Indian think tanks find it virtually impossible to access relevant data. As K. Subrahmanyam, a founding member of IDSA once noted, tight control over information allows career bureaucrats to remain central to policymaking. 10It also provides a screen for occasional acts of incompetence. Even if elected officials were inclined to seek advice from non-governmental experts, the lack of data facing such experts would ensure that they could not provide timely inputs to compete with the bureaucracy. All that academics and other professional researchers are intellectually equipped to do in this situation is re-frame the discourse around a given topic, in ways that might serve long-term policy objectives. […]
At the moment, much of the strategic analysis conducted by think tanks is based on material pulled off the internet. It is a safe bet that 90% of India’s 292 think tanks would have to shut down if their internet connections were cut off for six months.