Pakistan breaks academic links with India

November 23, 2001

Pakistan has ordered its academics to seek government approval before they contact counterparts in India or accept invitations to conferences or seminars.

An education ministry directive, which breaks off all non-official educational contacts with New Delhi, asks institutions in the private and public sector to "dispense with all illegal links" with Indian universities and academic bodies. The directive also applies to individual academics.

The University Grants Commission of Pakistan has been asked to enforce the directive immediately.

The Pakistani newspaper Dawn , quoting official sources, said the move was prompted by a "fear that a large number of students, academics and staff members of different institutions had established non-permissible contacts with their peers across the border in different fields of mutual interest".

Officially, the education ministry in New Delhi declined to comment but sources called it a "setback" to person-to-person contacts between the two countries.

"Despite our frosty political relations, there have been some very useful academic exchanges at an informal level, mainly through exchange of academic journals and seminars, and it is unfortunate that this will no longer be possible," an official said.

Defence and foreign affairs experts in India and in Pakistan have been engaged in a project called Track II diplomacy to break down academic and cultural barriers. It is not clear if the directive would apply to this project.

Some believe that the move is retaliation against an Indian government order that compelled academics to get clearance before attending conferences or giving lectures abroad. The curbs, announced in June, were widely denounced as an attempt to "gag" scholars.

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