Dr Ramesh Babu Kanneganti is the founder and director of the Center for Human Security Studies (a Think Tank on Security Studies) in Hyderabad. He is also a visiting faculty at NALSAR, Andhra Pradesh Police Academy, and many other prestigious institutions. He holds an Executive Certificate Program in Counter-Terrorism from International Institute for Counter-Terrorism, Herzliya, Israel, and a Post-Doctoral fellow from Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies, Bar-Ilan University, Israel. He was also the recipient of the US State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) in 2011 to develop the American studies Curriculum for Indian Universities. He is also a member of the advisory board at www.lawocals.com
Q: While researching about you, I came across an article in The Hindu titled “Determination is his success mantra”. I found something very unexpected but interesting and I quote, “Dr. Ramesh is a fine example of success achieved by a small-town boy, against odds.” He failed in Intermediate once however went on to do his Post-Doctoral at Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies, Bar-Ilan University, Israel on the topic “The U.S. Factor in Indo-Israel Defence Relations.” Would you like to tell us about that?
I don’t know the best way to put it, but I owe a lot to playing cricket back in the day. It taught me how to win and how to strategise for the next win when I lost. When you are playing in the forward defence position, you can hit good balls which you respect and bad balls which you punish, hit a six, and go long.
Another important lesson I have learned is that you should never let your success get to your head. Like in cricket, you get a hundred and if you become arrogant and lose focus, then that’s it, the next ball you are out. You see, cricket can be said to be a symbolical life of mine. You see, different types of people around the batsman give you various discouragement and try to find a way to make you out. I have translated cricket symbolically into my life.
My first exposure to the English language came when I was 22 and doing my MA in Political Science. My experiences taught me that “The forces that are for you are always greater than the forces that are against you” and you should expect turbulence before reaching an altitude in life, just as you get an announcement on aeroplanes. In such a way, I have translated whatever was happening in my life into real-life situations, and then I made the think tank possible at the Centre for Human Security Studies, a think tank on internal security and foreign efforts in Hyderabad.
Many real-life examples inspired me and fuelled the fire within me. I am going to make it a point to never forget where I came from. It doesn’t matter where you were born; all that matters is that fire in you, that drives you to achieve what you strive for, in life.
Q: What was the prime motivation behind CHSS? What was the entire process like, from start to finish? How did you notice the need for a think tank like yours, especially based in Hyderabad, which is still a comparatively young and growing city in certain aspects?
India, with its huge size, population, and seven countries with whom we share our land borders, I think there are not enough think tanks working on the internal security and foreign affairs of India. According to its shape and size, the socio-atomic challenges happening geopolitically or internally are way more.
There is a shortage of think tanks to work in these areas. We need the youth of the country to develop skills and take up strategic, defence, and foreign policies, not just the traditional studies we see commonly. If you cannot provide safety and security to your people, it will lead to a lot of distress and national security challenges.
Think tanks are organisations that conduct research on society, the economy, defence strategies, foreign policies, and women and children’s security. It is necessary to keep a check on these things so that they can be stopped in their bud rather than turn out to be a national security challenge. There should be a balance between human security needs and national security wants. It is my calling to start a think tank near
Hyderabad and empower students to help and to give the geo-political and geo-strategic aspects of global events a clearer context. We are in a world of privatisation or globalisation which is changing regularly, which was the main motive for me to start up a Think Tank in Hyderabad.
Q: Additionally, CHSS works with police from various countries and does comparative analysis and research to bring forth the best practices for each situation and issue. Dr. Ramesh’s belief in maintaining a symbiotic relationship between the government, the legal industry, and academics is what sets him apart from others. Sir, what led you to this area of defence relations and counterterrorism in the first place?
Mumbai, On 26/11 when I was working with NALSAR University of Law as an assistant professor, teaching second-year students, my conscience felt there was no specific study for terrorism or counter-terrorism. There, I made the decision to leave the university system and travel to Israel to study at the Institute of Counterterrorism. I learned about terrorism and counter-terrorism, and there I worked with Mr Ajit Doval, also known as “James Bond of India”, who helped me a lot by being very instrumental in shaping my opinions.
Terrorism is something that gives a lot of cause to people, and if a human being’s basic needs are not fulfilled, then there will be distress. Therefore, taking care of a problem from root to branch is better than peripheral adjustments. ‘We should have a human security approach to solve national security problems. For a high success rate, it’s necessary to understand the basic needs of human beings to unlock their full potential. This way, we can cut down on national security challenges or threats. The amalgamation of Pancha Bhoota (idealistic, realistic, spiritual, intellectual, and financial) will give the right picture in life.
Q: You are a staunch supporter of inculcating American Studies into the Indian curriculum. How did you stumble upon this niche and what piqued your interest in the same?
For that reason, I took American studies as my programme to understand foreign policy. If you want yourself to be engaged there, you need to know the country.
Q: As a person with many publications on the U.S. defence relations with other nations, what would you say is a crucial factor that is often overlooked?
Emotions do not play any role in defence or security strategies. There is neither permanent friend nor permanent enemy; the only thing which matters is the interest of a country at a particular time. There is always a hard reality to every penny spent from the American point of view. Without understanding that, we overlook certain aspects of the relationship between superpowers and emerging powers.