In Today’s Tech-Savvy Times, the Importance of Combining Shaastra (Knowledge) with Shastra (Weapons)

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In Today’s Tech-Savvy Times, the Importance of Combining Shaastra (Knowledge) with Shastra (Weapons) Blog Image

Why in News?

  • India is in the process of formulating its inaugural National Security Strategy, with a focus on accelerating domestic defence production.
  • However, amidst the evolving dynamics of global conflicts, the intersection of knowledge (Shaastra) and weapons (Shastra) becomes increasingly evident.
  • The blurring lines between civilian and military technologies, as seen in the cases of drones, satellite internet, artificial intelligence (AI), etc., necessitate a strategic approach that adapts to these technological advancements.

An Overview of Geopolitical Shifts and Technological Fences

  • Reassessing Economic Integration
    • Previously, the United States played a pivotal role in accelerating China's global economic integration.
    • However, the recognition of the strategic implications of advanced technologies has led to a revaluation of this approach.
    • The idea of placing foundational technologies behind a high fence, as articulated by the U.S. National Security Advisor, indicates a shift towards safeguarding crucial technological advancements for national security reasons.
  • Friend Shoring Under Scrutiny
    • The concept of friend shoring, wherein economic partnerships between countries with conflicting interests are maintained, is facing heightened scrutiny.
    • Recent suggestions from the White House Economic Council Director that a Japanese company with Chinese operations acquiring a U.S. steel company may impact national security.
    • It exemplifies the growing concerns around economic ties with potential adversaries.
  • China's Response and Tech Restrictions
    • China, in response to perceived threats to its technological sovereignty, has implemented measures to restrict the use of certain foreign technologies.
    • Notably, Tesla cars and Apple phones have been banned from Chinese army bases due to concerns over sophisticated surveillance features such as cameras, microphones, and cloud backups.
  • Xi Jinping's Dual Circulation Strategy
    • The Chinese leadership, under Xi Jinping, has adopted a dual circulation strategy, emphasising the use of Chinese technologies whenever possible and relying on foreign technologies only when necessary.
    • This strategy reflects a conscious effort to reduce dependence on external sources, aligning with a broader goal of technological self-sufficiency.
  • Challenges in Indo-Pak Relations and China's Changing Approach
    • India faces persistent geopolitical challenges, notably from Pakistan, which refuses to abandon its decades-old conflict stance.
    • China's policy shift towards prioritising domestic technologies reflects a changing global landscape.

A Historical Context: Military-University Collaborations - Forging Technological Advancements

  • MIT's Contributions to World War II
    • During World War II, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) emerged as a focal point for cutting-edge research and technological contributions that significantly impacted the war effort.
    • Vannevar Bush, the first dean of MIT's School of Engineering, played a pivotal role by transitioning to chair the National Defence Research Committee and the Office of Scientific Research and Development in 1939.
    • This move facilitated a seamless collaboration between academia and the military.
    • MIT's contributions during World War II were extensive and varied, encompassing the development of radars for planes, ships, guns, airports, and the Long-Range Navigation (LORAN) system.
    • The collaboration between MIT and the military showcased the ability of academic institutions to rapidly respond to wartime needs, providing technological solutions that had far-reaching implications beyond the immediate conflict.
  • Silicon Valley's Genesis
    • The post-World War II era witnessed the continuation of military-university collaborations, notably seen in the birth of Silicon Valley.
    • Frank Terman, Vannevar Bush's first MIT doctoral student and the long-time dean of Stanford's engineering school, played a crucial role in fostering ties between academia and the military.
    • Terman's influence midwifed Silicon Valley, which became a global hub for technological innovation.
  • Symbiotic Relationship Between Academia and Defence
    • The collaboration between universities and the military during critical junctures in history exemplifies the symbiotic relationship between academic research and national defence.
    • These collaborations not only propelled technological advancements but also demonstrated the importance of knowledge exchange between academia and the military for strategic innovation.

Debates on the Merits of Global University Rankings

  • Popularity Contests and Unreliable Metrics
    • One of the primary criticisms directed at global university rankings is that they often function as popularity contests rather than accurate indicators of educational quality.
    • Peer surveys, a common component of these rankings, are susceptible to biases and may not necessarily reflect the actual academic standing of institutions.
    • Moreover, the reliability of certain metrics employed in the rankings is questioned, as variables may serve as poor proxies for overall educational quality.
  • Incomplete Assessment and Ideological Bias
    • Critics argue that global university rankings provide an incomplete assessment of educational institutions by focusing predominantly on research output and international reputation.
    • Teaching quality, a crucial aspect of academic excellence, is often neglected in these rankings.
    • Moreover, the one-size-fits-all approach is deemed ideological, as it fails to consider the diverse educational objectives and values across institutions.

Significance of Global Rankings

  • Despite the criticisms, global university rankings hold substantial importance in the academic landscape.
  • A majority of universities worldwide have ranking goals, utilising these benchmarks as tools for management and publicity.
  • Institutions often strategize and allocate resources based on their positioning in these rankings.

An Assessment of India's University Ranking Goals: A Strategic Imperative

  • Proposed Interventions for Improvement- The Government’s Efforts Include
    • Identifying and investing in 20 government universities to create research hubs with substantial resources, including large research offices and industry liaison offices.
    • Consolidation of Research Labs and merging independent research labs into the top 20 government institutions to streamline resources and foster collaborative research efforts.
    • Directing government research funding predominantly to universities, following the model of established institutions like the U.S. National Institute of Health and National Science Foundation.
    • Encouraging corporate research collaborations with local universities through financial incentives, such as tax deductions for companies engaging in research at Indian institutions.
  • Strategic Partnerships with Defence Initiatives
    • The government has plans on collaborating with defence initiatives, as exemplified by the proposed Defence Technology Council, further reinforces the synergy between academic excellence and national security.
    • Strategic partnerships with universities can enhance project management efficiency, addressing concerns raised by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) regarding timelines in defence projects.

Conclusion

  • India's National Security Strategy must adapt to the changing landscape of geopolitics and technology.
  • Integrating the goals of elevating universities to global prominence becomes imperative, given the intertwined nature of knowledge, weapons, and national security.
  • By strategically addressing the challenges and leveraging collaborative efforts between academia and government, India can position itself as a formidable player in the evolving global security paradigm.

Q1) Why are global university rankings important?

Global university rankings play a crucial role in providing a comparative analysis of educational institutions worldwide. They offer valuable insights into the quality of education, research output, and overall academic performance of universities. These rankings help prospective students make informed decisions about where to pursue higher education, while also aiding employers in assessing the calibre of graduates. 

Q2) How are global university rankings determined?

Global university rankings are typically determined using a combination of quantitative and qualitative indicators. Common criteria include academic reputation, faculty-to-student ratio, research output, citations per faculty, international diversity, and employer reputation. Organisations like QS World University Rankings, Times Higher Education (THE), and Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) employ specific methodologies to gather data and assess these criteria. 


Source: Indian Express