Innovation worries us. At one level, many perceive it as a threat to their jobs and, in fact, to their way of thinking and behaving. It challenges what they are used to. At another and more profound level, there is genuine fear of failure. After all, not all innovations succeed. Indeed, most fail. A combination of the above is often the reason why governments and institutions are usually averse to innovation and thus, change.
The government is tasked not only with the right to education of its citizens but, more importantly, the right to quality education. To navigate this terrain requires a dramatic shift in mindsets and the introduction of substantive policy interventions that are innovative, disruptive and immediate.
In January this year, the ‘Guardian’ profiled Professor Veena Sahajwalla as “the woman who loves garbage.” Ever since her growing up days in Mumbai, Veena was fascinated by waste because she saw it as a hidden resource waiting to be tapped into. Today, her pioneering work completely transformed the way the properties of carbon-bearing materials are understood, including discarded graphites, plastics and rubber tyres. She has received international acclaim for inventing “green steel”.
The platform for a transformational change in bilateral relations was laid when Prime Minister Modi visited Australia in November 2014. Deviating from script, he spoke of India-Australia relations as...
David Cameron's extraordinary inability to read the electorate is seen as a blunder that will cost both the UK and Europe dear. In short, it was a significant leadership failure, principally for the following reasons.
David Cameron's exit speech, with his quivering lower lip, won some praise on social media. Very quickly, however, sentiments changed with the recognition that it was his disastrous decision, coupled with bad timing and strategic misreading of sentiment that plunged global markets in turmoil and uncertainty. Across the globe, the reaction quickly moved from shock and horror to ridicule and contempt.
A foreign policy assessment based on a two-year report card might be tempting but it can also be hugely challenging. Assessments of achievement are based essentially on three criteria: Has there been a foreign policy gain? Has a crisis been handled successfully? Has a long-standing conflict been resolved? Let us consider each of these.
A study carried out by scientists at Newcastle University demonstrated that by giving a cow a name and treating her as an individual, farmers could increase their annual milk production yield by almost 500 pints. Happy cows produce more milk! Individuals, companies came to gradually realize, were no different.
One of the diplomatic puzzles that intrigue most foreign policy analysts is the significant lack of depth in India-Australia relations. For years, geography and history were seen as the main culprits. For New Delhi, Australia was simply too far away and for Canberra, India was simply not like-minded. Finance Minister Jaitley's visit to Australia offers a genuine platform to lift the game and to take forward the strategic partnership that both governments committed themselves to when PM Modi visited Australia.
Will Central government spending for the financial year utilize fund allocations or will funds lapse, as has been the case on innumerable occasions in the past with successive governments? Utilization and, thus, implementation will be the litmus test of the government's resolve to match its aspirations with achievement.
It would appear that the best one can hope for is to accept a state of the uneasy calm or strategic distancing as the new normal in bilateral relations. The scars of terrorism run deep. As indeed do the scars of mistrust. As a former Indian prime minister said, it is difficult when "the other side shakes hands with us over the table, but kicks our shins from below." You can shake hands with someone only if they unclench their fist.
The political decision to resume bilateral talks was a splendid, though surprising, initiative with which to end 2015. How both leaders negotiate the multiple pitfalls the path is strewn with would not only demonstrate their leadership skills but also establish the negotiating template. More importantly, it would demonstrate the joint integrity of intent and purpose.
Research has substantively established an inter-linkage between countries that embrace innovation and, thus, change, and economic prosperity. Governments and the bureaucracy in emerging or developing economies, on the other hand, tend to suffer from an acute disavowal of all that challenges existing paradigms. New ways of seeing worry them. Consequently, our schools and colleges are unable to respond to the rapidly changing educational needs of a knowledge economy. This has serious consequences.
Both Prime Ministers are acutely aware that should the negotiations conclude successfully, they would be guaranteed a place in history. In the eyes of the international community and in their respective domestic constituencies, it would be seen as an extraordinary achievement that could transform the region. However, for a successful outcome this time around, negotiating strategies need to be reimagined.
It is extraordinary how quickly we believe smart slogans. Advertising and marketing is based precisely on the ability to win subscribers and getting them hooked through language and packaging. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has understood this all too well. When he spoke of <em>acchhe din</em>, he struck an immediate chord through the contrast with the previous four years. Similarly, his call for "Swachh Bharat" and "Digital India" resonated across socio-economic classes. People were hooked. This was political marketing at its best. His "Make in India" was cast in a similar mould.
A couple of weeks ago, we caught up over dinner at an Australian friend's place in Mumbai. Inevitably, the discussion veered to whether Indians were safe in Australia. About five years after the spate of attacks on Indian students, especially in Victoria, anxieties persist with regard to safety standards and whether there is an inherent animosity that many Australians feel towards Indians. The Australian case is an example of brand damage and a failed attempt at brand repair.
It was my assessment that proposing a development round was to win friends and influence governments in poor countries. This was nothing short of deception at the highest level. After all, a genuine development round meant that trade would lie at the heart of the development agenda with the developed world unilaterally opening-up to products from poorer countries.