Saturday, 21 August 2010

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 74fc@yahoogroups.com

Tue, May 24, 2005 12:44:34 PMSouth Asian Affairs!
From: abhay kumar View Contact
To: 74FC@yahoogroups.com
2 Files Download All
South Asian Affairs!.eml (38KB); South_Asian_Affairs.doc (25KB)
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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.............
abhay
http://www.abhayspeak.blogspot.com/
Note: forwarded message attached.
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note!24 May 2005 10:50:15From: "abhay kumar"
To: "pkmaheshwari@vsnl.net" pkmaheshwari@vsnl.net
On Sat, 21 May 2005 pkmaheshwari@vsnl.net 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,
P.K. MAHESHWARI
Original Message:
----------------
From: abhay kumar abhay_ifs@rediffmail.com
Date: Mon, 16 May 2005 05:36:01 +0000
To: pkmaheshwari@vsnl.net
Subject: Hello!
Sir,
 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
9818449745
Abhay k.
http://www.abhayspeak.blogspot.com/
i exist because i think!
---------------------------
Summary
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 @rediffmail.com
May 2005
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  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
To: pkmaheshwari@vsnl.net
-----------------------------
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
Abhay Kumar,
Consul,
Cosulate General of India
St. Petersburg,Russia
Ph-+78125796633 Fax- +78125795088
You can visit me at www.abhayk.com
---- Original Message ----
From: "pkmaheshwari@vsnl.net"
To: abhay_ifs@yahoo.com
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

P.K.Maheshwari
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And further...

Thu, January 10, 2008 4:40:15 PMreply
From: "pkmaheshwari@vsnl.net" View Contact
To: abhay_ifs@yahoo.com
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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

P.K.Maheshwari
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Fri, January 11, 2008 7:31:17 PMRe: reply
From: abhay kumar View Contact
To: pkmaheshwari@vsnl.net
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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
Consul
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 http://www.southasianuniversity.org/
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.

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