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— India Trip Report — Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai, and New Delhi

An important component of Stimson’s South Asia program is empowering rising talent in the region to find and develop their own voices...

The South Asia program does this through an online magazine, South Asian Voices. This magazine is “owned” by younger analysts, by networking them within India and Pakistan — and across the border.

We also do this through a free open online course, Nuclear South Asia, where analysts can benefit from over 8.5 hours of course material contributed by more than 80 leading scholars and experts.

In August, Stimson Research Associates Akriti Vasudeva and Travis Wheeler journeyed to Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai, and New Delhi to familiarize students and young analysts with South Asian Voices and Nuclear South Asia.

This is their trip report.

Our first stop was Bangalore, India’s ‘Silicon Valley’ and one of Southern India’s intellectual hubs.

The Takshashila Institution, a think tank that offers post-graduate courses in public policy and strategic affairs, was one of several institutions we visited.

We met with more than 250 students at nine universities across India during our visit. After hearing our presentations, many expressed an interest in contributing to South Asian Voices and enrolling in Nuclear South Asia.

We expect some of the rising talent we identified on this trip to complete a short-term residency at Stimson as part of the SAV Visiting Fellowship.

Our visit coincided with a standoff between the Indian and Chinese military at Doklam plateau, at the trijunction of India, China, and Bhutan.

It was interesting to hear the perspectives at The Chennai Centre for China Studies. The Centre, along with the Department of Defence and Strategic Studies — University of Madras, and the National Maritime Foundation, also hosted us for an interactive conversation on “Nuclear Dimensions & Strategic Competition in the Asian Region.”

With three flights in as many days crisscrossing much of India, we struggled to keep track of the time and our location. Clocks at the Chennai Centre reminded us that though our colleagues were asleep in Washington, we had to power through our jet lag to get the job done!

From Chennai, we headed to the home of Bollywood, Mumbai. But all we had time for was to catch this glimpse of a pop art mural of Dadasaheb Phalke, the father of Indian cinema, before we had to rush for our next meeting!

At the green and leafy campus of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Deonar, Mumbai, we were encouraged by interest from young students and scholars in taking different pathways to studying security.

Of course, no trip to Mumbai is complete without a visit to the iconic Gateway of India and the obligatory “selife.”

In New Delhi, where the lushness of the greenery was refreshed by monsoon rains, we were joined by Co-founder Michael Krepon.

We visited several universities in Delhi and nearby Sonepat, including Ashoka University, Jamia Millia University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, OP Jindal Global University, and University of Delhi.

We also visited think tanks, stopping by the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, where Michael delivered a talk on “The Nuclear Future” in honor of P.R. Chari, one of the IPCS founders and a leading thinker on nuclear dangers and crisis management on the Subcontinent, chaired by former Foreign Secretary Salman Haidar.

Michael gave further talks at the India International Center/Institute of Chinese Studies, Center for Land Warfare Studies, Observer Research Foundation, and Vivekananda International Foundation.

We left as Indians were preparing to celebrate the nation’s 70th anniversary of its independence.

Bunting was set up and the lights were blazing on the capital’s landmarks, balloons were on offer, and street vendors were selling Indian flags to drivers stuck in traffic.

Stimson’s South Asia team prides itself in getting away from our desks — we believe that some of the strongest research and analysis is informed by field notes. The notes — and learned experiences — from this trip will be invaluable in informing our ongoing efforts to empower rising talent in the region.

Credits:

Created with images by Partha Chowdhury; Deepak Gupta; Hipandian

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