Today marks the first anniversary of the South Asia Centre. It has been a busy year, with more than fifteen public events featuring high profile speakers discussing topics from the media to literature to global finance, foreign policy, civil society, development & its challenges across South Asia. We have also supported numerous events hosted by student societies including the LSESU Nepalese Society, the Pakistan Development Society and the India Society. South Asia @ LSE, the Centre’s blog, has expanded its remit considerably and presents regular academic analyses of topical debates relating to the subcontinent.
In January 2016 the Centre held the first LSE India Summit in Goa, comprising two days of intense dialogue. There were two special lectures by Serbian political activist Srdja Popovic on non-violent forms of protest, and award-winning novelist Amitav Ghosh on trading and traveling by Indian merchants to China in the 19th century. The Summit also included an exhibition of rare documents from the archives of the Reserve Bank of India.
South Asia Centre staff also made official visits to Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. In February Professor Craig Calhoun joined SAC Director Mukulika Banerjee and Deputy Director Nilanjan Sarkar to become the first serving LSE Director to visit Pakistan. Over the course of a week they met with the Prime Minister, other cabinet ministers, students and LSE alumni, visited NGOs, met several community stalwarts and gave presentations at universities in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad. In Bangladesh, staff met alumni, government officers and business and community leaders from different sectors, involved in building a positive narrative in Bangladesh against various challenges.
The Centre has also finalised the ‘Practitioners-in-Residence’ scheme with the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India for a visitor programme. Several events were also held this year to mark the 125th birth anniversary of an illustrious LSE alumnus, B. R. Ambedkar. In autumn 2015, the Centre hosted two delegations of students from in India working on issues relating to social justice and equality. The study tours, which were means-tested and funded by the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment in India, were organised to mark Dr Ambedkar’s association with his alma mater: he studied for a Masters and a Doctorate at LSE between 1916 and 1923. The scholars attended specially curated talks and visited Westminster, the British Library, Oxford and Dr Ambedkar’s former residence in London. They were also able to access LSE Library resources for their own research. On 25 April, the bust of DR Ambedkar in the LSE Atrium was garlanded by Director & Presdient Craig Calhoun, and the Deputy Indian High Commissioner Virander Paul, and Director of the South Asia Centre Mukulika Banerjee, who also spoke at the celebrations in Ambedkar Hall in India House.
At LSE, the Centre hosted a reception for LSE alumni from Pakistan where they met the LSE President & Director Craig Calhoun, and H.E. Mr. S. Ibne Abbas, High Commissioner of Pakistan to the UK. In March, the new Indian High Commissioner H.E. Mr. Navtej Sarna visited LSE. The Centre has since founded the '100 Foot Journey Club' that will strengthen mutual relations between the High Commission & LSE, and will host regular events and discussions on topical issues and research about India. The Club was launched on 10 May with a talk by Dr Raghuram Rajan, Governor of the Reserve Bank of India. The Bangladesh High Commissioner Mr Mr Hannan is scheduled to visit LSE on 3 June 2016 to attend a discussion on Gender & Development in Bangladesh.
The Centre has been working closely with colleagues at LSE, and the Faculty Advisory Group comprises expert faculty from diverse backgrounds. As we step into our second year, we look forward to continuing our engagement across LSE and with South Asia. There will be official visits to Nepal and Sri Lanka and special events are being planned to mark 70 years of independence of Pakistan and India. This will include two international Summits in those countries, as well as a lecture series in partnership with principal British institutions, and an exhibition at the LSE library documenting LSE’s long and rich association with the region.