Scholars Agitated at AAS Over MEA’s Decision to Bar Pak Scholars

A total of 600 academicians have condemned the Association for Asian Studies (AAS) in a letter over their failure to inform the participants of an upcoming seminar after the Centre decided to exclusively bar Pakistani scholars from attending it, The Wire reported.

The Association for Asian Studies (AAS), a non-profit professional association, has held an annual conference called ‘AAS in Asia’ for those interested in Asian Studies to participate in discussions since 2014.

The AAS-in-Asia conference, co-organised with Ashoka university is scheduled to take place from 5 to 8 July at the capital’s India Habitat Centre.

Foreign scholars had to seek an Indian visa with a copy of the invitation and no-objection letters from the Ministries of External Affairs and Home affairs until the former barred Pakistani scholars from attending the event, The Wire reported.

Also Read: India lodges protest with Pakistan over 'AJK Constitution Act'

Does Not Recommend Participation From Pak: MEA

The letter sent by the Ministry to the university on 19 February, read, “The ministry has no objection from the political angle for the proposed event with foreign participants (except participants from Pakistan), as stated in your aforesaid communication, subject to the clearance of Ministry of Home Affairs as applicable and nodal ministry.”

The letter further includes a line, “Kindly note this ministry does not recommend participation from Pakistan in the proposed event.”

The country’s name has also been struck off the list featuring 57 participating countries.

‘Ethically Unacceptable on AAS’ Part’: Signatories Backlash

Accusing AAS of lacking transparency, the signatories to the letter added that had the AAS informed in advance that Pakistanis were barred, “participants could have made informed decisions about whether to support and attend the conference,” Scroll reported.

“These directives were written in a letter from the Ministry of External Affairs dated 19 February 2018, prior to the deadline for registration,” the academicians cited, adding that last minute cancellation could be a financial burden.

"It is ethically unacceptable that the AAS did not immediately publish a statement of support for our Pakistani colleagues, and did not immediately condemn the government’s attacks on academic freedom." - The letter stated, Scroll reported

Further alleging that the organisation has colluded with the government, the signatories state that alternative logistical options of holding the meet could have been deliberated upon.

A virtual event, a different location or expressing dismay over the Indian government’s decision could have been ways of organising the event differently, Scroll cited from the letter.

“The AAS cannot simultaneously claim to represent scholarship on Asia while allowing its conference to become the grounds for the Indian state – or any other state, for that matter – to enact virulent and blatant forms of religious, national, or other forms of exclusionary violence,” the report quoted from the letter.

Incidentally, the American Institute for Pakistan Studies was a co-sponsor of the conference.

MEA’s Decision Not in Tune With Conference’s Purpose: AAS

The Association for Asian Studies and Ashoka University, in a statement on Friday, said they regretted the government’s decision since it is not “tune with the open exchange of ideas and knowledge that is the very purpose of the conference,” the organisers said.

It further said:

"However, neither the Association for Asian Studies nor Ashoka University has the authority to tell the Government of India, a sovereign nation, to whom it may and may not grant visas, and nor have we been able to influence the Government of India to reverse its decision in this case." - Excert from AAS’ statement

Several Factors Go Into Decision, Including State of Relations: MEA Spokesperson

Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said there are several factors that go into participation of any individual or country in a conference or a seminar, the Scroll report added.

"One major consideration which goes into before taking any decision, which of course includes the inputs we get from various agencies, a very important input is the state of relationship." - Raveesh Kumar, MEA Spokesperson to PTI

(With inputs from The Wire and Scroll)

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