The Hindu | 31 January 2016
Two Delhi-based think tanks — Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation and Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF) — have been ranked among the “best think tanks with political party affiliation” globally. The “2015 Global Go To Think Tank Index” of the University of Pennsylvania ranked them in the category at 33 and 40 respectively.
VIF has been ranked at 137 among the top think tanks worldwide (Non-U.S.) and finds a spot in the category “Think Tank to Watch” at number 20 among 100.
VIF is considered closely associated with the BJP and has been on an upswing since the NDA government came to power in 2014. Many of its key members are holding important posts in the government, starting with National Security Adviser Ajit Doval.
However, researchers at the institute denied any political affiliations. Commenting on the report a senior fellow at VIF said: “That is incorrect. VIF has no affiliation with any political party.”
The report released last week has ranked Brookings Institution of the US as the top Think Tank worldwide for the year 2015 followed by Chatam House of UK while Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, US took the third spot.
Among the overall ranking, Centre for Civil Society at 79 is the only Indian institute in the top 100. However in the list of top 175, there are seven other Indian institutes – 104 Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA); 109 Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER); 111 The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI); 118 Observer Research Foundation (ORF); 136 Development Alternatives (DA); 167 Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS); 169 Delhi Policy Group (DPG) and 172 Centre for Policy Research (CPR).
In all, ORF was ranked in 22 categories, becoming the largest ranked institution in Asia, DA in 18 categories, TERI and Gateway House in nine categories and IDSA and Council on Energy, Energy, Environment and Water in eight each.
Concern over quality
There has been an explosion of think tanks in India in the recent past. According to the report there are 280 Think Tanks in India, the fourth largest number globally, next only to United Kingdom which has 288. Based on post-Kargil committee review recommendations, the three Services had set up service specific think tanks in addition to joint ones to develop original thought on strategic issues. Several international Think Tanks too have set up Indian centres, the latest being Carnegie endowment for international peace.
However, experts have expressed concern over the lack of quality, with only a handful of institutions having adequate funds and maintaining quality. “There is hardly any original research. We mostly manage and coordinate seminars and other events,” a researcher with a Delhi-based think tank said.
Dr. Monika Chansoria, senior fellow at the Centre for Land Warfare Studies said the output of any think tank, be it Indian or global, is directly related to the aptitude of skilled and acclaimed academics and researchers on its in-house faculty page.
“The reason for Indian think tanks faring poorly while competing globally is an abject failure to attract top quality research talent and output. The reasons are multiple, including lack of job security, no additional benefits, and the near non-existent support by the institutions to provide for fieldwork etc. – a critical tool in bringing about quality output,” she told The Hindu.
“It’s time to realise that there are no ‘quick fix remedies’ to produce original and quality research work,” Dr. Chansoria added.
The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy found mention in the report as a think tank innovation case study.
The report stated that a large amount of resources are required to start and sustain a successful think tank and an even a larger amount is needed in a country with underdeveloped infrastructure. “This dynamic makes The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy all the more interesting,” the report said.
Consequently, The Hindu Centre demonstrates effective strategies for circumventing obstacles for younger, under-funded think tanks, the report added.
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