Society

Graphic Globalization: India Christens Cutting-Edge French Design School

Indian real estate mogul D.S. Kulkarni has built a state-of-the-art digital graphics campus from scratch in Pune, India. The educational impetus is provided by a French computer graphics university - a relationship light years indeed from old English colo

Students converge at new Pune campus.
Students converge at new Pune campus.
Benoît Floc'h

PUNE - One of D.S. Kulkarni's favorite words is "best." It's something the Indian businessman strives for with all his ventures, including the university campus he created from scratch in Pune, India, some 160 kilometers east of Mumbai.

Mr. Kulkarni certainly didn't scrimp when it came to cost. The campus boasts shiny new buildings, and is dotted with sculptures and state-of-the art equipment, and also features… France. That's because while Mr. Kulkarni kicked in all the capital for the new university, the educational component is being provided by France's Supinfocom, a computer graphics university with campuses in the northern city of Valenciennes and Arles, in the south.

Back in India, Mr. Kulkani began his business career at the tender age of eight, selling vegetables in the street. He later made a living cleaning telephones before eventually amassing a fortune in real estate. But it wasn't until last week, at the Dec. 2 inauguration of his own private university, that he finally "arrived." As is his habit, he went all out. Under an enormous hat decorated with flowers and colored fabric, Mr. Kulkarni welcomed the president of India, Pratibha Patil as well as a high-ranking French delegation.

"My dream is not to earn money, but to ensure that our students are the best," Kulkarni says. "In my family, we strongly believe in the merits of education. This country has given me a lot. Now it is my turn to do something good. The Indian government does not give a lot of money for education, so someone has to make the sacrifice."

The mogul's ‘sacrifice" adds up to $60 million – the price of opportunity for the thousands of students who will arrive for the first semester of classes. If this entrepreneur appeals to the French rather than Indians, it is because he wants to provide a practical education that will allow fresh graduates to immediately jump into the business world and create jobs.

Outdated remains of British system

"I want to liberate the students," he says. "The educational system that the English left us with at the time of independence is very academic. It does not teach the curriculum that our students need."

It is a notion supported by Alexis Madinier, the director of Supinfogame, a video game school under the umbrella of the Supinfocom system. "When they first arrive at our school, the Indian students are a bit lost. They have never been asked to understand and learn on their own. The first year is a total brainwashing. That's how it is in our profession," Madinier says.

It's an industry where "a completely new technology emerges every five years," he says. "My goal is not to teach them how I used to play games 10 years ago, but to be able to play at theirs."

Today, 80 students are enrolled in Mr. Madinier's school (15 of whom are European). They work in a studio rather than a classroom and learn a form of multiculturalism. "It's what works," he says. "The video game is a global market."

Globalization is at the very heart of the Franco-Indian project. The Grand Hainaut Chamber of Commerce in Valenciennes, which founded the Supinfocom system, is keen to prepare the economic future of both countries by emphasizing digital creation. In Valenciennes, the business group is planning a "digital greenhouse" that will group together the various Supinfocom schools and businesses. The focus of the cluster – which could employ as many as 2,000 people – will be on "serious games," meaning games for educational purposes.

The objective, explains Francis Aldebert, the president of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, is to have 30% of Supinfocom's overall activity in Valenciennes, the creative hub, and 70% in India, to focus on production.

Read the original article in French

Photo - dsksic

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Geopolitics

Iran-Saudi Arabia Rivalry May Be Set To Ease, Or Get Much Worse

The Saudis may be awaiting the outcome of Iran's nuclear talks with the West, to see whether Tehran will moderate its regional policies, or lash out like never before.

Military parade in Tehran, Iran, on Oct. 3

-Analysis-

LONDON — The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said earlier this month that Iranian and Saudi negotiators had so far had four rounds of "continuous" talks, though both sides had agreed to keep them private. The talks are to ease fraught relations between Iran's radical Shia regime and the Saudi kingdom, a key Western ally in the Middle East.

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has said that the talks were going in the right direction, while an Iranian trade official was recently hopeful these might even allow trade opportunities for Iranian businessmen in Saudi Arabia. As the broadcaster France 24 observed separately, it will take more than positive signals to heal a five-year-rift and decades of mutual suspicions.


Agence France-Presse news agency, meanwhile, has cited an unnamed French diplomat as saying that Saudi Arabia wants to end its costly discord with Tehran. The sides may already have agreed to reopen consular offices. For Saudi Arabia, the costs include its war on Iran-backed Houthis rebels fighting an UN-recognized government in next-door Yemen.

The role of the nuclear pact

Bilateral relations were severed in January 2016, after regime militiamen stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Amirabdollahian was then the deputy foreign minister for Arab affairs. In 2019, he told the website Iranian Diplomacy that Saudi Arabia had taken measures vis-a-vis Iran's nuclear pact with the world powers.

It's unlikely Ali Khamenei will tolerate the Saudi kingdom's rising power in the region.

He said "the Saudis' insane conduct toward [the pact] led them to conclude that they must prevent [its implementation] in a peaceful environment ... I think the Saudis are quite deluded, and their delusion consists in thinking that Trump is an opportunity for them to place themselves on the path of conflict with the Islamic Republic while relying on Trump." He meant the administration led by the U.S. President Donald J.Trump, which was hostile to Iran's regime. This, he said, "is not how we view Saudi Arabia. I think Yemen should have been a big lesson for the Saudis."

The minister was effectively admitting the Houthis were the Islamic Republic's tool for getting back at Saudi Arabia.

Yet in the past two years, both sides have taken steps to improve relations, without firm results as yet. Nor is the situation likely to change this time.

Photo of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

commons.wikimedia.org

Riyadh's warming relations with Israel

Iran's former ambassador in Lebanon, Ahmad Dastmalchian, told the ILNA news agency in Tehran that Saudi Arabia is doing Israel's bidding in the region, and has "entrusted its national security, and life and death to Tel Aviv." Riyadh, he said, had been financing a good many "security and political projects in the region," or acting as a "logistical supplier."

The United States, said Dastmalchian, has "in turn tried to provide intelligence and security backing, while Israel has simply followed its own interests in all this."

Furthermore, it seems unlikely Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will tolerate, even in this weak period of his leadership, the kingdom's rising power in the region and beyond, and especially its financial clout. He is usually disparaging when he speaks of Riyadh's princely rulers. In 2017, he compared them to "dairy cows," saying, "the idiots think that by giving money and aid, they can attract the goodwill of Islam's enemies."

Iranian regime officials are hopeful of moving toward better diplomatic ties and a reopening of embassies. Yet the balance of power between the sides began to change in Riyadh's favor years ago. For the kingdom's power has shifted from relying mostly on arms, to economic and political clout. The countries might have had peaceful relations before in considerably quieter, and more equitable, conditions than today's acute clash of interests.

If nuclear talks break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive.

Beyond this, the Abraham Accord or reconciliation of Arab states and Israel has been possible thanks to the green light that the Saudis gave their regional partners, and it is a considerable political and ideological defeat for the Islamic Republic.

Assuming all Houthis follow Tehran's instructions — and they may not — improved ties may curb attacks on Saudi interests and aid its economy. Tehran will also benefit from no longer having to support them. Unlike Iran's regime, the Saudis are not pressed for cash or resources and could even offer the Houthis a better deal. Presently, they may consider it more convenient to keep the softer approach toward Tehran.

For if nuclear talks with the West break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive, and as experience has shown, tensions often prompt a renewal of missile or drone attacks on the Saudis, on tankers and on foreign shipping. Riyadh must have a way of keeping the Tehran regime quiet, in a distinctly unquiet time.

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