Indian alumni call for national institutional reforms on Harvardís 375th anniversary

New Delhi, Apr 24(ANI): Marking the 375th foundation day of the world-renowned Harvard University, a stream of eminent Indian alumni, including Union Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal and former Foreign Secretary Lalit Mansingh, launched the 'Harvard India Debates' series in New Delhi on Sunday.

Lending a fillip to the ongoing celebrations at Harvard, the series is an innovative initiative by the Harvard Club of India.

Kick-starting the very first debate in the series, the panel of Indian alumni reflected on the various aspects pertaining to India becoming a global superpower in the future.

Addressing the gathering, Sibal maintained that there remained a lot more to be done in the country's political sphere before India could be considered a potential superpower, while strongly calling for institutional reforms in the world's largest democracy.

"In the political arena, democratic institutions have taken shape in this country, but democratic function has not lived up to the dreams of our forefathers, so I think we need a lot of institutional change and introspection as we move forward to deal with our institutions," Sibal said.

Stung by a spate of graft cases in the recent months, concerned citizens, academics, intellectuals and activists have often demanded strong government action in Indian administration and governance to resolve existing anomalies, which make the system opaque.

Meanwhile, dismissing nuclear power and warfare infrastructure as an indicator of national development, Lalit Mansingh said the real strengths of India lay in its robust Information Technology sector, vibrant culture and strong belief in democratic and constitutional principles.

"India's strength does not lie with its nuclear weapons or its missiles or the size of its armed forces. India real strength lies with the IT, its culture, its civilization and its vibrant democracy. Today, India's soft power is everywhere, in every nook and corner of the world and you see India through its dance, through its music, though its food, fashion, yoga, through Bollywood and bhangra," Singh said.

Most panelists seemed to agree that India was recognized by its colourful cultural ethos, deeply embedded in the mindset of its citizens in a treasure trove of traditions, rituals and values.

Culminating the debate by summarizing the views of the panelists, senior Indian Foreign Service officer Navdeep Suri said that India's future, though bright, needed strong action by its people and political leadership to cement its stand on the global stage.

"I think we had a very vibrant debate and it has provoked lot of questions obviously. There are lot of those who are very optimist about India's potential and the projectory that we are heading and there are others who obliviously take a are more cautious sometimes even a more pessimistic view and that is the whole point of debate, all opinions, all stands of thought come forth," Suri said.

Meenakshi Datta Ghosh, president of the Harvard Club of India, said the club was keen to seek partnership with Indian universities to usher in modern educational thinking into the curriculum.

"The Harvard club of India is also looking to a partner with institutions of higher learning like central government universities and other universities as well. We have already received invitations. They want us to come to them, they want us to rope in the children of these universities into the Harvard mode of thinking, to imbibe the Harvard spirit and they want us to share with them, some of our very cherish experiences that we have had and I think that this dialogue should now get off the ground," Ghosh said.

Founded in 1636 as a small school to educate Puritan ministers, the Harvard University is today the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States.

In 2010, the Times Higher Education World University Rankings ranked the Harvard University number one in the world.

Harvard has a wide variety of research, postgraduate and undergraduate programmes in diverse subjects and fields and is very popular among students and faculty across the globe.

Copyright Asian News International/