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Talk on "MP-IDSA and Policy Research" by Dr. Uttam K. Sinha and Dr. Ashok K. Behuria

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  • April 26, 2023

    Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) organised  talks by Dr. Ashok K. Behuria, Senior Fellow, South Asia Centre, and Dr. Uttam K. Sinha, Senior Fellow, Non-Traditional and Security Centre on "MP-IDSA and Policy Research”  which were held on 26 April 2023. The talks were attended by the Associate Fellows, Research Analysts, Interns and other scholars of the Institute.

    Executive Summary

    The Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) is India's foremost think tank for advanced research in international relations, especially defence, strategic, and security issues. It provides training to civilian, military, and paramilitary officers of the Indian Government. It was established on 11 November 1965. The Senior Fellows of the Institute shared their experience in MP-IDSA and talked about its importance, and also offered their views on how to improve the quality of research at the Institute and spelled out the norms prevalent at the Institute pertaining to publication, media interaction etc. 

    Detailed Report

    Dr. Ashok Behuria started, by discussing the background against which IDSA was conceived soon after the India-China War in 1962. He said that after the 1962 debacle, it was felt necessary that there should be a think tank focusing on strategic issues in India, which would keep an eye on the changing geopolitics and suggest policy alternatives for decision-makers in the realms of foreign and security policy of the country.

    Institutions like RAND Corporation and the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) were taken as models and finally, the Institute was established in November 1965. He quoted from the writings of Shri K. Subrahmanyam while discussing how MP-IDSA functioned during its initial days and emphasised that all the Institute’s scholars must read the article by K. Subrahmanyam on the Birth of IDSA.

    He talked about the academic freedom that is fundamental to research at MP-IDSA and held that the freedom provided to the scholars should be used judiciously. Rather than criticising government policies, the job of the researchers is to provide a constructive critique of government policies and provide the policymakers with options and analyses of the prevalent strategic environment both in the neighborhood and at the global level.

    He urged the scholars to be very careful about their study and said that the focus should be on providing solutions to India’s strategic challenges. He emphasised the importance primary sources while conducting research. He advised scholars not to use the name of either MP-IDSA or the Government of India while expressing their views unless they were mandated specifically to do so. Pointing to the rise in social-media participation by the youth these days, he said that while it was welcome to do so, the scholars must practice restraint while expressing their views and ought to stick to their areas of expertise.

    Continuing the discussion, Dr. Uttam Sinha started with a question about how it had been working in a think tank like MP-IDSA. He said that it was essential to read K. Subrahmanyam’s article on the Birth of IDSA and said that when Shri Subrahmanyam was the director of IDSA he highlighted that we should always keep in mind where we are located and what is the function of the Institution. He held that criticism was an important part of research but it should always be constructive and enriching. He said that the scholars must remember that whatever they would write, especially through the MP-IDSA website or publications, would be read by the government, and therefore there has to be a fair degree of caution in what the scholars seek to express and how balanced their articulation is.

    Dr. Behuria added that we should find a way to strengthen our audio-visual projection as well so that we can propagate our views through the YouTube channel which will project the Institute in a big way.

    Dr. Uttam pointed out that language and communication were important and said that the scholars needed to find ways to better express themselves.   

    Dr. Vishal Chandra, Research Fellow, shared his perspectives and said that one of the major responsibilities of the scholar was to try to simplify things for the reader and present her/his viewpoint in a very reader-friendly manner. He said that the scholars should identify the gaps in the existing discourse on a particular theme and then attempt her/his research on hitherto unexplored areas.

    Dr. Sinha said that the role of MP-IDSA scholar was to sensitise the public on issues of national security which is the mandate of the Institute as per its MoU.

    Mrs. Mayuri Banerjee, Research Analyst, commented that we should write in a way that we can publish our work and it is acceptable to a wider range of audience.

    Dr. Rajorshi Roy, Associate Fellow, commented that in terms of speaking and writing skills, one needs to keep developing them over time.

    Lastly, the speaker and the audience discussed the Institute’s interface with the media and how the scholars should carry themselves in media.

    Report prepared by Mr. Karan Phular, Intern, Centre of Europe and Eurasia, MP-IDSA.