From the Director's Desk - 2011

-Cecilia Van Hollen, Director of the South Asia Center

It has been a tremendous honor to begin my tenure as the new Director of the South Asia Center, following the many years of inspired and tireless leadership of my predecessors, Susan Wadley and Ann Gold. Thanks to their efforts and those of our colleagues at Cornell, we are delighted to report that the Cornell-Syracuse South Asia Consortium has been awarded another four year National Resource Center grant and four years of continued support for our Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellowships, both from the Department of Education. With this, our Center will continue to be able to offer funding for both undergraduate and graduate students and programs that seek to enhance people’s understanding of the South Asia region – a goal which continues to be of utmost importance as political violence rages in Afghanistan and Pakistan and erupts again in Kashmir; a fragile peace emerges in Sri Lanka; and President Obama endorses India’s bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council on his recent visit to the country.Director Cecilia Van Hollen with her daughter Lila Van Hollen Rodgers at the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, Sri Lanka

Three broad themes run throughout our events this year: Afghanistan, South Asian foreign policy concerns, and water.

We have many activities planned for this year that highlight Afghanistan. Pashto language is being offered for the first time at SU and we welcome Habib Sangar as our Pashto instructor (see page 2). This spring, Susan Wadley is offering a new course on the anthropology of Afghanistan and Pakistan. There will also be a number of other events including a one day film festival, an Afghan musical concert (featuring John Baily on rubab and Dibyarka Chatterjee on tabla), and two speakers, Margaret Mills and Noah Coburn, who will discuss their research in Afghanistan. We hope to provide outreach programs on Afghanistan (with the help of our graduate assistant, Akbar Quraishi) to schools throughout Central New York and in particular, the school districts surrounding Fort Drum, near Watertown.

The Center will also be increasing programming on critical matters of foreign policy. To that end, in September, Philip Oldenburg from Columbia University presented his work on the question of why India has been a strong democracy while Pakistan has not. In January, we hosted Robert Blake, the Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, who spoke on “The India Model: The Beneficial Rise of an Economic Power.” Later in the spring, Zia Mian from Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs will discuss security issues in the region. And in April, the Sri Lankan Ambassador to the UN and a representative from the United States Tamil Political Action Council will come to campus to engage in a critical dialogue on political and economic developments, plans, and recommendations for Sri Lanka, in the post-war era.

As we began the 2010-11 academic year, the people of Pakistan were experiencing one of the world’s most devastating natural disasters with a flood which took the lives of more people than the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the 2004 tsunami, and Hurricane Katrina combined. It was heartening to see our students at (continued on page 8) (continued from page 1) SU mobilize a major humanitarian effort to respond to this crisis through a series of fundraising initiatives under the banner of “Syracuse Cares” and the South Asia Center was proud take the lead role in sponsoring this endeavor. Thus far, this initiative has raised $6000 to be donated to Oxfam and the Edhi Foundation (a Pakistan based NGO) for relief to victims of the flood.

Given the magnitude of this flood, it is appropriate that this year’s Consortium conference, to be held on April 8th at Cornell, will be on the theme of “Water in Changing Environments,” examining a range of issues including climate change, drinking water, agriculture and managing rivers. Farhana Sultana (Geography) and Emera Bridger Wilson, our Center Outreach Coordinator, have been actively involved in organizing this conference and we encourage all to attend. Emera and Victor Tzen (Architecture) will also be leading a new SU Abroad program, “A Path to Water,” to study water management in India during the summer.

We have several exciting outreach activities planned this spring. In early February, members of the Bhutanese-Nepali refugee community in Syracuse will speak about their experiences in Bhutan, Nepal, and the U.S. We hope that this event brings awareness to the plight of these refugees. We are also holding a meeting of the North East Scholars of South Asia (NESSA) on February 18th in conjunction with the Afghan musical concert. Furthermore, in addition to our work in the North country, we continue to provide our services to improve the international curriculum in our local schools. In the fall, Subho Basu, (History) and Anirban Acharya, a Ph.D. student in the Political Science, presented a brief history of the political economy of India at the Central New York Council for Social Studies (CNYCSS) Annual Conference. This spring, we will be teaching sixth graders in the East Syracuse-Minoa about the foods of South Asia.

Finally, I want to thank Anand Dwivedi, the Center’s Associate Director, and Emera for all of their help, facilitating the transition into my new role as the Center Director. Anand, Emera, and I all welcome and encourage ideas and help with future programs for next year.