1. Psyops, perception management & the world of espionage
Noam Chomsky once talked about “manufactured consent”, a term which seems very relevant, when seen in the context of perception management, or psychological operations, as they call it. Mobilizing public opinions, shaping them to serve specific interests, to topple unfavourable regimes, to plant insurgencies and inject discontent are some aspects of the “larger game”. And the world of intelligence is it’s playground. Geopolitical landscape shaping and maintaining the balance of power are all part of the same interplay. Its surprising and equally important, that how we need to strengthen the illegitimacy of the intelligence framework, only to ensure the legitimacy and the survival of the state. The capabilities of the agencies are limited by narrow political interests. Espionage is even more relevant today and has become an art, in fact. As observers, we try to build an understanding of the unwritten rules and the working of the global game.
2. Rising challenge of non-conventional security threats
The world today is plagued by a plethora of non-traditional security threats, be it disasters, pandemics, food security issues, poverty, hunger and basic human dignity. In the age of effective deterrence and loaded nuclear arsenals, conventional wars seem less likely. But the security apparatus is still following old doctrines. No doubt, possessing physical strength is a precondition to ensure everlasting peace, but once that is there, we also need to focus on the other rising challenges. One pandemic has left all the politics in shambles. Global challenges demand globally concentrated efforts. Nations states are yet to digest this change in the modes of threats. As we enter the 21st century, we are beckoned with many undefined, borderless and yet extremely deadly enemies. We as an organization, seek to observe their interplay in today’s society and suggest a strategy to address them in a comprehensive manner.
3. Disarmament, denuclearisation &demilitarization
The mad race for arms has made us all live under the nuclear shadows for a long time. Be it the Japan bombings, the Cuban missile crisis, or the current issues with regards to Iran and North Korea, the post-1945 world has seen it all. Whooping defence budgets and stockpiling of nuclear warheads is doing no good to humanity, but they do play a role in the geopolitical balancing. This dilemma is a permanent one. Defence budgets, across societies, are eating away substantial portions of funds that can be invested in basic human needs first. We are facing an increasing threat of misuse of these WMDs by terrorist organizations and unaccountable dictatorships. We will work to debate that where should be the silver lining, and how the trust should be built to eliminate mutual suspicion so that a collective reduction of weaponization can happen, if not absolute elimination.
4. Cybersecurity, data theft, privacy concerns & A.I.
As they say, that a person with a laptop in his room, can do more harm to the entire humanity than the combined armies of many nations. Such is the impact of cyber dynamics. In the age of surveillance, artificial intelligence, where data is the new currency, privacy seems to be extremely jeopardized. Adding on to that, the monopoly of the Big 4 companies over the internet has made the world dependent on them. The intrusion of cyberspace is a serious challenge that isn’t receiving enough attention. Many nations have started forming Cyber commands as well, while others remain vulnerable to foreign attacks which can cripple their critical infrastructure, like power distribution, network highways and so on. As we head towards the 4th Industrial revolution and the age of automation, we need to 1st invest heavily in strong cyber architecture. Given the fact that the internet is a collective good, we as a think tank look for collective strategies that we can adopt to make it more accountable and safe.
5. Extremism & terrorism, including cross border terrorism
The world has changed since 9/11. Today terrorism, which in most cases gets fuelled by extremism, isn’t limited in time and space to any one country. Their aim is to strike terror into the minds of the global citizens and take the world back to medieval ages. Surprisingly, the world still doesn’t have one accepted definition of terrorism. More than physical confrontations, it is a matter of mental warfare and even if we inflict defeat on them through military action, we won’t be able to counter the wrongly shaped interpretations. That is why we need to counter it by ideas as well, and we need to ensure that people don’t fall for such regressive ideological traps. Few nations have inflicted more harm to the cause than any other, by promoting cross border terrorism, only to further their parochial and narrow interests, and they have repeatedly provided safe heaven to UN-designated terrorists. Our job is to discuss these issues with people, and get insights from the veterans from the field, and create a robust intellectual discourse where we come up with a practical way forward.
1. Regionalism, Communalism & ethnic issues
Modern nation-states have found it very challenging to deal with rising conflicts based on regional aspirations. Some of them appear to have started off from genuine concerns of citizens, while some others are majorly politically motivated. In any case, resort to violent means, disturbing the L & 0 (Law and order) and destruction of public property can never be justified. In fact genuine dissent is the safety-valve of democracy. Religion should be the private affair of an individual and the state should totally disassociate itself with it, but we see increasing violence in the name of it, across the world, be it it’s subtle use in domestic politics or it’s hardcore manifestation in terms of ISIS. But the complexities of such issues make them a task to resolve, which demands a multi-stakeholder approach based on broad rapprochement in the first place. As a think tank, we strive in the direction of finding multi-pronged strategies and solutions, based on debates and discussions to effectively deal with them in a collective manner.
2. Gender issues and women empowerment
Gender is a broad spectrum of identities, and we don’t find the required understanding for it in society. It is mainly about expression, about the idea of self-love, even about not defining it at all, if one doesn’t feel like. Often the term LGBTQ can fall short to define it comprehensively. Sexism, on the other hand, has been deeply entrenched in societies. Gender-based roles have inflicted centuries of injustice on 50% of the population. But with increasing awareness, changing needs of a technological society and activism, things are changing. Equality has to be the core of all the pursuit and not reverse domination. And we at Binding Bharat, look forward to sensitize populations on these issues, to realize the true idea of equality of the sexes and freedom of gender expression.
With all its idealism, energy and motivation, youth has always been at the forefront of bringing dramatic social changes. Even the UN, in its resolution number 2250 focused on the role of youth in the critical issue of peace and security. Nearly 1.2bn people are aged between 15-24 in the world. One can imagine the possible impact they can create, if properly utilized and channelized. The youth is the face of tomorrow. It needs to be sensitized with proper ethical values, and it needs to be shaped in a manner that caters to the development of humanity in a sustainable way. But before that, we need to make sure that we address their issues first and that is where we would like to contribute, by making attempts to fight for their rights and the related causes.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest”. At the root of every possibility of any form of social change, lies effective and quality education. With the ever-shifting landscape of the nature of society, education needs to be increasingly dynamic and learning-based. The debate in terms of the focus to be given on the primary, secondary and tertiary education need to be decided by thorough brainstorming. The methods of pedagogy need effective reinvention, with proper use of ICT methods. Access to education still remains a challenge in remote areas, and therefore fundamental focus on infrastructure has to be ensured. We need to move away from rot learning, and shift towards a dynamic curriculum, with equal focus on extra curriculum and sports. We primarily see ourselves working in the field of sensitizing people, about the importance of education, and we will partner with top academicians in the country, along with grass-root level teachers to forge an informal alliance to tackle the issue of education.
Approx. 60m people get killed every year, by just the top 10 diseases. The rising challenge of NCDs, mainly linked to the changing lifestyle patterns is a global challenge. Globalization and easy movement across boundaries, has left us all more vulnerable to the quick spread of communicable diseases, especially in terms of pandemics and epidemics. Access to effective and quality health care, with an appropriate and parallel focus on allopathic, homeopathic and ayurvedic methods is need of the hour. Vaccination to every child is a basic prerequisite for effective shielding. Simultaneous focus on Yoga, meditation, immunity boosters, and in a more broader sense happiness, will surely lead to a healthy tomorrow. Our focus remains on creating awareness and imparting knowledge to people on its importance and basic lifestyle changes.
1. Unemployment and the challenge of poverty
Lack of good quality jobs is a pressing issue, that our economy faces. Casualization of the workforce and the flight of workers from the primary sector to the other two, have created massive levels of unemployment and the resultant urban poverty. Even the sector like agriculture, which caters to 49% of the workforce, is plagued by disguised and seasonal unemployment. Despite the government’s repeated efforts, we find it tough to accommodate even a considerable portion of the 5 million people entering the labour force, in India, every year. We at Binding Bharat, try to discuss these issues in a thorough manner, and as a think tank, we try to establish profound intellectual discourses. After all, an enlightened and active citizenry is integral to a proactive democracy.
2. Crony capitalism, income disparities & low levels of PCI (special reference to the LDCs)
A free society ensures liberty to do business, which in India’s case gets exemplified by India’s dramatic rise in the EODB ranking ( from 140 to 63). But what happens when the same environment, which allows free wealth creation, leads to monopoly, concentration of wealth and the division between the classes? The shocking levels of low PCIs in the LDCs and rising wage disparities, across societies, is alarming. Proponents of state socialism saw the downfall of the related regimes in the late 80s. Is capitalism too getting plagued by its fundamental premises, or are there ways by which we can rectify the issues and get rid of the disease only, and not the body itself? Here, we debate these issues and try to come up with some balanced approaches and establish a direction in which we can move forward.
3. Dichotomy of population burdens & unutilized Demographic dividends
We live in a world where on one hand, countries of South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa are witnessing exponential increments in populations, and on the other, we witness declining numbers in the Scandinavian nations. India particularly has managed well to bring down it’s fertility rate to 2.3, but still, it needs to reach the replacement rate of 2.1. As a result we have the youngest population in the world, which if not properly used, can turn out to be a demographic burden. Resource exploitation and resource wastage surprisingly go hand in hand in India. India needs to channelize it’s youth bulge. Family planning and sex education, therefore, become truly important. We look forward to suggest measures that the government and citizens can take to address the population issue.
4. Inadequate infrastructural investments & poor R&D
Even after the adoption of PPP models, based on the idea of the state-market mix, we haven’t seen any heightened increase in infrastructural development. Developed nations have largely ensured a decent level in this aspect, but a country like India needs to spend $200bn annually, to match its appetite for infrastructure. Infrastructure is the driver of social change and it has dramatic spill over effects on all spheres of life. But even the essential prerequisite of infrastructure i.e. R&D seems very inadequate in its quantity. The amount Apple spends on its R&D is comparable with Infosys’ total turnover. India has been very proactive in recent years with a major push to create a robust infrastructure, but still, it needs to pump in more resources. One can definitely argue that we have an enormous pool of resources but the leakages have defeated the advantage of our predisposition, as a resource full society. As an organization, we can’t possibly transform the infrastructure, materialistically, but we can establish a forum where people can pour in suggestions and we can come up with some workable ways.
5. Post LPG era: Effects of Neo-liberalism & the Washington Consensus
In the event of an economic crisis in 1991, and subsequent adoption of structural reforms, based on WB/IMF conditions, India felt as if it has done away with its economic challenges. To some extent it did, but the underlying agendas of the Washington consensus started seeming obvious after few years, when the new issues of dependency on the West, growing divide between the rich and the poor and unfavourable trade environment started poking India. Although globalization is a very relevant and noble idea, but the unfair trade practices and the bias towards the West, in these bodies, do more harm than good. In the wake of the increasing economic interdependence of the world, we can’t possibly afford to stay out of the loop as well, and therefore we need to find ways to strongly increase our say and fight for other disadvantaged nations as well. We look forward to discuss and find ways to rectify the institutional challenges, and provide effective strategies to find a balanced way out.