The UPA is slowly wiring India into the US administration, making it a virtual province, without any public debate over the direction in which the country is being led. As if the 27 per cent OBC quota controversy in higher education was not enough, now American embassy officials have been surreptitiously inveigled into a two-day conference of the University Grants Commission on Challenges Before Higher Education.
The UGC is an autonomous institution under the Union Ministry of Human Resources Development; its chairman Sukhdeo Thorat appointed by the present dispensation. Hence, it seems inconceivable that the diplomats would have been accommodated at the conference without the knowledge of Minister Arjun Singh or the Secretary, Higher Education. Either way, however, this is a scandalous development.
Understandably, many vice-chancellors objected to the presence of officials of a foreign government at a forum debating the problems of higher education in India. Significant decisions were taken at this conference, namely, not to hike fees and to permit the setting up of foreign universities under strict regulation. As higher education, especially professional education, is a huge business in America, as also in India, the presence of US diplomats at a closed conclave bodes ill for India'sindependent decision making process.
UGC claims there was no official invitation to the US embassy officials, but sources privately admitted the diplomats came to get a sense of the opinions of 200 Vice Chancellors attending the meeting about allowing foreign universities to operate in India. Last month, the US Educational Foundation in India (USEFI) took ten Vice Chancellors of leading Indian universities on a US tour to discuss issues such as ?degree equivalence, accreditation, student aid, admission policy, counselling services, curriculum and institutional infrastructure?.
These Vice Chancellors are now under pressure to espouse American interests in India?one foreign trip is all its takes! At the meeting, however, most Vice Chancellors wanted foreign universities put under a strict regulatory framework with proper safeguards so that Indian universities do not suffer. Some Vice Chancellors advocated Indian and foreign universities do business on a reciprocal basis, as India does not need foreign universities. Instead, India could focus on attracting foreign students and charging them higher fee to cross-subsidise the poor and needy.
The intrusive attempt by the American Embassy to infiltrate into the higher education sector has to be seen in the light of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh'sdangerous decision to get American universities to vet and approve bureaucrats for promotion to Secretary level. Initiated earlier this year as part of the Prime Minister'sadministrative reform proposals, top civil servants were required to secure the American stamp of approval for top-notch postings.
Coupled with the move to somehow open India for foreign universities, this is a shameful handover of the entire Indian administration to the American State Department and Private Corporate. It is well known that America is run by corporates and their interests, and this is why government, private sector, NGOs, academic institutions and think tanks are all closely enmeshed with each other, exchanging manpower and resources in order to best promote the interests of their major shareholders. The current war in Iraq is the best example of how the American government can be used to promote the interests of a private sector, in this case, the oil industry.
The ?grooming? and manipulation of Indian civil servants through government-sponsored subordination to America will impact seriously on Indian independence, national integrity and national security. Some years ago, a RAW officer in cahoots with the CIA was tipped off and helped to make a timely exit from India; he is known to have settled in the United States which is not cooperating with Indian agencies to extradite him. More recently, a senior intelligence officer had to be recalled from Sri Lanka because of unacceptable contacts with foreign personnel.
It is astonishing that despite such incidents, the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions feel that the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, Duke University, and Syracuse University should monitor Indian bureaucracy. A four-week training programme on Governance Challenges for India, attended by 95 IAS officers of 28 years standing at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, was designed along with the John F. Kennedy School of Government. KSG has to certify these officers before they can move to the rank of additional secretary or secretary.
This drastic change in service conditions of the IAS has happened without informing Parliament or the Indian people. The UPA has outsourced responsibility for writing Annual Confidential Reports of Indian bureaucrats to the United States! Similar deals have been sewn up with Syracuse University, New York, and IIM, Bangalore for training officers with 15 years of service (April 2007). Duke University is to conduct a programme for officers with nine years of service.
The government has also not asked Deputy Chairman Planning Commission to quit two posts he holds in US-based organisations. Dr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia is a member of the World Bank'sCommission on Growth and Development and the US Institute of International Finance. The World Bank is controlled by American multinationals. The Institute of International Finance has leading Western commercial banks as members: Merrill Lynch, J.P. Morgan, Bank of America, ABN Amro Bank, HSBC Holdings, Citibank and Deutsche Bank. These bodies serve western corporate interests, not Asian, much less Indian. And as many of these banks operate in India, Mr. Ahluwalia'sinteractions with them can have implications in the realm of policy formulation and execution.
Simultaneously, both Indian and American Governments are covertly pursuing the Indo-US nuclear deal, which can have crippling consequences for India'seconomy. Similar attempts are being made to penetrate the defence establishments through strategic think tanks and other seemingly innocuous interfaces. This is why many retired generals, bankrolled by foreign defence companies, advocate closer strategic ties with the United States.