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Pacific Singapore To Host South Asia Diaspora Convention


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
A highlight is the likely presentation of perspectives by thought leaders from Japan, S. Korea, China

The South Asian Diaspora Convention, programmed from July 21 to 23 here, will be “the first of its kind anywhere in the world.”

Pleased at this prospect, Gopinath Pillai, Chairman of the Singapore-based Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS), said in a conversation with The Hindu that the project was an exercise in translating into reality a proposal by the City-State's President, S.R. Nathan, for “linking the diaspora” of the sub-continent for meaningful interactions.

Mr. Pillai was emphatic that “no politics was involved” in this attempt to bring together overseas Indians and people with origins in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, and the Maldives.

Drawing “inspiration” from Mr. Nathan's vision of a South Asian diaspora, the ISAS was keen to utilise the planned convention to position Singapore as the springboard for global linkages among the these people. The convention could serve as a platform for business networking among the entrepreneurs of the South Asian diaspora. At the same time, the convention would be open to the captains of trade and industry, academics, and the general public from India and other South Asian countries. This would correspond to Singapore's perspective of the South Asian diaspora as a highly inclusive group of people.

Mr. Pillai said a major highlight of the convention was the likely presentation of perspectives by some thought leaders from Japan, South Korea, and China. These speakers, not of South Asian origin at all, would put the shine on issues of interest to the diaspora from India and its sub-continental neighbours.

As a cameo of cultural interest was the likely presentation of an episode from the “Chinese version” of Ramayana, said Mr. Pillai. The Singapore-based Chinese Opera Company had already held lively shows of the play in places such as Iran.

As a key interlude during the convention, Mr. Nathan will release a book written by the late Balaji Sadasivan, a Singapore-Indian leader in medicine and politics. The book, completed by his ethnic-Chinese wife after his demise, was written for the benefit of the children of Indian diaspora. Dancing Girl: History of India is based on a perspective through the centuries from the hoary past of Mohenjo-Daro.

“As cricket and the South Asian diaspora go together,” efforts are on to arrange a T20 match as part of the convention. The idea is not to organise an India-Pakistan clash. But two teams, each consisting of regular players from several South Asian countries, may play a competitive game in the best spirit of the sport, he said.

The convention — with participation by top Singapore leaders like elder-statesman Lee Kuan Yew, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, besides President Nathan — will have thematic sessions on the contemporary setting for the South Asian diaspora, business opportunities, science and technology and education through innovation, said Mr. Pillai.