Smriti Irani (first row left) and other participants with Richard C Levin, then president - Yale University (first row fourth from left) in 2013
The Congress’s Sachin Pilot, Manish Tewari and Jyotiraditya Scindia have done it, so have BJP’s Smriti Irani, Rajiv Pratap Rudy, and Prakash Javadekar. The Yale connect that HRD minister Smriti Irani recently mentioned would have meant her participation in the India-Yale Parliamentary Leadership Programme, in 2013. Irani and 90 Indian MPs have participated in the programme since it was established in 2007. They have included members of 20 different political parties; from rural and urban constituencies; and national and regional parties. Between 2007 and 2012, Yale University was partnered with the India-US Forum of Parliamentarians to convene the programme; since 2013, the annual programme is held in collaboration with the Governance and Public Policy Initiative, housed at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi. All programmes take place on the campus of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, and last for about 10 days, starting each morning at around 8 am and going through the evening.
What kind of training do Indian leaders undergo? George Joseph, director for International Relations and Leadership Programmes, Yale University, gives more details (This interaction, through e-mail, took place before the Lok Sabha elections).
Yale has a World Fellows Programme and an India-Yale Parliamentary Leadership Programme. What do parliamentarians and politicians have to gain from such programmes?
Broadly, there are three overarching benefits to parliamentarians and politicians. First, the programme exposes them to ideas and discussions with Yale faculty who are among the world’s leading experts in their fields; programme faculty are former heads of state, others are Nobel Prize winners, but all are distinguished Yale faculty.
Second, the programme provides a space, away from the glare of media and politics in India, to explore the most pressing global issues, ask questions, and discuss issues and ideas among themselves. All discussions are “off the record” and the classroom discussions are never shared with anyone else. Third, the programme is a way for MPs from different parties to connect and share in a way that would not be possible within India. The programme allows the participating MPs an opportunity to learn from each other and to appreciate each other’s perspectives even if they do not agree with one another.
The Parliamentary Leadership Programme was launched in 2007. How has it progressed? Successes? Achievements?
The programme has flourished since its beginning and has attracted individuals who are leaders in their parties. Many are current or former union ministers or ministers of states. Some have been ministers within state governments. Others are positioned to hold leadership roles in their parties or in the government in the future. The participants are notable by the network that they have formed of past participants.
How are the programmes designed? How and who can participate in such programmes?
Each programme is typically around ten days and involves around 15 MPs. Each programme will have MPs from four to six different parties, representing Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, from urban and rural constituencies, men and women, etc.
The programme starts each morning around 8am and continues into the evening with faculty lectures and discussions throughout the day. No staff or family are allowed to accompany the MPs to the programme. During the programme, the MPs are students in the classroom and their focus is only on the programme. The topics for discussion are identified in collaboration with the Centre for Policy Research and Yale faculty.
The curricula for the programmes are created by Yale faculty. MPs must be invited to participate in the programme and at the present time, with very limited exceptions, we do not allow MPs to repeat the programme.
The topics for faculty lectures and discussion vary from year to year but most focus on the major issues of economics, foreign policy, economic and social development, environment and sustainability, leadership development, etc.
What do the faculty have to say about the participants?
Yale faculty have been very pleased and impressed by the calibre of the participants in the leadership programmes. They appreciate that it is an enormous undertaking to govern a nation as large and as diverse as India and hence they realise that the tasks undertaken by the MPs are challenging. The faculty have appreciated the discussions and questions that have been raised by the MPs during the programmes.
Is there a fee for this programme? Who pays?
There is no fee for the programme. Currently, the Centre for Policy Research pays the costs of the round trip airfare between New Delhi and New York City.
Yale University pays the costs of lodging, meals, local ground transportation, and associated programme expenses. The members of parliament pay all incidental costs not covered by the programme. It is important to note that this is a Track Two programme and no Government of India funds are used to support the programme.
What are the biggest issues that parliamentarians should be concerned about today?
The complexity and demands of geo-political and economic affairs during the twenty-first century will require that governments and organisations at all levels have inspired leaders. The most effective leaders will possess a truly global outlook and will have a serious engagement with the critical global ideas, institutions, and practices that will be vital to world affairs and to the competitiveness and advancement of their nations. Indian MPs need to have a truly global outlook and exposure to a range of issues that are critical to global affairs: around economics, environment and sustainability, trade, foreign policy, social and economic development, technology and privacy issues, China, energy security, and many more.