The accessibility and quality of education provided by government schools remain a pressing concern, with only half of India’s children currently enrolled in them. Initiatives like NIPUN Bharat aim to address this issue, setting ambitious targets for universal foundational skill acquisition by 2026. However, comprehensive reforms in governance and performance management are essential to ensure the success of such endeavors and bridge the existing gap in educational outcomes.

Publishing: The dominance of Western publishers in the global market poses a significant challenge to India’s intellectual output. To counter this trend, India must strengthen its publishing industry and amplify its voice on the global stage. Domestic publishers like Juggernaut are already leveraging market trends to expand their influence, while concerted efforts to increase translation efforts will unlock the potential of India’s rich linguistic heritage.

Translation: India’s linguistic diversity presents both a challenge and an opportunity for enhancing its soft power. Collaborative projects such as the Bhashini Project and the AI4Bharat Centre are at the forefront of bridging language barriers and unlocking the vast repository of knowledge housed within India’s diverse linguistic landscape.

Amid escalating global tensions and geopolitical rivalries, India stands at a critical juncture, poised to assert its influence through a combination of hard and soft power. The New Education Policy (NEP) 2020 serves as a powerful roadmap for revitalizing India’s intellectual infrastructure, empowering entrepreneurs, and fostering high-wage job creation. As Dinkar astutely observed, strength begets benevolence, highlighting the interconnectedness of power dynamics in shaping India’s trajectory on the world stage.

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