Asian Relations Conference:
The 1st Asian Relations Conference took place in New Delhi in March-April 1947. It was hosted by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who then headed a provisional government that was preparing for India's Independence, which came on 15 August 1947. The Asian Relations Conference brought together many leaders of the independence movements in Asia, and represented a first attempt to assert Asian unity. The objectives of the conference were "to bring together the leading men and women of Asia on a common platform to study the problems of common concern to the people of the continent, to focus attention on social, economic and cultural problems of the different countries of Asia, and to foster mutual contact and understanding."
In his writings and speeches, Nehru had laid great emphasis on the manner in which post-colonial India would rebuild its Asia connections. At this conference Nehru declared: "... Asia is again finding herself ... one of the notable consequences of the European domination of Asia has been the isolation of the countries of Asia from one another. ... Today this isolation is breaking down because of many reasons, political and otherwise ... This Conference is significant as an expression of that deeper urge of the mind and spirit of Asia which has persisted ... In this Conference and in this work there are no leaders and no followers. All countries of Asia have to meet together in a common task.
ICWA-AAS Asian Relations Conference Series:
Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) and Association of Asian Scholars (AAS) share common goals and concerns. Both aim to promote greater awareness and understanding, as well as mutually beneficial inter-State relations amongst Asian nations. Both have been working towards encouraging serious debates and publications on issues of contemporary international relations and foreign policy from Indian perspectives. More specifically, both have been working together in ensuring rigor in India’s academic and policy analysis especially on trends in and future of relations amongst Asian countries.
ICWA was set up in 1943 by India’s freedom fighters and eminent personalities of that time. Inspired by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s vision and under the able leadership of Ms. Sarojini Naidu, ICWA had held an epoch-making Asian Relations Conference in March 1947 (about five months before India’s independence). This was addressed by both Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Nehru. Cambridge History records Nehru stressing that India was “the natural center and focal point of many forces at work in Asia.” Nehru convened another inter-Asian conference at ICWA in January 1949 devoted to the independence of Indonesia which was attended by eighteen Asian countries. It is this theme and spirit of Asian relations that a relatively younger Association of Asian Scholars has tried to revive in collaboration with ICWA.
To briefly introduce the AAS, it was in 2005 that the South Asian alumni of Asia Fellows organized themselves as AAS (registered in November 2005) with the aim of Asianizing Asian Studies. Asia Fellowships were originally started by the International Institute of Education, USA in 1999 and after three years, an autonomous Asian Scholarship Foundation (ASF) was set up in Bangkok. ASF has since had ten cohorts of Asia Fellows in last ten years. In 2008, this South Asia based AAS expanded to become a pan-Asian network of 286 Asia Fellows from across Asia. AAS has accordingly expanded its motto to ‘Globalizing Asia’. The AAS has meanwhile conducted several projects, conferences and lecture series, details of which can be seen at www.asiascholars.org
Inspired by the historic contribution of the two Asian Relations conferences convened by ICWA during 1947 and 1949 and, in view of India’s rising stature as a major player on Asian continent at the dawn of 21st century, the ICWA & AAS have together revived these Asian Relations Conference (ARC) Series from year 2009. Both ICWA and AAS work throughout the year starting from setting up an Organizing Committee of eminent experts and practitioners in the field and then have regular meetings to together evolve the idea, outline and final program of the ARC on a topical theme for each year. Papers are commissioned in advance and revised after the conference for publication with a reputed publisher.
In these last three years of ARC, the tenor and contents of Asian relations have evolved and taken the center-stage of international relations that have also witnessed a transformation from once being solely around the persona of State to now increasingly only privileging the State, while the civil society and the corporate sector are also becoming influential actors in the conduct of international relations. Power shift has also been occurring from North to South, from West to East and from great powers of 20th century to emerging powers of 21st century world. Especially, Asia remains the hub of several such experiments and India’s future remains intertwined with these emerging trends.
In this backdrop, the ARC Series were revived with the theme of “Emerging China: Prospects for Partnership in Asia” on November 21-23, 2009. The papers of this Conference have been published as a volume by Routledge. The theme of the second Asian Relations Conference was “India and GCC countries, Iran and Iraq: Emerging Security Perspectives”, held on November 20-21, 2010. The papers of this Conference are also in the process of being published as an edited volume.
Speeches delivered in 1st Asian Relations Conference:
:: Mahatma Gandhi
:: Pt Jawaharlal Nehru