U of T establishes Indian Chair

Last week, officials and staff members at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at the St. George campus worked out a deal to create an Indian Chair position at U of T to foster international cooperation and research between Canada and India.

The deal was partly facilitated by the Indian Council of Cultural Relations, which aims to facilitate interaction amongst world cultures and to spread awareness of the diversity and richness of Indias cultures. The Council has facilitated interaction with U of T and other university in the past via cultural exchanges.

The university administration set out a document outlining the protocols of intention and the process of implementation. This document, which will be reviewed by the University and government officials over the next few weeks, indicates that the term for the chair will be enforced for three years starting this month and will be open to discussion upon renewal.

The premise for the appointment of an Indian Chair was set out last November when Prime Minister Stephen Harper hinted at future educational cooperation between India and Canada on his visit to India. Harper recognized the emerging potential in Indias new generation, which can rebound the post-secondary education industry into economic success for the two countries, and at the same time facilitate beneficial linkages in science, technology and innovation to further the international cooperation between the two countries.

This announcement is not the first step in forging a stronger relationship between Canada and India. Currently, the U of T is home to the Centre for South Asian Studies, whose mandate is to research the political, cultural, religious, linguistic, economical and social fabric of India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and other South Asian countries.

Organizations akin to the Indian Council, such as the Indo-Shastri Institute, have also collaborated with faculty members and graduate students at U of T via fellowships and grants to provide them funding and resources to further their research and post-graduate work.

However, an ever closer relationship between ICCR and U of T will bring the added benefit of providing funds for students and faculty wanting to pursue post-doctoral work on India. A new facet of the cooperation between ICCR and U of T will be the faculty exchange program, where U of T and Indian staff can travel as visiting faculty to experience the differences and similarities in the two countries.

Ashwin Panchapakesan, a UTM computer science student, believes that the appointment of an Indian chair position serves as an inspiration for students to see such camaraderie between India and Canada, in terms of inter-personal relations and what to look forward to in the years to come.

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