By Aparajitha Vadlamannati
NEW DELHI – Who would think that India could have a problem with finding enough people? When you look at India, a shortage of people seems impossible. As the world’s second most populous nation, India has grown in leaps and bounds in the last 30 years with millions of skilled workers in every industry imaginable. But at home, in the government, India just doesn’t have the manpower it needs to execute effective public diplomacy.
Running a government, a working democracy, requires manpower composed of steadfast, trustworthy, knowledgeable, and concerned citizens committed to serving their fellow citizen. Unfortunately entering the civil service is impeded by the constraints of hiring policies, budget restraints, and exams and procedures with limited intake and numerous qualified candidates. Complications in the traditional route to government employment lead to public-private partnerships and concerned citizens supporting civil service action by non-profits.
After several meetings this past week in Delhi, we learned that though manpower is limited – especially people who understand the nascent field of Indian public diplomacy – there is room for “smart partnerships.”
Navdeep Suri, Joint Secretary and Head of Public Diplomacy, spoke to us about smart partnerships with local (i.e. Indian) private organizations and foreign organizations to work on shaping and getting India’s message to the world through varied campaigns.
Work by the PD division is distributed to the Indian Council for Cultural Relations and the embassies but, today as PD grows, partnerships are being made with organizations such as theIdeaWorks. The organization conceptualized and manages the India Future of Change project to determine perceptions of India abroad and work on a means to reconcile perceptions with reality. For example, the most recent project launched is the India Africa initiative. The aim is to engage African university students through arts and writing contests seeking submissions which express their viewpoints on India. Entries help evaluate what they see, and winners get money to fulfill their studies as well as a trip to India so that they can see how their impressions of India measure up to the reality.
Meeting with Manjri Sewak, Seema and Rashi at WISCOMP
Local private organizations, too, are improving India’s image through grassroots action. The Centre for Equity Studies (CES) and Women in Security, Conflict Management and Peace (WISCOMP) are two organizations working the area of development and conflict transformation respectively whom the India: Inside Out team met with in Delhi.
CES is dedicated to assisting the children of the urban poor to change them from victims of their circumstances to empowered individuals in charge of their future. WISCOMP educates women on their important role in conflict management, especially in contentious areas such as Kashmir. Though these organizations are not part of a concerted public diplomacy campaign, they are vital to affecting change in India– whether they lobby government for reform or empower an individual to make India a more effective democracy.
Even though the Indian government might have trouble with staffing, Indian citizens are independently working to strengthen India. Indians rooting for the nation to succeed are filling in the gaps and ensuring that India is heard with a voice that can only be described as its own.