Statement on Denial of Visas to Scholars from Pakistan for the 2018 AAS-in-Asia Conference

A joint statement from the Association for Asian Studies and Ashoka University:

The first AAS-in-Asia conference was held at the National University of Singapore in 2014, and in subsequent years there have been conferences at the Academia Sinica in Taipei, at Doshisha University in Kyoto, and at Korea University in Seoul. The purpose of the AAS-in-Asia conferences is to encourage collaboration and intellectual exchange among scholars based in various parts of Asia and between scholars based in Asia and those based in other parts of the world. The fact that the Ministry of External Affairs of the Government of India has decided to deny visas to Pakistani scholars (including scholars of Pakistani origin who are citizens of other countries) to attend the AAS-in-Asia conference in Delhi is not in tune with the open exchange of ideas and knowledge that is the very purpose of the conference. However, neither the Association for Asian Studies nor Ashoka University has the authority to tell the Government of India, a sovereign nation, to whom it may and may not grant visas, and nor have we been able to influence the Government of India to reverse its decision in this case.

Unfortunately, by the time we learned of the Government of India’s decision, the planning for the conference had been underway for a number of years. The Government of India’s decision was communicated in a letter from the Ministry of External Affairs dated February 2018. Negotiations to hold the 5th AAS-in-Asia conference in collaboration with Ashoka University began in 2014, and a Memorandum of Understanding was signed in December 2016. The deadline for submitting panel proposals was November 2017, and the program committee met in January 2018 to select the panels that would appear in the program. As with all AAS-in-Asia conferences, the committee made its decisions based on the academic merit of the proposals and the diversity of the countries and institutions represented on the proposed panels.
We deeply regret the governmental decision preventing Pakistani scholars from physically attending the conference. The affected delegates were informed in March, and since then, we have refunded registration fees for them and have made efforts to facilitate their participation by arranging for them to present their papers via Skype.