Minutes of the Meeting of SAF-India Advisory Board held on Saturday, January 19, 2008

Conference 19th January 2008

A-33 Vasant Marg, Vasant Vihar, New Delhi 110 057


Minutes of the Meeting of SAF-India Advisory Board held on Saturday, January 19, 2008, at 12.00 Hrs.

Members Present:
    - Hon’ble Mani Shankar Aiyar (chairman)
    - Dr. G. M Khawaja
    - Prof. Amitabh Mattoo
    - Shri K K. Venugopal
    - Shri Sashi Kumar
    - Smt.Vidya Shah
    - Smt. Syeda Hameed
    - Shri Satinder K. Lambah
    - Shri Wajahat Habibullah
  SAF Officials:
    - Mr. KJS Prasada Rao, CEO, SAF - India
    - Mr. Karan Khosla, Secretary, SAF-India Advisory Board

Introductory remarks by the Chairman

1.1 - In his brief introductory remarks, Mr. Mani Shankar Aiyar, Chairman SAF-India, welcomed the newly constituted members of the SAF-India Advisory Board and expressed hope that as of 2008, the Board will be far more proactive in the formulation of projects that will promote the ideals of the organization as a whole.

1.2 - The chairman informed Board members that the next SAF Governing Council Meeting will be held on Sunday 25 May 2008 at Srinagar, and will coincide with the inauguration of the SAF-Madanjeet Singh Institute for Kashmir Studies. On behalf of SAF, Mr. Aiyar invited all Board Members to attend this important event and the related functions in Srinagar.

1.3 - Mr. Aiyar suggested that the Board should form three committees: academic, social and cultural. Issues related to politics and business are not relevant to the South Asia Foundation.

Discussion with SAF-India Advisory Board Members

The chairperson requested the attending Board members to introduce themselves and discuss their areas of interest: 

2.1.1 - Mrs. Syeda Hameed stated that she had been involved with the South Asia Foundation since its inception. She added that having been brought up in Kashmir, she was glad that SAF has commissioned an Institute of Excellence dedicated to preserving the cultural heritage of the region.
2.1.2 - Mr. Satindar K. Lambah said he was honored to join the SAF-India Advisory Board; however, he expressed that from his cursory understanding of projects, the organization should focus on improving existing programmes rather than branch out into new ventures.  

2.1.3 - Mr. Wajahat Habibullah felt that In spite of the autonomous nature of each SAF Chapter, it is essential for Advisory Board members and administrative staff in all eight countries to engage and interact with each other on a regular basis throughout the year. He added, that the Institute for Kashmir Studies would be a landmark institution, as much of the spiritual development of the entire South Asian region, from Kabul to Kashmir, is rooted in Sufism. Mr. Habibulllah also felt that using the word "Sufi" in the Institute's name would resonate with South Asian Community.

2.1.4 - Prof. Amitabh Mat too briefly described SAF's involvement with Jammu University and said that he has been closely involved with the development of the Institute for Kashmir Studies; he emphasized the importance of preserving and studying Kashmiri traditions as many of them have, at their core, the virtues of pluralism and inclusive ideals upheld by SAF. He was of the view that, while emphasis should be on study of Sufism, the name of the Institute should be retained as “Institute for Kashmir Studies”, as this would encompass the composite culture of Kashmir

2.1.5 - Dr. G. M. Khawaja enumerated on the relevance of the Institute for Kashmir Studies for South Asia; he said that the ancient oral and intangible history of the region has been ignored and what is left, unless it is soon documented, will be lost forever. Dr. Khawaja also said that the history of the region is often only recounted from the 14th Century onwards; however, historians have not paid attention to the fact that it was in Kashmir that Buddhism and Shevaism strongly influenced Sufism, which in turn affected modern Kashmiri thought and the spiritual development of South Asia.

2.1.6 - Both Dr. Khawaja and Prof. Mattoo agreed however, that having the word “Sufi” in the Institute's name might restrict the scope of the institution. Dr Khawaja also informed the Board that, recently, the name of the Institute had changed from Centre for Kashmir Studies to Institute for Kashmir Studies with due approval of the UGC. Further change in the name of the Institute would require further deliberations with the UGC, which would delay the whole process. The Vice chancellor of Kashmir University, Prof. Riyaz Punjabi has suggested that this matter may be considered next year.

2.1.7 - Mr. Aiyar introduced Mrs. Vidya Shah, an influential vocal artiste who is active in the Indian civil society movement. He said that Mrs. Shah could prove to be a valuable asset to the organization and could provide the necessary know- how to engage the youth and “network an entire generation” through music and culture.  Mrs. Shah said that over the past few years, she has tried to integrate music into the Indian School curriculum and move it away from the realm of an “extra-curricular” activity. Mrs. Shah felt that there was a definite synergy between her goals and those of the South Asia Foundation.

2.1.8 - Mr. Sashi Kumar introduced the Asian College of Journalism as one of the leading institutes for media education in South Asia, whose core competence is to create responsible and ethical journalists. He also added that the ACJ is one of the prime models for the SAF Madanjeet Singh Group Scholarship Programme, which was started in 2002. Mr. Kumar stated that, now more than ever, the youth are finding ways of documenting their lives and opinions through media; he suggested that SAF should seriously consider sponsoring documentary film festivals across South Asia, thus providing a forum for experimentation and expression. 

2.1.9 - Mr. K K. Venugopal expressed his keen interest in joining the SAF-India Advisory Board as he has been deeply involved with issues related to SAARC during the span of his legal career. He added that recently, he has been closely involved with the SAARC Law Secretariat wherein Chief Justices from all eight Chapters meet annually to discuss various legal policies.  He informed the Board that organizations that have been recognized as SAARC Apex Bodies, are allowed to obtain one year visas for employees for travel within the Region. Mr. Venugopal also stated that he has been closely involved with the SAARC Law trust that is based in Hyderabad and is chaired by Mr. Upendra Bakshi. The Trust looks into the governing policies of various Indian law institutes, many of which are dysfunctional. The Trust has started an online classroom programme with many reputed Indian law colleges; students can take classes and interact with professors at affiliated legal institutions across the world. He added that there are positive areas of collaboration for SAF and the SMRC law Secretariat. Mr. Venugopal also indicated that the Chief Justice of India would gladly inaugurate any institution (such as the SAF institution of Advanced Legal and Human Rights Studies (SIALS), Dhaka, at BRAC University) that avails of the aforementioned online / video courses developed by the law Secretariat Trust.

Closing remarks by the Chairman

3.1 - Mr. Aiyar, in consultation with members of the Board nominated the following three committee members and their respective chairpersons:

Academic Committee:
    - Dr. G. M Khawaja (Chairman)
    - Prof. Amitabh Mattoo
    - Shri K K. Venugopal
    - Shri Satinder K. Lambah
    - Prof. J.A. K. Tareen
    - Mr. Karan Khosla  (Convenor)
  Cultural Committee:
    - Shri Wajahat Habibullah (Chairperson)
    - Mr. Ram Rahman
    - Smt. Vidya Shah
    - Mr. Karan Khosla (Convenor)
  Social Committee:
    - Smt. Syeda Hameed (Chairperson)
    - Shri Sashi Kumar
    - Shri Digvijay Singh
    - Prof. George Mathew
    - Shri Sarwar Lateef
    - Mr. Karan Khosla (Convenor)

3.2 - The chairman proposed that the Advisory Board, as a whole, should try to meet once every quarter; the next meeting may be scheduled in April or May 2008. He stated that each committee could add more members should they feel the need. The Chairperson also said that Mr. Karan Khosla would act as the convener for the three committees. At the request of the Chairperson, Mr. Prasada Rao explained, in brief, the operational aspects of SAF Governance and its Charter and Mr. Khosla presented a report on SAF-India's activities. The Chairperson suggested that the three Committees should try to meet and discuss proposals before the scheduled SAF-India Advisory Board meeting in April -May 2008.

The meeting ended with a vote of thanks to the Chair.