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Presentation and Discussion with M.J. Akbar

Sponsor: Centre for India and South Asia Research and Institute of Asian Research
Place: Conference Room #120, 1855 West Mall, C.K. Choi Building
Type: Discussion
Dates: Wednesday, Mar 13, 2013 to Wednesday, Mar 13, 2013
Time: 3:00-5:00pm


March 13, 2013 - RSVP at http://bit.ly/mjakbar13
Islam and Nationalism: Origins and consequences of a dysfunctional idea, and implications for the region

India's freedom from British rule in 1947 is widely recognised as one of the most significant events of the 20th century, but it began the reversal of European colonisation of Asia and Africa. Equally significant, from today's perspective, is the fact that the two nations which emerged in 1947 represented alternative ideas of nationalism: Pakistan, the first nation to become free, believed that Islam could become the basis of nationalism. It was, as its ideologues began to articulate, the first nation created in the name of faith. Is an Islamic state a valid idea? Is there anything in the theory and practice of Islam that makes  What have been the implications of this concept on the region, both to its east, in India, and to its west, Afghanistan and the Sunni hinterland towards the Arab world? India, in contrast, offered secular democracy as the essence of nationalism. It was up to history to judge which of the two concepts would prove legitimate; and, more than six decades, the slow accumulation of evidence is providing sufficient material for a prognosis.

March 18, 2013 - RSVP at http://bit.ly/mjakbar18
India: Promise and Peril in the Search for Modernity

India took an idealistic step forward when it adopted its Constitution in  1950, guaranteeing adult franchise and secularism to the people. India did not win freedom from the British in order to deny freedom to Indians; and this freedom was not diminished by qualifications. The franchise under British rule was limited; and democracy as we understand it today was very much a work in progress. Even a country like France did not give the vote to women till 1949. The law during British rule had divided Muslims from others in the electoral, giving legitimacy to anti-secular sentiment. For a long while, many western academics and commentators considered Pakistan to be the more stable idea; others saw India disintegrate into totalitarian linguist states. But India has matured into a stable nation because it is a modern state that has rejected notions such as theocracy. There are still challenges ahead, and the coming decade will indicate whether India can overcome them or not.

March 25, 2013 - RSVP at http://bit.ly/mjakbar25
From Ganga to Nile: States, Space and The Power of Shadow Armies

European colonisation did not always end with a colony's freedom; at times it was succeeded by neo-colonisation: Neo-colonisation is the grant of independence as long as you do not exercise it, at least in the strategic sphere. Colonisation also left behind artificial boundaries which did not conform with national claims or ethnic and cultural histories. The consequences were complex; most notably, the emergence of autocratic regimes that treated their nations as family property in large parts of the his-torically inter-connected lands between the Ganges and the Nile. We might begin to understand the strategic and security challenges in this region better if we removed boundaries from the map of this region. One of the biggest dangers is the emergence of ungoverned geographies. The reasons may differ, and differ vastly, but the results are similar. Shadow militias [or áutonomous' authorities] are in control of large tracts of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and now perhaps even Egypt and beyond into north Africa. What does this mean for nations of this region, and for the rest of the world?

Mobashar Jawed Akbar is a well-known Indian journalist and author.  He was the former Editorial Director of India Today, India’s leading English news magazine. A prolific author and internationally published columnist, he has published several books including India: The Siege Within: Challenges to a Nation's Unity, Nehru: The Making of India, Riot after Riot, Kashmir: Behind the Vale, The Shade of Swords: Jihad and the Conflict between Islam and Christianity, Byline, and Blood Brothers. His latest book Tinderbox: The Past and Future of Pakistan deals with theme of identity crisis and class struggles in Pakistan. 

Light refreshments will be provided. 

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