Major Indian think tanks are global
Business Standard, January 28,
India has the highest number of
think tanks in the world after the US and China; yet, not
even one finds a place in the top 30 worldwide listing by
the University of Pennsylvania. In the list, excluding those
in America, only one entity from India figured in the top 50
-- the Delhi-based Centre for Civil Society (CCS) is at 34th
However, in Asia’s top 30, we
have Centre for Policy Research (CPR) at fourth place,
Indian Council for Research on International Economic
Relations at 15th, The Energy and Resources Institute (Teri)
at 17th, CCS at 18th and Institute of Defence Studies and
Analyses at 24th.
The Think Tanks and Civil
Societies Program at the University of Pennsylvania annually
ranks think tanks around the world through an eight-month
process through expert and peer institution feedback on
their scope, performance and influence.
Parth Shah, founder and
president of CCS, says the global ranking is based on the
issues taken up, which are of universal concern. “For
example, we are working on education, livelihood,
governance, environment and rule of law,” he noted. Shah
said the ranking also factors in whether the entities take
their research to the targeted audience. Besides, the
rankings also assess whether the bodies are working on
multiple issues and not just a single one.
However, some experts in the
field questioned the measure. “There is mystery surrounding
the rankings, as CCS appears in the top 50 list of worldwide
think tanks (excluding the US) but in the Asia list, its
ranking is 18,” notes Pratap Bhanu Mehta, president of CPR,
which is ahead at fourth in the Asian list.
India has 292 think tanks, the
highest after the US and China, which have 1,815 and 425,
respectively. The larger issue remains of Indian think
tanks’ lack of global presence.
According to Mehta, the number
of Indian think tanks is highly misleading. “The average
size is very small,” he said, adding the lack of government
funding was the major constraint. “Looking at the top three
think tanks in the Asia list, they are from China, Japan and
Indonesia, respectively, working with an annual budget of
$50-70 million. There is a major drop at the fourth place,
i.e. CPR, working with an annual budget of $2-3 mn,”
He points to how Singapore and
China have invested heavily in research institutes, while
Indian government funding is very low. “Though we (CPR) are
big in India, we are minuscule if you put us on a global
platform,” Mehta says. The Indian Council of Social Science
Research’s annual budget is just Rs 30-35 crore, he adds as
Also, India has no tradition of
private philanthropy, as in the US, to fund good research
projects, some experts say. Another thing India lacks is a
vigorous university system that develops a good research
base. “We do not have universities like Yale or Princeton.
This weakens the entire ecosystem for research,” says Mehta.
Some slam the rankings
altogether. “They are just looking at the new liberal world
and are missing out on others. CCS is a liberty institute
that advocates no competition law or benign capitalism. The
list is based on a very narrow study,” said Pradeep Mehta,
secretary-general of CUTS International..
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