Jaishankar To Interact With Universities On India's Evolving Foreign Policy

The government seeks to align the way international relations are taught with the changes in foreign policy since 2014.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Source: Campus photo from</p></div>
Source: Campus photo from

The government is seeking to align the way international relations are taught in Indian universities with the changes in the country's foreign policy since 2014.

To bring about this synergy, Foreign Minister S Jaishankar, Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra and President of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations Vinay Sahasrabuddhe will speak to heads of international relations departments and professors from over 40 central universities next week.

In a first-of-its-kind exercise organised by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations on March 17 and 18, the minister and the secretary will speak to academics on the substantive shifts in diplomacy under Prime Minister Narendra Modi and how they are likely to have significant implications for Indian diplomacy and the country's broadening role in global politics. While Jaishankar is scheduled to speak on India's rising power as the voice of the South; the G20; India's role in groupings such as the Quad; and the country's increasing influence on global matters, Kwatra is expected to speak on the neighbourhood. Sahasrabuddhe will talk to the academics about India's soft power as a crucial component of the country's foreign policy.

The conference is being organised to foster dialogue and better understanding between academics who teach and analyse foreign policy and actual policymakers, Sahasrabuddhe said. "Indian foreign policy has undergone a tremendous transition under PM Modi, which is reflected in the way the country's position has strengthened in the world. Our voice is now more confident and assertive. The way IR is taught today in our universities needs to reflect that."

Only recently, India hosted the G20 foreign ministers to discuss multilateralism reforms, food and energy security, counter-terrorism and other critical issues. Although, there was no joint communique, Jaishankar had then said that there was a "considerable meeting of minds" on issues such as ways to tackle issues like counter-terrorism.

India's foreign policy has also been a flashpoint domestically, with the BJP and Congress at loggerheads over Rahul Gandhi's utterances on China. An important part of the BJP's campaign is also centered around how the PM has created a distinctive legacy of a forceful foreign policy that has the goal of raising India to the position of a major global actor, or a vishwaguru.

The support of academics, particularly in lending credibility to a country's foreign policy, is often considered an important pursuit. While academics studying international relations as an academic discipline have over the years contributed to foreign policymaking, they are also important for their research and publications presented on global platforms, for debate and discourse domestically and internationally, and even in the training of younger policymakers. Jawaharlal Nehru University and Jamia Millia Islamia are some universities that offer international relations as a course. Jaishankar himself studied political science and IR at JNU. From party spokespersons to students, India's foreign minister has been interacting with different sections of the population on India's foreign policy. 

The ICCR is also contemplating more ways to get academia to boost India's soft power in diplomacy.

For instance, the body is mulling ways to make up for the lack of foreign language departments in Uzbek, Kazakh, Sinhalese, Thai, Khmer (the language spoken in Cambodia), Dzongkha (the language spoken in Bhutan), and Burmese in Indian universities. As of now, foreign language schools in universities are largely centered around teaching Spanish, Italian, Mandarin, German, French, and Japanese. This has also been reflected in the lack of interpreters in India for languages spoken in India's neighbourhood—the body in Rangoon is using an AI tool to translate the Bhagavad Gita into Burmese.

It is working on a plan to start two-year courses in Indian languages in collaboration with some of the educational institutions in these countries and also get Indian universities to offer courses on India's neighbourhood languages.

"As of now, we are in talks with UGC and some universities to explore the possibilities," Sahasrabuddhe said.