A university partnership with the Indian Council for Cultural Relations will establish a new academic chair of Indian culture and society as part of an initiative to strengthen ties with the country.

The arrangement, which was announced in a talk by Indian Ambassador Nirupama Rao Tuesday night, will create a joint position between the School of Foreign Service and the College’s English department.

“The wealth that education offers is the greatest wealth of all,” Rao said in her talk.

According to Rob Mathis, a communications officer for the university, the initiative has been in the works since 2009. After taking shape during several meetings in New Delhi and at Georgetown, the final agreement will allow a visiting Indian scholar to teach and conduct research on the Hilltop for several years. Mathis said the university is still working out details of the search process, but expects to make a hire as early as next fall.

While the university has programs in Asian Studies and Contemporary Arab Studies, this is the first position specifically dedicated to South Asian studies.

Silky Kadakia (COL ’12), president of the South Asian Society, said that while she was aware that the university was considering such a position, the ambassador’s announcement came as unexpected. Along with other leaders of the SAS, Kadakia attended a dinner with University President John J. DeGioia and the ambassador, where she learned more about the position.

“It was a good surprise,” she said. “It’s a visible step toward what they’re trying to accomplish.”

While introducing Rao, DeGioia discussed the importance of building links between Georgetown and universities in India — a message he has been emphasizing for several years.

“Georgetown will continue to be a leader in forging partnerships with institutes of higher education and learning,” DeGioia said at the talk.

As part of the effort, the university will also hold a government-sponsored summit on U.S.-Indian higher education in two weeks.

Kadakia said that while Georgetown already has many course offerings in South Asian studies, she hopes that the new post and other initiatives will encourage a wider group of students to take these classes.

She also said that she hopes that the new chair will be able to keep up the momentum behind the expansion of Indian studies at Georgetown. For many members of the SAS, the absence of offerings in South Asian languages at Georgetown is one area they would like to see addressed.

“India and Pakistan are huge hot topics right now,” Kadakia said. “It makes sense to develop in this area.”

Special to The Hoya Rita Pearson contributed to this report.

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