Event ReportsPublished on Jan 07, 2022
Interaction with Dr. Harsh V. Pant on the “Working of the Observer Research Foundation”
On the 5th of January, ORF hosted a delegation of 45 students as part of the Intern Nation Programme, organised by Chhatra Sansad. The students interacted with Professor Harsh V. Pant Director, Studies and Head, Strategic Studies Programme, and discussed the “Working of the Observer Research Foundation”. Prof. Pant began by laying out a brief account of how think tanks came to play a role in India’s public life and democratic debate. While policymaking in India had traditionally rested in the hands of bureaucrats, the onset of India’s economic liberalisation and globalisation brought a whole new set of needs. It became clear that very few major global governance issues could be tackled with India’s substantive input. As a result, India needed to rapidly upskill and build capabilities in a host of different domains of policymaking. Shortly afterwards, ORF and other policy think tanks came up to help build a corps of experts and inform policy debates in the country. He went on to elaborate upon the importance of public policy think tanks in India’s democratic system. In liberal democracies, Prof Pant opined, policymaking is not a linear process. A range of different actors and stakeholders must be involved to make a decision. It is in that milieu that an organisation like ORF helps inform and advise public debate and consultation about the public policy challenges facing India. Through its focus on building platforms and forums for debate, sponsoring cutting-edge research and training a new generation of experts, the ORF fulfills this role. Prof Pant also stressed the importance of ORF’s non-partisan status in representing a range of views from across India’s political spectrum. As contestation and controversy over policy issues heats up, ORF’s commitment to ensuring a diversity of views is crucial. Further, Dr. Pant also emphasised ORF’s goal of helping bring India to the world and the world to India. The organisation’s partnerships with a range of external governments and international multilateral bodies helps ORF serve as an interlocutor between India and the world. In addition, ORF’s flagship forums like the Raisina Dialogue have become a platform for India to showcase its identity, its own concerns, and its personality to the outside world. Another key topic of discussion was ORF’s commitment to ensuring that young voices are given a chance to contribute to research and policymaking. As a young and aspirational nation, it is only fitting that young scholars and thinkers are given a platform to succeed—this is a core component of ORF’s mission. The organisation also engages with the youth through its partnership events with universities and its popular internship programme. The remainder of the discussion ran the gamut from key foreign policy questions like India’s China challenge to defining good governance. Prof. Pant took the opportunity to emphasise the critical importance of empirical research done by think tanks in general and the ORF in particular in informing policymakers and the general public.
This event report is written by Shashank Mattoo, Research Assistant with the Strategic Studies Programme
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