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New 'India Initiative' by Sigur Center for Asian Studies, George Washington University

November 19, 2007 18:26 IST

The Sigur Center for Asian Studies at George Washington University, as part of its expanding set of programs, including those on China, Japan, and Korea, has launched an India Initiative to be headed by Professor Deepa Ollapally, associate director at the center.

The India Program was launched recently with an exclusive reception and discussion on 'Opportunities for India as a Rising Power: Views from the United States and Japan,' featuring two faculty members at the Sigur Center: Ambassador Karl F Inderfurth, the former assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs and currently John O Rankin professor of the Practice of International Affairs, and Dr Mike Mochizuki, Japan-US relations associate professor of political science and international affairs.

Inderfurth previewed his forthcoming article in The National Interest focusing on the next stage in US-India relations, and Mochizuki commented on how Japan's foreign policy perceptions could affect Indian interests. The National Interest is a quarterly journal of international diplomacy.

The reception was attended by guests representing a spectrum ranging from academia, business, government and community leaders including Hemant Kanakia, Columbia Capital; Xerxes Mullan, Merrill Lynch; Satish Jha, Digital Partners; Prakash Khatri, Ombudsman, US Citizenship and Immigration Services of the Department of Homeland Security; Douglas Feith, former undersecretary of defense for policy; Sonal Shah, University of Maryland; Dr Kaleem Kawaja of NASA; and Marshall Bouton of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

Dr Ollapally said this event was an effort to reach out "to key friends and well-wishers who want to see India studies advance in United States institutions."

She told the Sigur Center, housed in the Elliott School of International Affairs at GWU, was uniquely placed to study India. "We take a deliberate cross-Asia focus in contrast to most other university-based programs that narrowly divide Asia into sub-regions like Southeast Asia, South Asia, Northeast Asia and so on."

Dr Ollapally said "one of the reasons I was delighted to join the Sigur Center last year was precisely because the center consciously steers away from this perspective. This kind of demarcation is increasingly outdated. For example, how can we understand the changing balance of power in Asia, trends in global economic dynamics, or prospects for global leadership without a broader Asian framework? Not only that, within Asia, our emphasis is on major countries in the region -- all of which makes the Sigur Center an ideal place to study contemporary India in Asia, and on the global stage."

She said with the center's well-known programs on China, Japan, and Korea, "this deliberate cross-Asia perspective provides the unique backdrop I referred to in terms of studying India's growing role within Asia and on the global stage. The idea is to leverage our existing strengths on China and Japan to the benefit of India studies."

There are more than 20 faculty and researchers already doing work related to India at GWU, drawn from a variety of disciplines that include international affairs, business, public health, political science, law, anthropology, religion, and regional development.

The law school has an India Project -- the brainchild of GWU alumnus Raj Dave -- built around its world class patent law experts. The Sigur Center also administers the university-wide Asian Studies program, the largest of its kind in the Washington, DC, area.

Dr Ollapally said, "Students who are concentrating on China and Japan at the Elliott School seem to be increasingly making their way into courses on India as well. Over the last two years, I have seen a growing number of China Studies students in my class who come because they feel the need to enhance their understanding of India, especially Sino-Indian relations, in the new global order."

Dr Mochizuki, a former director of the Sigur Center, told the incorporation of India into the Sigur Center was "a natural development, because in my view, with the rise of India as a major power and modern economy, the Center could not ignore such an important country and still consider itself a Center for Asian Studies."

"India's rise is helping redefine what is Asia," he said and pointed out for example, "India-China relations and India-Japan relations are shaping the dynamics of Asia as a whole. Therefore, the Sigur Center's India Initiative highlights the emergence of this new Asia."

Dr Ollapally said under the India Initiative, the center hoped to launch or expand "a broad range of scholarly and policy activities -- high level conferences, policy dialogues, student scholarships, visiting fellowships, new courses, specialised lecture series, and a professorship in India Studies."

She said a memorandum of understanding for a student and faculty exchange program has already been signed with Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi and the Indian American Education Fund has provided seed funds to help establish student scholarships in India Studies.


Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC