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MMAJ Academy celebrates 30 years' journey with a national conference
The MMAJ Academy of International Studies (AIS), a prestigious centre for international and area studies in India has been organizing a series of events to celebrate completion of its 30-years' journey.

A two-day national conference "Status Update on International and Area Studies" was held by AIS in collaboration with Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) at the Academy's Ho Chi Minh Conference Room on 13-14 March, 2019.

Eminent scholars, subject experts, policy analysts and diplomats were invited to share their views on a variety of issues from domestic to international politics and to shed light on the emergence of international and area studies in India. Prof Rajen Harshe, former Vice Chancellor of Allahabad University, delivered the Keynote Address on "India and the Emerging Challenges in International Relations and Area Studies".

A special lecture in memory of Amb Uma Shankar Bajpai, the first Director of the Academy of Third World Studies (ATWS), established in 1988, which later in 2011 came to be known as the Academy of International Studies, was delivered by Amb Shivshankar Menon, former Foreign Secretary and former National Security Advisor of India, on Wednesday, 13 March. He remembered Amb Bajpai as a sensible, sane, calm, balanced voice on foreign policy who believed in doing diplomacy rationally.

Menon talked about "New Challenges for Indian Foreign Policy" following which he was asked a lot of questions. He said that basically there were three kinds of challenges. There is a perpetual challenge for all the countries which is about seeking to achieve their goals with the available means. He considered globalization with a huge series of impacts as the first challenge, stating that today we are in a situation where "Economically the world is multipolar, militarily still it is still unipolar, whereas politically it is thoroughly confused" with the fact that politics has become very local, 'ultra-nationalist' which has developed a new edge especially with the rise of new authoritarians. He termed the situation as unstable in which how do you develop new consensus and then, "What is our place in it?" are part of te challenge. He said, "It is in India's interest to be part of a peaceful, predictable, stable global order" which coincided with what he referred to as the "Nehruvian vision" which was based on rule. Nehru was a peacemaker, Menon said. But Indira (Gandhi) was different as she tended to see things in much more 'realistic terms'.

Critical of some of the incumbent government's foreign policies, he said that being 'Vishwa guru' does not make sense while external challenges still exist. One way of facing it is to look at 'our neighbours'. We need to concentrate on integrating the regions at least in trade, he suggested. The rise of China could be the biggest issue in our neighbourhood. The diplomat therefore advocated to build issue-based relations. "The real challenge is opening our minds", concluded he.

In his valedictory address Prof Hari Sankar Vasudevan, former Director of ATWS and a former Professor of Calcutta University's Department of History talked about the "Place of the Jamia Academy" in the "Area Studies in an Afro-Asian Perspective". Calling the Jamia model of area studies "different from other models" he said that when the Area Studies came to India it actually was not the first programme through which you understood the world.

Seeing it as a mix of international relations and social science, Vasudevan, a Eurasia specialist, said that area studies is a way and means of acquisition of knowledge concerning the problems of the world which should also give you a prism, one answer to which was the Jamia model. Then he highlighted some domestic diversities where existed a whole world and a number of issues to be studied and understood with all their problems. "Jamia Academy understood and realized that", he said. Thus, the Academy made an attempt to move in a different direction as part of a "social critical science." He said that the so-called concept of the developing world itself is a category of which the Central Asian Republics were never a part. We began with one category and we have moved on, he said and added, "We need to reassess to see where we have to reach."

Earlier, Prof Sanjay Chaturvedi, Dean, Department of International Studies, South Asian University talked about "Geopolitics of Climate Change" in the context of Global South stating that "Climate science is also being hijacked by various agendas and agencies". Referring to securitization of climate politics and the new kinds of climate borders being created he said, "It is not so much a problem of national security as it is a problem of human security." He asked that the 'climate of fear' must be replaced with the 'climate of hope'.

Prof Rashmi Doraiswamy, Prof Madhu Bhalla, Prof G. M. Shah, Prof Ajay Patnaik, Prof Abdulrahim Vijapur, Dr Mohammad Sohrab, Dr Mathew Joseph, Dr Pallavi Raghavan, Dr Sabiha Alam, Dr Safia Mehdi, Dr Bijay K. Pratihari, Dr Fazzur Rahman Siddiqui and others presented their papers. There were seven academic sessions in which speakers and chairpersons from JMI, JNU, AMU, South Asian University, Jadavpur University, Ashoka University and ICWA besides research scholars and students from different departments of Jamia and other universities participated.

Two former directors of the Academy Prof Zahid Hussain Zaidi and Prof Hari Vasudevan and its present director Prof Rashmi Doraiswamy shared their thoughts in the concluding session. Prof Zaidi recalled how the Centre came up after Mr Rajiv Gandhi, then Prime Minister of India, sowed seeds of the idea of a think-tank in Jamia and showed keen interest in such a centre and, JMI VC Prof Ali Ashraf took the initiative and set up the Academy with support and funds from the University Grants Commission.

It may be noted that as part of its 30th anniversary celebrations, the Academy organized the second talk by Prof Manoranjan Mohanty on "The Emergence of the Ubuntu World: New Discourses on the Upsurge of the Commons and Visions of the Future" on 5March, 2019 in memory of Prof Ali Ashraf. The first lecture of this series was organized in memory of Prof Rasheeduddin Khan, former director of ATWS on 19 September 2018.

(Author is a PhD student at Jamia Millia Islamia)

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