November 2023

Endangered education

Dear Editor

Pervez Hoodbhoy’s scathing indictment of Pakistan’s educational failings under the leadership of ‘blind men’ (Asian Affairs, Oct. /2023 issue)is spot on.

How sad that these so-called academic ‘leaders’ should, in Dr Hoodbhoy’s very informed view, outdo even politicians, judges and generals in corrupt practices. For when a country’s core systems are damaged or broken, what hope is there for new generations to learn and grow?

Just as scandalous, as also expressed in Dr Hoodbhoy’s article, are the foreign universities whichaward high-level degrees – to Pakistani students, among others – based on ability to pay, rather than any academic ability, talent or knowledge they might possess. This is increasingly happening in certain British universities today, and does not bode well for either integrity or learning.

As more institutions in both Pakistan and the West veer more and more away from an emphasis on critical, independent thinking, and towards different forms of silencing ‘undesirable’ views,it is a sad thought that the lack of imagination and moral strength which Dr Hoodbhoy laments may become a defining feature of our educational systems.

P.R. Davidson


India’s balancing act

It was interesting to read the nuanced write-up by Tanya Vatsa (‘Deceptive diplomacy?’, October 2023 issue) on India’s hosting of the G20 and the consequences of the summit.

India’s diplomatic balancing act is neatly detailed inMs Vatsa’s own balanced piece, which praises elements of New Delhi’s role as a‘torchbearer for the developing world’ while also being subtly critical of how deep divisions over the war in Ukraine and climate change were played down, or at least not given all due weight an attention.

Yet, althoughMs Vatsa is correct to indicate that ‘Washington’s strategy of choosing a favourite strongman against a powerful rival could see India as a mere pawn in its archaic narrative of re-instituting the US-led world order’, I think it is important to also stress that India did well to prioritize multilateral cooperation and governance, and to woo countries of the Global South that may have been marginalised in the past.

Rahul Kochar


Competitive cooperation

The write-up on The Democracy Forum’s seminaraboutthe expansion of Chinese nuclear capabilityin the September edition led me to watch the recorded event, ‘Drivers of China’s Nuclear Build-Up’. The calibre of all the panelists was very impressive, as were their well-informed insights into this complex, worrisome issue.

Nuclear weapons as a source of China’s global status was a key point highlighted during the discussion, and this flagged up the importance of status to China generally – a cultural as well as a political aspect of the Chinese psyche which the West should perhaps try harder to understand and incorporate into its dealings with China.

But especially percipient and enlightening, I felt, wasJohn Erath’s comment that the most important level of competition between China and the West is intellectual, in the fields of exchanging ideas and information, which in turn, he suggested, will create an environment more conducive to (nuclear) arms control.

This seminar was just what is needed in our increasingly polarized societies with their too often one-sided mindsets: ahealthy, balanced discussion in which differences of opinion are aired without leading to a shutting down of debate.

Pauline Methven


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