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SAI Year In Review 2014-15


From the Director’s Letter:

This year has seen unprecedented growth and new beginnings for the Harvard University South Asia Institute (SAI). Only two years into being formally elevated from an initiative to a university-wide research and academic institute, SAI has actively engaged over 500 regional stakeholders, and an equal number of faculty and students from Harvard’s twelve degree-granting schools, making it the hub of innovative programming, knowledge production, and research pertaining to a vast and complex region.

Home to over a quarter of the world’s population, some of the most critical issues being debated on the global stage today find resonance in South Asia. As a result, the region is a laboratory for entrepreneurship, technological advancement, and cultural diversity.

Click here to read the digital version of our Annual Report.

    South Asia Week 2015

    The Future of Diplomacy Project, in partnership with SAI, will be hosting its annual South Asia Week, beginning Friday, April, 24, featuring an impressive array of regional practitioners and experts on India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.


    Friday, April 24, 2015 from 02:30pm – 04:00pm
    Allison Dining Room, Taubman Building, 5th Floor, Harvard Kennedy School
    Ambassador Jalil Jilani on US-Pakistan relations

    In this first public event of the Future of Diplomacy Project’s annual South Asia Week Ambassador Jalil Abbas Jilani discusses his country’s relationship with the United States and regional powers in a talk moderated by South Asia Institute Director, Professor Tarun Khanna, Harvard Business School.

    Ambassador Jilani assumed his responsibilities as Ambassador of Pakistan on January 2, 2014. Prior to his appointment as Ambassador of Pakistan to the United States, Ambassador Jilani served as Foreign Secretary of Pakistan from March 2012 to December 2013. He is a career diplomat and has also served as Ambassador of Pakistan to Belgium, Luxembourg and the European Union (2009-2012) and as Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Canberra, Australia (2007-2009).

    Ambassador Jilani holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Law and M.Sc. in Defence and Strategic Studies. In his professional life, he has specialized in South Asian affairs and remained Director India (1992-1995), Deputy High Commissioner/Acting High Commissioner to New Delhi (1999-2003) and Director General South Asia and SAARC (2003-2007). In 2005 he also served as the Government’s Spokesman on Foreign Affairs. From 1989 to 1992, Ambassador Jilani served as Deputy Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Secretariat. His other overseas assignments included; Jeddah (1983-1985), London (1985-1988) and Washington (1995-1999).


    Monday, April 27, 2015 from 02:30pm – 04:00pm

    Malkin Penthouse, Littauer Building 4th Floor

    South Asia Week 2015: Afghanistan – Covering America’s Longest War

    Harvard Kennedy School Alumnus Sean Carberry, recently-returned Kabul Bureau Chief for NPR, discusses covering America’s longest war with Anand Gopal, author of “No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban and the War Through Afghan Eyes,” in conversation with Future of Diplomacy Project Executive Director, Cathryn Cluver, in a seminar co-sponsored by the Shorenstein Center.

    Sean Carberry was most recently NPR’s international correspondent based in Kabul. His work was heard on all of NPR’s award-winning programs, including Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. Prior to moving to Kabul, he was responsible for producing for NPR’s foreign correspondents in the Middle East and “fill-in” reporting. Carberry traveled extensively across the Middle East to cover a range of stories such as the impact of electricity shortages on the economy in Afghanistan and the experiences of Syrian refugees in Turkish camps. Carberry has reported from more than two-dozen countries including Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Congo, Sudan, South Sudan, and Iceland. In 2010, Carberry won the Gabriel Award Certificate of Merit for America Abroad’s “The First Freedom,” and in 2011 was awarded the Sigma Delta Chi Award as lead producer and correspondent for America Abroad’s series, “The Arab World’s Demographic Dilemma.”

    Before coming to NPR in 2011, Carberry worked at America Abroad Media where he served as technical director and senior producer in addition to traveling internationally to report and produce radio and multimedia content for America Abroad’s monthly radio news documentaries and website.

    Anand Gopal is the author of “No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War through Afghan Eyes,” which he wrote as a Schwartz Fellow at the New America Foundation. He studies the evolution of insurgencies and revolutionary movements in South Asia and the Middle East. Gopal has reported regularly from throughout the Middle East, where he has covered the revolutions in Egypt, Libya and Syria. From 2007-2010, he was an Afghanistan-based correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor and The Wall Street Journal.


    Monday, April 27, 2015 from 04:30pm – 06:00pm
    Malkin Penthouse, Littauer Building 4th Floor, Harvard Kennedy School
    South Asia Week 2015: A Moment of Opportunity for U.S. Engagement in Afghanistan and Pakistan

    Ambassador Daniel Feldman, U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, discusses U.S. engagement in the region in a seminar co-sponsored by the India and South Asia Program and the South Asia Initiative at Harvard University.

    Daniel F. Feldman is the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP) with the personal rank of Ambassador. He has served in the S/SRAP office since its creation in 2009, first as deputy and then as principal deputy to Ambassadors Richard Holbrooke, Marc Grossman, and James Dobbins. Ambassador Feldman has been deeply engaged in all aspects of U.S. policy formulation and implementation for both countries, including overseeing political transition issues, economic growth initiatives, regional integration efforts, international engagement with key partners, strategic communications, and Congressional outreach. For his service in the S/SRAP office, he was awarded the Secretary’s Distinguished Honor Award by Secretary Clinton.

    Before reentering government, he was a law partner and co-chair of the international Corporate Social Responsibility group at Foley Hoag LLP, the only such legal practice in the U.S. His previous government experience includes serving as Director of Multilateral and Humanitarian Affairs at the National Security Council in the Clinton Administration, and as Counsel and Communications Adviser to the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

    Ambassador Feldman was Senior Foreign Policy and National Security Advisor to the Kerry presidential campaign in 2004, communications advisor and recount attorney for the Gore campaign in 2000, and a senior campaign advisor to Senator Mark Warner. He helped to found, and subsequently served on the board of, the National Security Network, and is a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He has been appointed a White House Fellow and a Henry Luce Scholar, and was a law clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and on the South African Supreme (Constitutional) Court. He is a graduate of Tufts University, Columbia Law School, and Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School.


    Thursday, April 30, 2015 from 08:30am – 10:00am
    Allison Dining Room, Taubman Building, 5th Floor, Harvard Kennedy School
    South Asia Week 2015: Ambassador Husain Haqqani – Pakistan and US: Dealing with Divergent Interests?

    Ambassador Husain Haqqani examines the tenuous relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan in a seminar co-sponsored by the India and South Asia Program.

    A Hudson Institute Senior Fellow and Director for South and Central Asia, Ambassador Husain Haqqani served as Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States from 2008-2011 and is widely credited with managing a difficult partnership during a critical phase in the global war on terrorism. His distinguished career in government includes serving as an advisor to four Pakistani Prime ministers, Yusuf Raza Gilani, Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif and Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi. He also served as Pakistan’s Ambassador to Sri Lanka in 1992-93.

    Ambassador Haqqani’s 2005 book “Pakistan Between Mosque and Military” has been praised in major international journals and newspapers as a path-breaking book on Pakistan’s political history. The book received favorable reviews in Foreign Affairs, Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and academic journals and has sold more copies than any other academic book on Pakistan in the last decade.

    Ambassador Haqqani is the Director of the Center of International Relations, and a Professor of the Practice of International Relations at Boston University. His specializations include: Diplomacy, Muslim Political Movements, International Journalism, Intercultural Relations, South Asia, Central Asia, South-East Asia, the Middle-East, and U.S.-Pakistan Relations.


    Friday, May 1, 2015 from 1:00pm – 02:30pm
    CGIS South, S050, 1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA

    India’s Prospects and Policy Challenges

    Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Former Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission of the Republic of India

    Chair: Rohini PandeMohammed Kamal Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School


      South Asia: Local Solutions with Global Impact

      The South Asia Institute’s 2015 Annual Symposium, ‘South Asia: Local Solutions with Global Impact‘ was held at the Loeb House on April 16 and 17, 2015. The conference brought together scholars and practitioners for a series of workshops on SAI’s ongoing research projects.

      See a summary of the workshops below. Check back on our website for more in-depth summaries and videos of each panel.


      Mobile Technology to Access Healthcare Services: Case Studies from the Global South

      This panel showcased three real-world case studies of unique applications of technology in the field of healthcare. Several organizations were discussed that focus on validation of medicines purchased through unique serialization, and using technology to bridge operational gaps and introduce strong monitoring mechanisms for non-profit organizations. The health infrastructures of Cambridge, Massachusetts and the Kumbh Mela, a mega temporary city in Allahabad, India, were compared.

      Next steps for the project: Harvard students will spend time in India to map the use of mobile technology across three dimensions: producers, regulators, investors, and end users of the technology. The research aims to explore the expansion of the use of mobile technology to provide services to a vast population, and find linkages and opportunities for transferability of interventions across various services.

      Satchit Balsari, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative; Cornell Weill Medical Center; Tarun Khanna, South Asia Institute, Harvard Business School; Jill Shah, Associate Consultant, Vera Solutions; Nathan Sigworth, Director, PharmaSecure


      Role of South Asian Arts in Education

      This panel argued that it is important for spaces that display art in India, especially museums, to engage their audiences more intentionally because they are responsible for generating and institutionalizing the conventions of artistic evaluation and value that determine tastes and consumption among consumers, as well as society, more broadly. The participants discussed the need for creating an ecosystem in South Asia comprised of public institutions, such as state museums and private firms such as corporations, to not merely foster a market for art, but also to further the vibrancy of civil society. The panelists showcased ways in which the art worlds that have existed through history can be brought to exist in the current context through an intentional interaction and intersection of civil society and the art worlds.

      Next steps for the project: Through a rich set of symposia, exhibitions, and lectures by artists from South Asia, SAI will provide a platform for South Asian artists to contextualize, exhibit, and discuss their work with the Harvard community and with South Asia museum administrators and executives in the region. SAI will also develop training programs with partners in South Asia to focus on the management of art and culture of South Asia.

      Jinah Kim, Faculty of Arts and Sciences; Mukti Khaire, Harvard Business School; Megan Panzano, Harvard Graduate School of Design; Stephanie E. Rozman, Harvard Art Museums; Doris Sommer, Faculty of Arts and Sciences


      Water and Poverty in Urban Slums

      This panel focused on the intersection of access to water and urban slum communities through research and case studies. Common barriers to the water and poverty in urban slums include a deep history seeded in the social and political landscape of these communities that greatly affects sanitation and access to water; legal barriers that exist in slum communities; and negative effects due to lack of access to water that affects the capability of children and families living in the urban slums.

      The difficulty of solving water problems lies within the challenge that no one can clearly identify the problem and no one can agree upon one solution. An intervention highlighted by, an organization based in the US, has already developed a “Water credit” program, a partnership with microfinance organizations that allows individuals to purchase water as they need it.

      Next steps for the project: An interdisciplinary team at SAI is addressing water problems in South Asia as human rights issue. Research on the ground by the team will continue to address how to diagnose, characterize, and develop solutions to address water poverty in urban slums.

      Heather Arney,; Shafiqul Islam, Director, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University; Sharmila Murthy, Suffolk University, Harvard Kennedy School; Ramnath Subbaraman, Brigham and Women’s Hospital; Liza Weinstein, Northeastern University


      Mental Health and Disaster Management

      This panel focused on the challenges of treating mental health patients in disaster settings in South Asia, which is vulnerable to disasters such as floodings, earthquakes, and terrorist attacks. In global disaster psychiatry, it is important to understand that Western concepts may or may not fit in to certain cultures. Proper training for first responders and family members who care for victims is important, as mental health trauma is something that is not always prioritized following a disaster. There is growing research about the role of mobile phones in treating mental health in disaster settings, which can help with depression, PTSD, substance abuse, and anxiety. However, phones cannot replace the personal contact that remains an important intervention for mental health treatment.

      Next steps for the project: With support from the Aman Foundation, the project will continue to conduct trainings at hospitals in Karachi, Pakistan for emergency rooms and hospital workers, with a special focus on how to treat mental trauma in disasters. Lessons from the Karachi trainings will help inform practices across South Asia and other emerging economies.

      Ruth Barron, Harvard Medical School; Jennifer Leaning, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Harvard Medical School; John Torous, Brigham and Women’s and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center


      Click here to read about the Kumbh Mela: Mapping the Ephemeral City book and exhibit launch.


        2015 Student Summer Grants

        Ekta Patel, Harvard College '15, on a SAI grant in Surat, India

        Ekta Patel, Harvard College ’15, on a SAI grant in Surat, India

        SAI offers a variety of learning opportunities in South Asia for Harvard students through its grants program. Undergraduate and graduate students are invited to apply for research grants to support independent research and thesis field work. SAI has partnered with over 50 organizations in South Asia to offer internships to Harvard students.

        SAI has awarded 35 grants for summer and research, internship, and language study in India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

        Learn more about SAI grants.

        Graduate Language Study

        Joshua Ehrlich, History, PhD, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
        Mughal Persian language study, American Institute of Indian Studies, Lucknow

        Neelam Khoja, Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations, PhD, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
        Punjabi language study, American Institute of Indian Studies, Chandigarh

        Jason Smith, Religion, ThD, Harvard Divinity School
        Tamil language study, American Institute of Indian Studies, Madurai

        Tyler Richard, South Asian Studies, PhD, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
        Tamil language study, Field Study, Tamil Nadu

        Graduate Research Grants

        Mou Banerjee, History, PhD, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
        Subaltern Bengali Muslims and Christian Conversion Controversies in the 19th Century

        Rohit Chandra, Public Policy, PhD, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
        Evolution of India’s Coal Sector

        Fletcher Coleman, History of Art and Architecture, PhD, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
        Issues in Indian Ascetics: Early Chinese Buddhist Visual Programming through the Lens of Central Asian and Gandharan Religious Practice

        Sutopa Dasgupta, Religion, PhD, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
        The Annandmangal: Religion and Court in an Early Modern Epic from Bengal

        Hardeep Dhillon, History, PhD, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
        Archival research in Delhi related to Maulana Abul Kalam

        Madiha Irfan, MTS, Harvard Divinity School
        Divorce Law and Religious Authority in Pakistan

        Asad Liaqat, Public Policy, PhD, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
        What drives elite behavior in Pakistan? Testing Knowledge and Inter-Elite Obligation

        Maung Nyeu, PhD, Harvard Graduate School of Education
        Lost in Translation: Evidence from Oral Narratives in Mother Tongue and Written Narratives in the Language of Instruction

        Mircea Raianu, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
        The TATA Business Empire and the Ethics of Capital in Modern India, ca. 1870-1960

        Jigyasa Sharma, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
        Evaluation of the Effectiveness of WHO’s Safe Childbirth Checklist in Reducing Prenatal Mortality in Rural Rajasthan

        Niharika Singh, Public Policy, PhD, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
        Understanding Patterns of High Educational Attainment but Low Labor Participation of South Asian Women

        Lydia Walker, History, PhD, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
        Self-Determination for Whom? Nationalism, Internationalism and 1960’s Decolonization


        Graduate Internship Grants

        Madhav Khosla, Political Theory, PhD, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
        Modern Constitutionalism and the Indian Founding

        Muhammad Zia Mehmood, Harvard Kennedy School
        Understanding Mechanisms Underlying Extremist Influence: Peer Effects in the Presence of Extremists

        Shweta SureshHarvard Kennedy School
        Evidence for Policy Design – Confederation of Indian Industries Compliance

        Angela Thurston, Harvard Divinity School
        Empowering Girls and Strengthening Communities in the Slums of Mumbai


        Undergraduate Internship Grants

        Joanne Koong, Computer Science & Economics, 2017
        Jana Care, Software Engineering Internship, India

        Eleni Apostolatos, 2018
        Harvard-Bangalore Science Initiative, Internship, India

        Tamara Fernando, History of Art and Architecture & Economics, 2016
        Chunkikuli Ladies College, Internship, Sri Lanka

        Kavya Pathak, Neurobiology and Health Policy
        Harvard-Bangalore Science Initiative, Internship, India

        Leena Raza, Organismic & Evolutionary Biology and Health Policy, 2016
        PUKAR, Internship, India

        Julia Versel, Neurobiology, 2017
        Harvard-Bangalore Science Initiative, Internship, India


        Mobile Technology Summer Program

        Neil Davey, Chemical and Physical Biology, 2018

        Vinay Iyengar, Computer Science, 2018

        Diane Jung, Human Developmental and Regenerative Biology, 2017

        Kais Khimji, Social Studies, 2017

        Pranay Nadella, Economics, 2017

        Pradeep Niroula, Computer Science and Physics, 2018

        Eshaan Patheria, Social Studies, 2017

        Parth Thakker, Economics, 2017