Thursday, 26 August 2010

Asian Renaissance begins with Nalanda & South Asian Unversity

August 26, 2010 (Thursday) has become a very special day in the history of India and Asia as the Indian Parliament passed the Nalanda University Bill
( ) today evening at 2000hrs and the South Asian University ( started formally functioning from today. About eight hundred years ago (in1193 A.D.) one of the world's most ancient universities, the learning centre for the whole Asia, was destroyed by Bakhtiyar Khilji. With the destruction of Nalanda, decline of Asia started. India and China, the world's largest economies of that era slowly and gradually waned from the global stage while the rise and rise of the Europe started. While Nalanda was being destroyed, the Cambridge was being built. Magadh, which was the most powerful of the Mahajanpadas of India, slowly truned into present day Bihar over the centuries. Now wheel has taken the full tun and right there in Nalanda, a beautiful lotus is blooming again.

India has not taken up this project alone. The beauty of the new Nalanda University is that it has provided a platform to many Asian countries to come together. East Asian Countries have come together to build a great University in the vicinity of the ruins of the old Nalanda University, which is in itself a great diplomatic feat for Asia. Asia has a symbol with each majority of Asian countries can identify themselves. Nalanda is a common Asian heritage and new Nalanda University is the harbinger of Asian renaissance.

Another landmark achievement of the day is the functioning of the South Asian University, an innovative model university with the main campus in New Delhi and campuses in SAARC countries. Only 50 % of students will be from India, the rest from the other South Asian Countries. The seeds of a South Asian Identity are being sown, benefits of which will be reaped a few years later. JNU, so far acted as an International University where students from many South Asian and other Countries studied together. With a South Asian University, SAARC Visa exemption scheme, South Asia seems going on the right path.

Disclaimer-Views expressed are author's own.

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Saturday, 21 August 2010

Follow globally what is followed locally

Why can't we have the same arrangement for the two countries(USA & Canada for example) what we already have for two states (Karnatka, Tamilnadu or Texas, California for example) that they have to go to a court to sort out their differences, not to war. Why can't we add one more list of subjects above State List & Central List, let's call it Global List(Climate, Space, Terrorism & Global Pandemics etc.) and let the UN Parliament(does not exist, but can be a game changer) legislate on them for us all? What works best for Tamilnadu and Karnatka, can work for countries as well. But no...there are several reasons and excuses not to do it...some one would say...well there is no precedent...someone would say it will simply not work, present system is the best...but isn't our whole history about evolving from tribes& clans into city states, nation states and now United Nations. Then what are we worried about...what are our fears talking about global governance...'no that's idealistic viewpoint, romantic ideas...get real'-what one generally hears when proposing innovative ideas which can be game changer.

The point is that we sorely miss a global leader, a figure like Sardar Patel who had the courage and vision to unite over 570 princely states, gave us an United India so that the states could focus on human development, pursuit of happiness and not keep on fighting wars with each other. Can we imagine an India with independent states today? Our story could have been very bleak... The same story applies at the global level, our planet would be in a much better position to pursue goals of development which we all want with a constitution which allows nation-states to sort out their differences legally, denies them the right to go to war over disputes. Average man would be much happier with such an arrangement but defence companies with trillion dollars of capital would certainly not allow anything like that in the near future. Defence establishments will abhor the idea, but they can certainly be redeployed in Humanitarian assistance and reconstruction, policing activities. What use would be of diplomats? We would become something like resident commissioners...but our self interest should not hinder us in promoting greater common good.

I believe that there is a way forward and that is to be innovative, to help build new institutions which would let us concentrate on our development and secure for our citizens justice, equality and liberty.

(Disclaimer- Views expressed are my own and has nothing to do with any organization)

Origin of the idea of South Asian University and how a dream turned into reality

In  May 2005 I penned down my article 'South Asian Affairs' after returning from a group visit to Nepal,Bangladesh & Sri Lanka with by batchmates from the Indian Foreign Service. One evening my friend and batchmate Aman took me to an evening party to the residence of Rana Gurjit Singh, MP at Pherozeshah road. At his residence I got introduced to Rajya Sabha MP and a member  of Parliamentary Standing Committee on External  Affairs Shri P.K. Maheshwari. He came across a gentleman, soft spoken, sauve and friendly. I immediately vomitted out all the new ideas I had gathered during my visit of Nepal and Bangladesh. Shri Maheshwari liked the idea and asked me to send him a written note at a later date. I and Aman went to meet him in the MP flats located near Ram Manohar  Lohia hospital where he lived. I handed over the note to him, he read it and assured  me that he will discuss this idea with the Standing Committee of Parliament on External Affairs.  A record of our communication and note are below. I had immediately communicated my communication with Shri Maheshwari to my Civil Services batchmates who attended the 74th Foundation Course in Mussorie and are part of  a group mail

Tue, May 24, 2005 12:44:34 PMSouth Asian Affairs!
From: abhay kumar View Contact
2 Files Download All
South Asian Affairs!.eml (38KB); South_Asian_Affairs.doc (25KB)
Note: Forwarded message is attached.
hi everybody,
long time !
here is something to ponder for all of u. Please do send your questions, doubts, comments etc.............
Note: forwarded message attached.
Do You Yahoo!?
Yahoo! Small Business - Try our new Resources site!Fw: note!
note!24 May 2005 10:50:15From: "abhay kumar"
To: ""
On Sat, 21 May 2005 wrote :
My dear Abhay,
It certainly was a pleasure to have met you last week.
I am happy that you have proposed for a South Asian University and look forward to receive your note about it.I have not finalized my programme for June but would be there likely in the 3rd week. I will inform you of my final programme and certainly would meet you in any of those days.
With regards,
Yours sincerely,
Original Message:
From: abhay kumar
Date: Mon, 16 May 2005 05:36:01 +0000
Subject: Hello!
 it was very nice of you to hear me patiently.I would like to discuss the idea of a South Asian University further with you any day any time of your convenience.Kindly let me know when you have some time for me. I would send you a note regarding it in my subsequent mails.
with warm regards
abhay Kumar
IFS 2003 Batch
Abhay k.
i exist because i think!
South Asian Affairs

There is a great deal of goodwill today between the two giant neighbors of South Asia, India and Pakistan. I believe the heavy ISD rates, which exist between India and its South Asian neighboring countries, create artificial barriers in the free and natural interaction of the people of the region. Governments of the SAARC countries need to ponder over this issue and take visionary steps to ease and facilitate greater exchange of ideas and information and ever-greater interaction among the South Asians by converting ISD rates into STD rates. While traveling to South Asian Countries capitals I felt welcome at Tribhuvan International Airport at Kathmandu. It has a separate counter for facilitating immigration and customs for the South Asians, which IGI Airport does not have. As part of my training I visited the Foreign Ministries and the Foreign Service Institutes of the neighboring countries. It gave me the opportunity to meet the young probationers or officer trainees of Sri Lankan and Bangladesh Foreign Service. An annual meeting of the Officer Trainees of the Foreign Service of the SAARC countries for a week would greatly add to the quality of diplomacy in South Asia. The idea of greater, wider and deeper interaction among the South Asians always brings the memories of my days in Delhi University and JNU. A SAARC University would be a welcome step.

South Asian Affairs

Abhay K. *

Disclaimer: - The views expressed in this article are the author’s own opinion and has nothing to do with the view of  Government of India .

There is a great deal of goodwill today between the two giant neighbors of South Asia, India and Pakistan. Here lies a great opportunity to convert this amount of goodwill into some concrete institutional measures for the greater good of the whole region. During my visits to some of the South Asian countries I came to realize how costly it is to make a phone call from Nepal, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka to India. It is cheaper to call Canada from Colombo than to Chennai. I believe the heavy ISD rates, which exist between India and its South Asian neighboring countries, create artificial barriers in the free and natural interaction of the people of the region. This is against the ethos of promoting further and extensive interaction among the South Asians. It actually hinders the flow of ideas and information from one country to another and thus hampers the spirit of regional integration and globalization. Governments of the SAARC countries need to ponder over this issue and take visionary steps to ease and facilitate greater exchange of ideas and information and ever-greater interaction among the South Asians. It would be a great step forward if ISD rates of making a call in the neighboring countries can be converted into STD rates.

While traveling to South Asian Countries capitals I felt welcome at Tribhuvan International Airport at Kathmandu. It has a separate counter for facilitating immigration and customs for the South Asians. Though it is a small gesture, I feel it carries a great deal of importance and value. It reminds us our South Asian identity and one feels at home while at the airport. It consolidates the regional identity. I found the same facilitation counters at Colombo and Dhaka international airports. While returning to my own country India I felt a little strange and awkward when I could not find a separate facilitation counter for South Asians at the IGI Airport in New Delhi. This made me think and ponder. We too need to do some more thinking and ground work in embracing a South Asian identity.

As part of my training I visited the Foreign Ministries and the Foreign Service Institutes of the neighboring countries. It gave me the opportunity to meet the young probationers or officer trainees of Sri Lankan Foreign Service and Bangladesh Foreign Service. Meeting them was like meeting my own colleagues, young and dynamic, full of energy and ideas. We thought together how great it would be to meet all of our colleagues in the foreign service of SAARC countries for a week and share each others experiences, ideas and learn from each other. What a feeling would it be to be together, to learn together and belong together even for a short while. I put forward this idea in front of the many seniors and colleagues who readily agreed that such initiative was required and should be encouraged. May be Indian Foreign Service Institute could take the first step in this direction and show its leadership in the region.

The idea of greater, wider and deeper interaction among the South Asians always brings the memories of my days in Delhi University and JNU. I tremendously enjoyed the company of many students from Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Afghanistan, Mauritius, Thailand and Central Asia, who as classmates, batch mates and friends enriched my academic life in various ways. May be this kind of interaction could be given a new impetus and height by creating a SAARC University at Nalanda or Taxila.

I have heard the plans of the Delhi Government to come up with a South Asian Haat on the lines of Delhi Haat, which is very popular among the tourists and the locals. It would really help to bring together the handicrafts, ethnic wear, handlooms, cuisines, literature, music and other specialties of the whole region to one place. This would certainly add to the enrichment to our lives.

* The writer is Indian Foreign Service Probationer, currently in New Delhi; he can be contacted at abhay_ifs
May 2005
  In August 2005 I was posted to Moscow and had to leave Delhi on 15th August leaving the idea of a South Asian University with Shri P.K. Maheshwari and with the hope that it will reach its logical destination via the Standing Committe of Parliament on External Affairs.
And it so happened that Prime Minister Shri Manmohan Singh outlined the idea of a South Asian University in November 2005 at the 13th SAARC Summit in Dhaka.
Later when I got the news I wrote to Shri P.K. Maheshwari regarding this great news-
Wed, December 19, 2007 4:48:32 PMWish you a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
From: abhay kumar View Contact
Dear Sir,
Warm greetings from St. Petersburg, Russia!
Thank you so much for your warm wishes!I wish you and your family a merry Christmas and a very very happy new year !

Sir, now I am in posted in St. Petersburg as Consul in Consulate General of India. Yesterday I read in the Indian Express about the plans of building of an International University in Nalanda which I always dreamed of and had the opportunity to discuss with you when I was in New Delhi. SAARC Summit in Delhi has also passed a resolution to build a South Asian University. I am delighted that real action is taking on some of the ideas we discussed together in New Delhi.

With kind regards,
Abhay Kumar,
Cosulate General of India
St. Petersburg,Russia
Ph-+78125796633 Fax- +78125795088
You can visit me at
---- Original Message ----
From: ""
Sent: Monday, December 17, 2007 11:31:36 AM
Subject: greetings

Dear Abhayji

Wish you a very happy and merry Christmas and happy new year. May God give
you a very happy and prosperous life, and grant you all those wishes
whatever you want.
yours sincerely

------------------------------------------------------------------- – What can On Demand Business Solutions do for you?

And further...

Thu, January 10, 2008 4:40:15 PMreply
From: "" View Contact
My Dear Abhay,

I am please to know that you are now posted as Counsel in St. Peter’s Burg.
When will your new posting will come up? I had raised your Idea about the
International University in the meeting of Standing Committee and I hope
they have recorded your Name and Idea, which came from you.

Let us see the shape in which it materializes and would be very happy to be
associated with it when the time comes.

With greetings and Good wishes

Yours Sincerely

------------------------------------------------------------------- – What can On Demand Business Solutions do for you?
Fri, January 11, 2008 7:31:17 PMRe: reply
From: abhay kumar View Contact
Dear Sir,

Thank you so much for your kind reply and mentioning my name to the Standing Committee of Parliament.
I joined St. Petersburg in August 2007 and will be here for the next three years. I do not know about my next posting yet.

With warm regards and New Year greetings from Russia,

Your sincerely,

Abhay Kumar
Consulate General of India
St. Petersburg,Russia

The idea which was a dream of young probationer in April 2005 has  now  become real and one can visit the website of South Asian University at
It does not matter if recognition was not given to me, what matters is that I dared to dream, I brought it to the attention of right person in the right place and my dream turned into a reality. It is time to rejoice.


Thoughts on Home

Thoughts on Home: My recent trip to India

Abhay K*

India I found during my brief visit from 26th Feb to 26th March 2009 was a different India than what I had seen a year and half ago in 2007. What I found changed was the penetration of mobile phones and roads in the remote areas of the country. It was heartening to access Internet at my ancestral village in Nalanda in Bihar. I often dreamed about it a decade ago. I could also travel to the remote villages on bike or car where a few years ago it was only possible to go walking or by limousines powered by bulls. Centuries old isolation of these rural outposts has been broken and a new connected society has started to form in the remote heartlands.

I was even more surprised by the village Primary School. A visit to the premises of the Government Primary School in my village that had been upgraded to a middle school since my last visit was heart warming experience for me. I saw a well constructed school campus with toilets, water-pump and a painted recreation room. How much it had changed since the time I attended this school twenty years ago.

I was specially touched by the news that soon the Internet services would be available on mobile phones at affordable cost. We live in an interesting time and the mind boggling advances in technology now make it possible to realize our dreams in merely decades. At this pace of development, very soon the last villages in India will be connected and the poorest of the poor will have a mobile phone.

IT has been put to the service of the people and now Railway reservations can be made through internet saving long queues at the Railway stations. Land records have been digitized which directly benefits the common man in the villages. What India now needs is a revolution in the power sector so that each and every small or large settlement in India can get unhindered electricity supply. This can be achieved by making use of both conventional and non-conventional energy resources. Solar energy can be a major source as India gets good sunshine throughout the year. Intensive R&D is required in this field in the next few years to solve India's power shortage problems. Nano-technology is a promising area in this regard as better poly-silicon is being made today using nano-technology. Russia is one of the leaders in this sector and we can benefit from technology sharing in this area.

During my travel to Jodhpur I found scribbled on walls of an elite city club 'Clean Jodhpur, Green Jodhpur'. It was heartening to see that city dwellers care for the city they live in but a moment later found a garbage heap lying by the corner of the wall. The club members passed by that garbage heap everyday without noticing it, or perhaps noticing but ignoring it. I observed similar conditions in Kerala, one of the most literate states of India and in my home state Bihar. 'Clean homes, Dirty streets' seems to be a pan Indian story. Streets with kids openly defecating in daylight, streets with cows and dogs, snake-charmers and recently violent street-beggars -mostly kids and young women who scratch you to irritation if you refuse to give them money. Putting large dust bins in the street and purchasing garbage can be the solution. We need a good waste collection and treatment mechanism in order to improve hygiene and image of the country.

The movement of traffic within the cities or the highways can cause heart attack to someone who is in India for the first time as everybody has his own rule on Indian roads and the rule is 'drive wherever you want, as you want'. It was alright when there were less number of vehicles on the road but now with increasing number of vehicles with the rising prosperity of the Indian middle class, the situation looks worrisome. The traffic rules need to be strictly implemented and driving licenses need to handed over with due care. Without which I fear that travelling on Indian roads will be an adventurous affair.

I found an improved public transport during my travel to Delhi from Jaipur and from Delhi to Chandigarh and back. The construction of Delhi Metro has greatly eased the traffic burden from the auto-rickshaws, taxis and buses but auto-rickshaws have not changed themselves from pre-price fixing and not using the meter. In the country side buses and trekkers continue to overload people on the roofs as cattle and people continue to defecate on both sides of the roads approaching villages in lack of public or private toilets. But the good news is that NGOs are active in the villages and offering people to get toilets on half-cost sharing basis. I hope it should work.

Elections are nearing and this time I hear that everybody in the voter's list has got an electronic voting identity card and the voting will take place on electronic voting machines throughout the country. Many constituencies have been delimited and old caste equations have changed. Now candidates can spend maximum of Rs. 25, 00000($US50, 000) on the election campaign and that will include all the expenditure including expenditure on vehicles. Posters cannot be pasted on walls this time. Interesting developments but reforms in how elections are funded will be a major step ahead in making our democracy more open and transparent. I wonder if one can get an Election-loan as Educational loans are granted to the students.

Disclaimer: Views expressed in this article are personal.

* Abhay K. is author of the book 'River Valley to Silicon Valley-Story of three generations of an Indian family' and 'Enigmatic Love: Love poems from the fairy-tale city of Moscow'. His forthcoming books are 'Fallen Leaves of Autumn, Candling the Light, '10 Questions of Soul' and 'United Earth: The New Global Institution for the New Millennium'. He currently lives and works in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Published in 74th FC Newsletter in April 2009

St. Petersburg: The Light of the North

St. Petersburg: The Light of the North

St. Petersburg,

The Light of the North,

Window on Europe, saviour of the Russian soul,

Harbinger of the Russian Renaissance,

Birthplace of Great Russian literature and ballet

City of novel ideas, beauty, glory, revolution and grandeur,

City of Pushkin, Gogol, Dostoevsky and Bronze Horse Man,

City of white nights, innumerable canals and bridges,

City of Heroes,

City that withered the nine hundred days of blockade.

St. Petersburg ceased to be the capitals of Russia a long time ago but its inhabitants still call it as the Northern Capital or Cultural Capital of Russia. Peter I (Peter the Great) founded the city in 1703 reclaiming the marshland to open a window on Europe.

The area where St. Petersburg is located today was under the control of Swedish King Karl II whom Peter I defeated in the battle of Poltova and built St. Petersburg with the help of the prisoners taken during the battle. Many thousand lives were lost in building this beautiful city out of a marshland but St. Petersburg was built from scratch and became the capital of the Imperial Russia in 1713. It continued to be its capital till 1918 when Lenin, after the Russian revolution of 1917, decided to make Moscow the capital of the new Soviet Union. After the revolution St. Petersburg was renamed as Petrograd and in 1924 after the death of Lenin it was renamed as Leningrad in his honour however after the break up of the Soviet Union, its original name St. Petersburg was returned to it in 1991.

People of St. Petersburg consider their city one of the most beautiful cities in the world and especially more beautiful than the Russian capital Moscow. Moscow and its culture is considered here a little rustic and crude compared to the finesse of the St. Petersburg traditions with an European touch. Having spent two years in Moscow, which I found grand and magnificent, I have to be diplomatic about my admiration for Moscow while being asked ‘which city is better between the two’. Each time my answer would be –‘Moscow is magnificent but nothing compared to St. Petersburg’. And I wonder sometimes, it is true. St. Petersburg has innumerable, rivers, canals and bridges adding to its splendour. It is also the city of White Nights, world famous Hermitage museum, Marinsky theatre and the birthplace of Great Russian literature and Russian ballet. Above all it is a compact and convenient city without much of traffic hassles.

St. Petersburg has population of 4.6 million people and is the fourth largest European city and the most populous city at its latitude. St. Petersburg has a very compact historic centre which has been declared as UNESCO heritage site. In fact almost all its activities take place around 6 lanes wide beautiful Nevsky Prospect and one can see majority of the great architectural monuments walking on this long street. These include Elisievsky Palace, Alexandrsky theatre, Kazan Cathedral, Church on Spilled Blood, Winter Palace, General staff and Admiralty building, St. Isaac cathedral and Central Manezh. One can admire the panoramic view of the river Neva, Rostral Coulumns and St. Peters and Paul Fort (first settlement of the city) standing on the Palace bridge that opens every night at 12:30 A.M. during summer months.

City Blues

The city is more than three hundred years old and so are most of the buildings built in baroque and neo-classical architectural styles. But the outer beauty compensates very little for the inner comfort. The water pipes are old and rusted and tap water must be first filtered and boiled and then again filtered before it is fit for drinking. Buildings being old do not have lifts and though I am lucky to live in a building that has a lift, the lift starts from the first floor (In Russia floors are counted as ground floor, first floor and so on…). It seems the building planners during Soviet times just were too busy to look at these small details and as a result now I have to carry things up to the second floor before I can put them in the lift and take them to the fifth floor where I live. I tried to find out what was the reason of putting a lift from the first floor and was told that the residents of the first floor during the Soviet times did not want to pay for the lift services so the planners decided to deprive them of the free lift services. In that process they forgot about those living on the higher floors!

When I came to St. Petersburg, I could not think of travelling in Metro because of skin head fears and buying a car was not easy at all, first I had to put an order and wait for the car to be imported. When the car was imported, the price quoted by the car dealer had already changed and I was left with no choice but to pay the price they wanted. Once I had the car, I had to take it to several places for registration.

Since I have bought a car, I have had an adventurous driving experience in the city. Drivers here are full of adrenaline and aggressive driving is the norm. The insurance companies are legendary in this city. In case one has an accident, the vehicle should not move an inch till the traffic police arrives and takes all the measurements and issues a certificate. Afterwards the trial begins. Parties involved in accident have to go to the regional central office of the traffic police where ‘who is guilty’ will be decided and it might take months. After obtaining certificates from this office one has to go and file for an insurance claim. First the long queue and then inspection and then again to the repair shop for inspection and quotation of the prices and more…it can take anything like 6-8 months for the repair to be done.

The traffic signs in the city could be more confusing than assuring and at any given time some or the other road is closed for reconstruction purposes. Besides that, there can be VIP movements any time without warning and the traffic police can shut any road any time and then people have to wait for hours to find one’s way out from the resulting traffic mess.

Lately there have been a lot of investments in automobile sector and St. Petersburg has been turning into a Russian Detroit. It seems there will be many more cars on the road in the near future though the financial crisis has provided a respite.

The Great Russian poet Alexander Pushkin said- “Nature does not have bad weather” but St. Petersburg is severely cold in winters and it rains most of the spring and summer. The normal sunny days in St. Petersburg are rare. Though Peterburgers love their city, they are always ready to leave it for the warmer and sunny tropics viz. beach resorts in Turkey, Egypt, India, Thailand or Maldives.

Silver linings

But every cloud has a silver lining. I have spent a year in St. Petersburg, and what a tremendous year it has been for me. What has been remarkable is the number and variety of the people I have met during the past year- writers, painters, singers, poets, diplomats, soldiers, businessmen, song-writers, actors, theatre-artists, students, dancers, professors, political leaders, thinkers, museum curators, interpreters, India-lovers and more. I have enriched by their energy, ideas and friendship beyond expectations and have no hesitation in saying that St. Petersburg is a city of creative people, a city of people with beautiful minds.

St. Petersburg is cultural capital in true sense as its inhabitants have real love for arts and culture. The statues of their writers, poets and painters adorn the squares and streets of the city. I have had the opportunity during the past one year to know many people who form the core of the St. Petersburg art circle and are internationally reputed. They have inspired me to look at life from a different angle. They have shown me the power and beauty of arts and the influence it has on our lives. It has helped me to acquire a new language to express my deeper consciousness through colours, drawings and paintings and photographs which I could not do through written or spoken words. St. Petersburg has inspired me to paint and now I also have a small gallery at home of over fifty paintings I have done in since my arrival to St. Petersburg.
(Available at )

It would be difficult to imagine St. Petersburg without its greatest treasure i.e. Hermitage. Hermitage is an institution in itself and has a huge influence on the city dwellers. It has inspired generations of St. Petersburgers and moulded many of them into fine artists. It has some of the finest collections of Renaissance and post Renaissance paintings and sculptures. From time to time it organizes special exhibition and invites members of Hermitage’s Friends Club along with the members of the Diplomatic Corps in the city.

Besides Hermitage, Russian Museum, Marinsky and Mikhailovsky theatres, a number of art galleries play a central role in the cultural life of St. Petersburg. Pushkinskaya- 10, Art Centre, is one such address in St. Petersburg which leads the contemporary arts scene in the city and is well known in European capitals such as Paris, Amsterdam and London as well as in New York. Loft Proekt Etazhi at Ligovsky Prospect-92, is another such Project that has transformed an erstwhile bread factory into a centre of contemporary arts in St. Petersburg and since the past one year I have been a witness of its mind boggling transformation process.

One can enjoy walking in the legendary Summer Garden built by Peter the Great (which the City authorities plan to close for three years for its transformation) and the Nevsky Prospect, along the banks of Fontanka River (the boundary of the old city) and the Garden of Joy in the Elagin Island or take the boat rides in the Neva, Moika or Fontanka rivers and watch the sunset at midnight from the Gulf of Finland from the bank of the Baltic Sea on the Vasilievsky Island. One can go to Peterhof (a palace located on the shores of Baltic Sea with fountains and design like the Palace in Versailles) riding a speedboat, driving to Pushkin (Tsar’s Village) and treading upon the golden leaves of autumn or can see the ancient city of Novgorod (190 Kms from St. Petersburg) or the city of Vyborg (close to border with Finland and has unique architecture) or one can play volleyball at the beaches in the north of the city in June or July on sunny summer days or can walk around the city whole night.

I must say I have loved working with friendly and open hearted St. Petersburgers who love India, know our culture and wish us well. I would like to end this with these lines that came to my mind spontaneously-

I know the glorious short summer will be over

And the long cold winter will arrive soon

There will be no sunny skies

It will be all grey and gloom.

But then I’ll turn to the inner lights

And cherish the wonders of life

Till summer comes again

And the Light of the North turns white once again.

Abhay K. is author of ‘River Valley and Silicon Valley- Story of three generations of Indian family’ ‘Enigmatic Love- Love poems from the fairy-tale city of Moscow ’ & ‘Fallen Leaves of Autumn’. His fortcoming books are ‘Candling the Light’, 'Colours of Soul'. Views expressed here are his own.

Published in 74th FC Newsletter in October 2009


Quest for Democratic Global Governance

This article is inspired by an elegant, thoughtful, timely and visionary piece by Prime Minister Shri Manmohan Singh Ji 'Ancient Wisdom Guides India's Future' on the eve of G-8 summit.

We are very near to satisfy the thousand years old quest of the humanity to belong to one Empire, Khanate, Caliphate, Ulema, Sayuz, Government or Federation whether this quest manifested through Alexander the Great, Romans, Chengiz Khan, Tamerlane, Marx , Lenin, Rhodes,Woodrow Wilson, Nehru or F.D. Roosevelt.

The defining question of this century is how do we address the formidable challenges of global governance in a dramatically transformed world.

Humanity needs a new thinking in order to survive and prosper in an Internet driven information age. The inherent rights of nation-states to go to war in an interconnected and interdependent world are not only self defeating for the states which decide to do so but also counter-productive for the global community. What's the point of elaborate and expensive independent security arrangements if war cannot be beneficial for neither the victors nor the vanquished states? Why not to create and strengthen institutions of common security?

'The only way peace can be achieved is through world government.' These were the words of a visionary Jawaharlal Nehru, 1st prime minister of the Republic of India who had a deep understanding of the World History ,(reflected in his book 'Glimpses of World History-a great read) and knew that our history is not confined to national borders as events outside the national borders shape history as much as events happening inside national borders, and that's even more true for our internet driven world of 21st century, where we communicate everyday beyond our national borders, make friends, enter into international relationships and feel as World Citizens. (I am a proud citizen of United States and a fellow citizen of the world- Barack Obama in Berlin)

Let's look at Asia- India is a great soft-power and China a hard-power(Joseph Nye). Any confrontation between the two Asian giants over territorial or resource dispute will push the world economy into a long recessionary winter, causing incalculable losses and it will take decades for the world to come out of it. Can the world afford an India-China confrontation?

I believe that short and long term interests of soft powers (and interests of the world) lie in ancient Indian philosophy of Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam as Shri Manmohan Singh ji emphasized in his G-8 article i.e. strengthening the institutions of global governance. I would take it to the extreme and would say taking away the rights of sovereign nation-states to go to war in an interdependent world as Bismark did for Germany or Sardar Patel did for India. Investing in global security with the creation of volunteer global army as recommended by the Our Global Neigbourhood report seems to be the best bet if the world community wants Perpetual Peace(to borrow the phrase from Kant).A Global Supreme Court, that can resolve all territory or resource related disputes among nation-states as our Supreme Court does for Cauvery water dispute between Tamilnadu and Karnataka. Imagine these states going to war to solve water disputes or Texas and California going to war over such issues?!

UN Reforms

Reforming UN system will not be enough as UN is product of World War -II bipolar industrial world and 20th century thinking (when the world was partially connected ). In information and knowledge age even the meaning of 'Vasudhaiv Kutumbkam' needs liberal expansion to include not only humans across the world but all living beings and life supporting systems. What our world needs is not 'United Nations' but 'United Earth'- A brand new global institution of global governance with a mandate to protect the all living beings and life supporting systems(Refer Earth Charter and Agenda 21) on the Earth from both internal(war, famine, environmental catastrophe) and external(asteroids, comets) threats.

United Earth with a 'Global Parliament' directly elected by the people through internet voting(example first global internet voting for the election of the Board of ICANN, UN agency that regulates Internet) empowered to legislate on global issues {Climate change, Common security, Space exploration, Research in alternative energy resources (oil and gas will end in 2075), international terrorism, International immigration(imagine Indian English teachers , nurses around the world), Global arms trade}.

This will not only provide an extra layer of essential democratic governance we need at the global level(against the present International undemocratic governance).

Hard powers may not gain as much as soft powers will gain from a democratic world federalism but the whole world will be a much secure and prosperous place.

Here I am leaving you with an Earth Anthem that I composed in January this year-

Earth Anthem

Our cosmic oasis in the vast Universe

Cosmic blue pearl

The most beautiful planet in the universe.

Africa, America, Antarctica, Asia, Australia, Europe

Atlantic, Arctic, Indian and Pacific

We are your children

We crave for your love

Our cosmic oasis,

The most beautiful planet in the Universe.

United we stand with all flora and fauna

United we stand as the people of one world

We are all your children

We love you, deep in our heart

Our cosmic oasis,

Cosmic blue pearl

The most beautiful planet in the vast universe.
(Views expressed are personal and does not represent views of any organization)
Originally written on 14 July 2010 and circulated among friends on e-mail.


Sunday, 15 August 2010

The Power of Culture

Culture is power. It is perhaps more powerful than weapons. What I mean by culture here is cuisine, dance, music, art, literature, dresses etc. Culture is essence of goodness of all nations, societies, communities. The great thing about it is that though culture has many forms, it unites mankind. It takes us away from thoughts of war and conflict. Culture promises us that there is the other side of life, good, rosy and after a hard day's work one can get back to that rosy side of life.

Our openness to get a glimpse of other cultures, helps us to break the stereotypes about them. We get to know that there is something common among us humans since ages-the love of good life, the divinity expressed through dance, music, literature and art.

Long ago, almost ten years ago, I had thought of a 'Global Bazar', one stop place to get acquainted with cultures of different continents, their cuisines, dances, art works, literature, dresses etc. I believe that its a sound business idea where lots of people would like to spend their weekends with families. Global Bazaar will not only be a good business idea but also a cosmopolitan cultural hub as 'Delhi Haat' is for India.
I can already see Bharatnatyam, Belly Dancing, Samba, River dance, Bollywood dance and many other such dances happening at one place with the traditional cuisine available in plenty amount to eat from different countries.

I am sure such a place can help people understand each other better and thus promote international peace.

Views expressed are personal.

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Saturday, 14 August 2010

Release of the River Valley to Silicon Valley in Russian

The Russian translation of the book "River Valley to Silicon Valley" was released on 24th April in St. Petersburg at the St. Petersburg Association for International Cooperation. The book was first translated by Ms. Svetlana Shakhovnina and later it was again translated and edited by Ast.Prof. Sergey Pakhamov, Philosophy Department of the St. Petersburg State University. Book Details-
ISBN 978-5-98012-044-3
Svytoslav Publishers
The book release ceremony was attended by Indologists, diplomats of different countries, journalists, students, artists etc. They expressed their happiness about such an initiative taken by me and they felt that the Russian translation of the River Valley to Silicon Valley will bring the two great civilizations of 'Ganga & Volga' closer.
Natalia Eleseeva, the President of the St. Petersburg Association of International Cooperation wished that I could continue to write in future -about my impressions of Russia, Diplomatic Service, Moscow or about the Russian people.

The ceremony was marked by warm and friendly atmosphere. The guests mingled with each other over champagne and choclates while I signed my books for them. Later a Russian musical group performed Indian songs and classical dance for the guests.


Friday, 13 August 2010


Exhibition by Abhay Kumar at Selskaya Zhizhn Gallery
17th Jan-8thFeb 2010 

Paintings and drawings of Abhay Kumar return us to the avant-garde art of the early twentieth century. The artist plays with the themes and motifs of works by Kazimir Malevich and Mikhail Matiushin with home-made ingenuity. And, despite the fact that over the past decade, the legacy of the avant-garde has not inspired new experiments of even one generation of artists, works of Abhay Kumar make no repetitions. Without the tension and pathos he makes the simple open art, playing the odds, which is given to the followers of Henri Rousseau. Images of the classical avant-garde are included here in the hieroglyphic language that is not talking about artistic utopias of 1910-20 years, but the new project for the future. Abhay Kumar creates an allegory of planetary consciousness - emblems of the unity of the peoples. This is not propaganda agitation, but the characters suggested by the political reality of India – the Republic uniting dozens of different cultures. Petersburg tradition knows other artist, writer and diplomat, who dreamed of universal harmony - the Banner of Peace. In his landscapes, Nicholas Roerich synthesized elements of Buddhist and Hindu icons. Abhay Kumar draws images of spiritual unity, a futuristic reworking of figurative and suprematic motives. In St. Petersburg and Moscow, he blend in with the culture of high dilettantism that traces its origins in the work of Velimir Khlebnikov, OBERIU, Arefievsky circle and Lianozovo school.

A native of eastern India, a diplomat, writer and artist, he brings themes and subjects from different national and political traditions to independent art. His poetry and autobiography was published in English and in Russian translation. On the art scene Abhay Kumar debuts in role of the educator developing the characters of utopia. Without a doubt in the gallery "Rural Life" the ideas of planetary consciousness must be dreamed freely. The hospitable and cozy house, holding a fort in the center of promptly built Kolomyagy district - one of the most Russian places of the modern art of St. Petersburg. Around the bulky new buildings and uninhabited penthouses, post-Soviet skepticism and pragmatism of the new bourgeoisie reigns. With regard to the ideals of the Enlightenment, far from being realized, except universal literacy. And yet, outside of Russia they are still in force: a bright future, which is inspired by the artist, is India's true democratic socialism.
-Stanislav Savitsky


Sunday, 1 August 2010

I hear the song divine

I hear the song divine,
With the music of the chirping birds
Peacocks, Mynas, Sparrows, Cuckoos
I find myself submerged in this spiritual realm
The world of spirit that moves everything
I wonder, how cannot one see, feel the Divine all around
Only interruptions to this divine rhythm
are man-made machines
Fans, air-conditioners, cars, trains...
And their jarring hymns.

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