This is the first article of my life and I want to dedicate this article to my father who is an honest school teacher. He used to tell me when I was a kid and also to his students that “Grades can never measure intelligence”, knowledge is acquired through textbooks but can also be acquired through other means. I always favor the latter to acquire knowledge. This article was penned using my experiences than books.
My article talks about a new identity construction at the regional level through academic integration in the South Asian region. SAARC nations established the South Asian University in New Delhi, India and its main objective is to bring South Asian consciousness in the South Asian region beyond national boundaries. The theories of international relations deal with different levels of analysis. One of the levels explains international politics, as driven primarily by actions of the individuals, or outcome of psychological forces. I am attempting to fit this in regional politics of South Asia as reflected in the outcome of South Asian University (SAU). SAU is the unit of analysis to mainly discuss the social and cultural aspects in South Asia and building relationships between individuals. I prefer to interpret International relations as inter-nations relations (relation between groups of people who share common history, culture, etc.) instead of relations among states. Individuals or people of the South Asian region are prime focus and people who are part of SAU and SAU itself is the unit of analysis for South Asian identity construction in this article. In addition to this, I will share my experiences and observations on SAU to strengthen my line of thought.
South Asian consciousness means a sense of belongingness to the region, its people and somewhere we do have common history, cultures, religion, languages, etc. even if we were separated by many factors such as ancient kingdoms, colonial power and unbridled aspirations of political leaders. SAU is a platform for young minds where people from South Asian region are under one roof and are engaged in the construction of a new South Asian identity. For example: Identity of an individual, My race- Dravidian, My nation- Tamil, My nationality- Indian and our supra-national identity – ‘South Asian’.
When the people from different nationalities gather in a space then interaction among them will erase the misconceptions about each other’s nationality. Also, education and knowledge help to cross the boundaries between nations to think in a broader sense. The individuals who are all part of SAU are seeds of South Asian fruit.
As an individual from a social point of view, the relationship built with friends from different parts of South Asia has helped me to understand the dynamics and my thoughts have broadened like never before. Cultural aspect of the relationship with them has also helped me realize the thread of commonality such as sharing beliefs, thoughts and festivals of people from different parts of South Asia like celebration of important events such as India-Pakistan Independence Day celebration, Eid, Diwali, etc. An individual who is a part of SAU will help to broaden the mind of others by sharing his experiences at SAU with them. For eg: Most of the Indians perceive Pakistanis as their enemies and vice versa because of an ignorance of pre-independence history thus forgetting that once we were one people. SAU can act as a bond for sharing love and relationships between these different countries. This region has a modern and conservative society as two sides of the same coin. There is a need in our region to build a South Asian supranational identity, which requires enlightenment at the macro level. SAU has set the spark at the micro level which may trickle down to ground level with the efforts of South Asian students.
One of the criticisms that I have observed among most of the individuals who are part of SAU is that of a perceived ‘Indian hegemony’ and India’s dominance in SAU and South Asian region. Hegemony has a lot of interpretations and meanings. In the context of South Asia, region needs a guide and a philosopher. I conclude that South Asian identity is the final fruit of South Asian consciousness which is getting constructed through academic integration in the South Asian region.
I may not study but I am ‘living’ in South Asian University. Hope, I have fulfilled South Asian University’s one of the main objectives. I am South Asian, Are you? Thank you for your patience reading. Your comments will be highly appreciated.