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Do We Need a University Solely Dedicated to Foreign Policy as Promised by BJP in its Manifesto?

While details of the location, affiliated institutes and other procedural details are yet to be announced, experts have weighed in on the success of such an institute.

Aishwarya Kumar | News18.com@aishwaryak03

Updated:April 10, 2019, 6:52 PM IST
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Do We Need a University Solely Dedicated to Foreign Policy as Promised by BJP in its Manifesto?
The need for a National Defence University was advocated by a panel after the Kargil War.
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New Delhi: The ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) released its manifesto for the upcoming election earlier this week and announced that it would set up a university of foreign policy, a first-of-its-kind in the region.

While the manifesto did not specify the location of the university, the party said the institute would be solely focused on “academic study and research on foreign policy and geopolitical issues relevant to India and capacity building of our and friendly foreign diplomats.”

While details of the location, affiliated institutes and other procedural details are yet to be announced, experts have weighed in on the success of such an institute.

Former member of the government’s National Security Advisory Board Alka Acharya said that the idea was welcome “to the extent that foreign policy research is finally getting its due” since for the most part, practitioners have generally tended to dismiss academics as being too bookish or impractical.”

“So this idea would appear to acknowledge the importance of in-depth and comprehensive research as an input into foreign policy making. However, we must also understand that universities have a different ethos and orientation — the kind of theoretical and conceptual research that is undertaken in universities is required to be factored into foreign policy research,” she told News18.

Acharya said a more appropriate and necessary step at this juncture would be a comprehensively designed and structured policy research centre with departments specially focused on different countries, regions and the global system, as also encompassing functional and issue-based centres.

“Such a comprehensive research centre should ideally develop substantial synergies with universities where fundamental research in social sciences is undertaken. These should provide the foundation and necessary inputs for good foreign policy research which would have to also work in real time and put options, ideas and alternatives on the table,” she added.

Former deputy national security advisor Satish Chandra said the idea was a good step forward. “The idea of having a think tank is a welcome step,” he said.

What Happened To The National Defence University?

The BJP’s manifesto promise brings back the spotlight on the ambitious Indian National Defence University (INDU) project.

The need for such an institution was advocated by a panel headed by former defence secretary late K Subrahmanyam after the Kargil War.

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had laid the foundation stone of the university in May 2013. The objective of the university was to cover subjects ranging from neighborhood studies to counter-terrorism.

Former high commissioner in Islamabad, G Parthasarathy, said there were a number of think tanks dealing with foreign policy and national security issues, but setting up a university just for foreign policy would not make that big an impact.

“Setting up of a university dealing with both foreign policy and national security will integrate thinking on both subjects across India. That certainly would be helpful,” he said.

The fact remains that after the Kargil conflict, the then government had said it would set up the National Defence University, he added.

“That has not been done so far. We should either revive the initial plan of the defence university or preferably, establish a university dealing with both foreign policy and national security issues,” he added.
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