1) The Indian Council of World Affairs in collaboration with the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts (IGNCA), New Delhi, organised a two day Webinar on ‘Roads, Winds, Spices In The Western Indian Ocean: The Memory And Geopolitics Of Maritime Heritage’. The Conference had a total of 28 speakers and an additional 26 invited participants from India and abroad. The speakers constituted a multi-disciplinary group of academics, policy makers, diplomats, and museum and heritage experts.
2) Major themes discussed over nine sessions of the Webinar included:
3) In the Inaugural session, Director General, ICWA, Amb. Dr. TCA Raghavan delivered welcome remarks followed by introductory remarks by of by Prof. Himanshu Prabha Ray, former Chairperson, National Monuments Authority. Shri Raghvendra Singh, Secretary & CEO, Development of Museums and Cultural Spaces, Government of India to deliver the Keynote Address of the Webinar. Closing remarks were given by Prof. Madhu Bhalla, Editor, India Quarterly. It was stated that the oceans have an important place in Indian thinking. Indian subcontinent is central to the Indian Ocean. Maritime geopolitics is a reality of current times, which are marked by turbulence in the world order and tensions in the region. Cultural heritage, maritime connectivity and geopolitics are inextricably linked.
4) The second session on ‘Popularizing Global Narratives’ was chaired by Ms. Juhni HAN, Chief of the Culture sector at the UNESCO New Delhi Cluster Office and Programme Specialist for Culture. Two speakers in the session included Dr. Alaa el-Habashi University of Menoufia, Egypt and Dr. Marina Kaneti, Assistant Professor, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore. The session discussed how historically the Indian Ocean has represented an amalgamation of people, culture and civilizations where various religions have flourished and museums are a mechanism to popularise and mobilize these narratives and heritage.
5) The third session on ‘Mobile Communities and Identities’ was chaired by Rear Admiral Sudarshan Y. Shrikhande, AVSM, IN (Retd). Speakers included Vice Admiral Pradeep Chauhan, AVSM & Bar, VSN, IN (Retd), Director-General, National Maritime Foundation, New Delhi and Odakkal Johnson, Director and Head of Research, Maritime History Society and Ms. Janhavi V. Lokegaonkar, Research Associate, Maritime History Society (MHS) Mumbai. The session highlighted that it was as important as strengthen a nation’s soft power as its military might. Cultural heritage was linked to geopolitics. The session also discussed traditional nautical practices and climatological aspects of Indian navigation.
6) The fourth session on ‘Travel and Connectivity Across the Seas’ was chaired by Prof. Michael Jansen, Rheinisch- Westfälische Technische Hochschule (RWTH) Aachen University, Muscat, Oman. The speakers included Prof. Najaf Haider, Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Prof. Rila Mukherjee from Department of History, University oh Hyderabad. In Prof. Rila Mukherjee’s absence her paper was read by Dr. Sankalp Gurjar, Research Fellow, ICWA. The discussion focussed on how Indian Ocean is represented in the Mughal texts and miniatures as a geographical frontier. It also highlighted need for rethinking the South Asian cosmography to counter the conventional notion of sea spaces.
7) The special session ‘Panel Discussion On Project Mausam’ was chaired by Sachchidanand Joshi, Member Secretary, Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA). The panellists included Ambassador Akhilesh Mishra, Additional Secretary (Development Partnership Administration) in the Ministry of External Affairs, Ambassador Dinesh K. Patnaik, Director General, Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), Dr. V.N. Prabhakar, Director, Institute of Archaeology, Archaeology Survey of India (ASI), Prof. Vasant Shinde, Director General, Lothal Maritime Museum & Heritage Centre, Ms. Nirupama Kotru, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Culture and Prof. Himanshu Prabha Ray, Former Chairperson, National Monuments Authority, Ministry of Culture, Government of India. The panellists reiterated the importance of Project Mausam and emphasized the need to clearly define its objectives, at the core of which is knowledge creation pertaining to India’s maritime cultural heritage.
8) The second day of the webinar started with the fifth session on ‘Cultural Routes & Maritime Heritage’ was chaired by Ambassador Dinesh K. Patnaik, Director General, Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR). The speakers for the session included Prof. Michael Jansen, RWTH Aachen University, Muscat, Oman and by Dr. Jackie Armijo, Associate Professor, Asian University for Women, Chittagong, Bangladesh. The session discussed significance of archaeology and museology in studying maritime heritage and connectivity.
9) The sixth session on ‘Cultural Routes & Maritime Heritage (contd)’ was chaired by Dr. M. Nambirajan, Jt. Director-General, Archaeological Survey of India. The speakers Dr. Uthara Suvrathan, Assistant Professor, Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS), Mumbai, Dr. Yunci Cai, Lecturer in Museum Studies, University of Leicester, UK AND Dr. V. Selvakumar, Professor, Department of Maritime History and Marine Archeology, Tamil University, Thanjavur. The session discussed issues like heritage diplomacy, concept of Oceanscapes and ancient maritime culture of Tamizhagam region and its links with Afro-Eurasian maritime networks.
10) The seventh session on ‘Why Transnational Maritime Heritage’? was chaired by Dr. Ravikant Mishra, Deputy Director, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML). The speakers in the session were Prof. V.N. Attri, Chair in Indian Ocean Studies, Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), he highlighted IORA’s role in building on transnational maritime heritage in the Indian Ocean region. The second speaker Dr. Pragya Pandey, Reseach Fellow, ICWA discussed the history and geopolitics in the western Indian Ocean region.
11) At the concluding session of the webinar Director General, ICWA, Dr. TCA Raghavan delivered remarks on ‘Way Forward’, where he said that the ICWA hopes to play an important role in strengthening interface between scholars through joint research and publications in the area in the field of maritime history and heritage. The concluding address for the webinar was delivered by Dr. Nomvuyo N. Nokwe, Secretary General, Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA). She highlighted role of IORA in promoting people to people contacts and socio-cultural-economic prosperity in the India Ocean Region.