Jamia Millia Islamia, one of the country's oldest universities,
has embarked upon a series of country-specific programmes to
prepare a cadre of experts to fulfil the research needs of the
government and think tanks, something which foreign service
officials are perhaps not adept at doing, the university says.
"The neighbours are extremely critical for us to understand. So
what we produce in terms of MPhils and PhDs will actually go and
produce the brains for the country. When the government is looking
for brains, these MPhils will fulfil that need, " Jamia Vice
Chancellor Najeeb Jung told IANS.
Individuals drawn from both academia and the corridors of
diplomacy run these programmes. T.C.A. Rangachari, the director of
the Academy of International Studies (AIS), served as India's
ambassador to France, Germany and Algeria and was the division
head of China in the foreign ministry.
Zikrur Rahman spent 25 years as a diplomat in the Arab world and
was the Indian ambassador to Palestine.
There are also academics who have spent their entire careers on
research. Field work being critical to successful research, each
centre is striving to solve this challenge in its own unique way.
For instance, the biggest challenge is before the Pakistan Studies
Programme (PSP), where travel by PhD students to Pakistan is
practically ruled out. But as programme coordinator Ajay Darshan
Behera told IANS: "We subvert this problem by engaging as many
scholars and experts as possible from Pakistan by inviting them to
Through a series of seminars, the PSP has invited the Who's Who of
Pakistan's intelligentsia, diplomacy and literary world to Jamia,
including the former ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani.
The PSP, set up in 2004 and recognised by the UGC in 2005, aims to
promote greater understanding among scholars about Pakistan
through extensive research work on the country's history,
sociology, culture, literature, contemporary politics, trade and
economics, geopolitics, and security and foreign policy.
The Afghanistan Studies Programme encourages inter-disciplinary
research focussing on the history, sociology, contemporary
politics, economics, geopolitics, security, foreign policy and
The programme is designed to stimulate debate in India on the
politics, society, and economics of Afghanistan. It hopes to
produce a pool of scholars with expertise on Afghanistan in India.
The UGC-sanctioned China Studies Programme will focus on studying
the country's internal dynamics and external relations.
"While India's approach to China is dominated by Sino-Indian
relations, we need experts who understand the internal dynamics of
China," programme coordinator Ravni Thakur said.
Now being developed, the programme will examine all facets of
contemporary China and will incorporate the Chinese language as a
The programme titled Central Asia and its Neighbourhoods: Past
Ties and Future Relations was started in 2007 following UGC
It's of high relevance because the countries that emerged out of
the Soviet Union are still evolving a new identity for themselves
by de-Russifying and because the region is geo-politically
important to the world and is also energy rich.
Programme coordinator Rashmi Doraiswamy says it will not focus
just on polity and economy but also on culture and society.
Jamia's India-Arab Cultural Centre (IACC) has emerged as a centre
of excellence for knowledge on Arab history, polity, economy,
society and culture and on India-Arab relations.
The centre's Gulf Studies Programme is a dedicated research unit
for knowledge generation and dissemination and runs PhD programmes
to prepare a cadre of experts on the Arab region. The Centre also
offers a PG Diploma in Iranology.
(Meha Mathur can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)