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A sympathetic case for Hindu Nationalism

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The death of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the first non-Congress Indian Prime Minister who served a full term (the incumbent, Narendra Modi, is likely to become the second), occasioned a wave of sympathetic reflection, even from those who disagreed politically, about the charm, wisdom and integrity of the old man. Scorned in his lifetime as the 'civilised mask' of the Hindu Nationalists, Vajpayee appeared - in his death - a different breed of a politician, particularly in contrast to his successor,  approachable, consensual and incorruptible. Though he would always have the dubious distinction of being a lifelong Hindu warrior, stretching from the collaboration with the British government in the pre-Independence years to active sponsorship of sectarian politics in the 80s which led to the horrors of religious riots from Bhagalpur to Bombay, Vajpayee came to represent the reasonable case for Hindu Nationalism in India. His death and the outpouring of respect, demand a re-examination …

On training global professionals

I am working on developing a certification programme for professionals who have to work outside their countries, or, in an industry which needs constant global interaction, with customers, colleagues or investors.
In a way, this is U-Aspire 2.0. We did develop something like this, Global Business Professional programme, which was built around global business strategy and intercultural competence. This time around though, I am looking at a slightly different audience. This would be less about strategy and more about everyday competence. Besides, this would have more focus on practise and interaction and less on 'knowledge'. 
When I worked on this last time, the programme was designed to be blended, with a component delivered face to face. Because of this, and because we wanted to fit this around certification frameworks, we went on to define learning hours and outcomes etc. I now understand, with the work I have done since then, that while all of these things sound like common…

Brexit and the bravehearts

So the date is near and the signs are unmistakable. House sales have stagnated along with house prices. The Sterling is forever stuck in a zone of weakness. Shoppers are staying home. Supermarket shelves are showing the inflation and the Bank of England is trying hard not to see it. Unemployment is at an all-time low and too many shops are displaying 'Now Hiring' signs on the door, but none of that looks like good news. Though everyone has gone on holiday, and newspapers are living off the anti-semitism of Corbyn and Islamophobia of Boris Johnson, this is a summer of waiting in Britain: The Brexit curtain is about to - and inevitably - fall soon.
But there are people in Britain for whom this is a summer of hope. For Theresa May, who loves the limbo, and indeed is its creator, knows that this is the best state to live in. For the two people who would want to see her gone, it is a time for optimism: For Boris Johnson, this would be the time to be unhinged and get back to empire…

Democracy in Pakistan

Imran Khan's ascension to Premiership in Pakistan could have been a great democratic moment: An elected government completed its term, only the second time in the country's history; the two dynastic parties, who took turns in government during the democratic intervals in-between Military rule ever since the 1970s, were defeated and replaced by a charismatic man with a track record of professional success and reputation of determination and commitment. In a society where the love of Cricket unites the all the diverse groups and classes, Imran is supposed to have a unique appeal; and, his charm, uniquely among all Pakistani politicians, extend to India.  
But it is not. Mr Khan is widely seen as a stooge of the Pakistani army, the election rigged in his favour by the Generals. In Pakistan and abroad, his elevation was seen to be illegitimate, and instead of a promise of peace, it is seen as a portentous moment of conflict. Rather than being a moment of celebration of the breaki…

Don't blame it on the people

As much we would like to believe that there is no common global pattern, we love to indulge in grand theories when things go wrong. So, the world politics has changed since 2014, and we have come to see this 'challenge to the liberal order' as a 'populist revolt'. Books have appeared, lectures have been delivered and now pleas are being published - all on the premise that 'people', crying babies upset by globalisation and dislocation of life, are wrecking a carefully crafted global arrangement which prevented global war and brought prosperity. The anger and the disaffection, being created by fake news and manipulated by demagogues, would bring a global trade war, undermine the global institutions and create instabilities - that is the fear!
While some of the fear is indeed justified, this diagnosis is wrong. It is fashionable to blame it on the people when things go wrong: When Nazis came to power, it was the rowdy SA rather than highly respected German Junker…

The future of college isn't global

The future of college is a popular conference topic. The discussion usually starts with the obvious - that the college must change as the economy is changing - and revolves around a familiar complaint - that the state-funded colleges are too bureaucratic, too expensive and too slow to adapt to changing realities. And, in the end, comes the panacea, privatisation, and not too subtle discussions about global higher education as a multi-billion dollar business opportunity.
The problem with this narrative is that, first, private college education isn't that new - it is very much part of the problem rather than the solution - and, second, the pursuit of global college has so far been a graveyard of good intentions. Too many people, enthused by the conference speeches and reading the pumped up projections global consultancies churn out, have tried to create the culture-free non-regulated college-in-the-air, only to be rudely disappointed as the student millions fail to materialise. Tho…

Regulating foreign universities: 7 ideas for Indian policy-makers

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I wrote about the case for allowing foreign universities to be allowed to operate in India. In this connection, I mentioned the Foreign Higher Education Providers Bill, which has appeared in different names and versions since the 1990s before the Indian cabinet and parliament and never went anywhere. I argued that though the foreign providers have more or less given up on the Indian government providing a workable legal framework and settled for various expedient semi-legal arrangements with politically influential education barons, the jobs and skills crisis should force Indian policy-makers to rethink the approach. 
However, even if this conversation is reopened in the new parliament in 2019, simply passing the bill as it was proposed wouldn't get us anywhere, and this point is worth belabouring. Several reasons for this, including that the bill in its current form is unattractive for any foreign provider, and it is unlikely that anyone would prefer to operate within such a fra…

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