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Role Of ICCR Inpre-Post-Taliban 2.0, Regime To Afghan Students

"The highest education is that which does not merely give us information but makes our life in harmony with all existence."- Rabindranath Tagore
Nothing is more important for a nation than its human resources. So, the Indian Universities generate manpower for nations across the world through their world-class education system.

Education has always been given great prominence in Indian society. India has always been a blessing to students who have a thirst for knowledge and the capacity of the country to extend cooperation by providing scholarships for young and enthusiastic students, who are desirous of bringing about a change in society on their return to their homeland, is a matter of pride for the nation which is a pioneer in the education sector.

Indians have made significant advances in architecture (Taj Mahal), mathematics (the invention of zero) and medicine (Ayurveda). Ayurveda is a distinct form of medicine made purely of herbs and natural weeds, that can cure any ailment of the world. The world owes ancient India for the gift of one of the great contributions of Vedic civilizations.


Ancient India


Role of Indian Universities in the diffusion of knowledge

India, from ancient times, has been a centre of higher learning as it is one of the oldest civilizations in the world. Historically, Universities and libraries were a big part of the Indus-Valley Civilization. The two famous ancient universities of India and the oldest universities in the world are Takshashila (Taxila)and Nalanda. Nalanda was established in the fifth century AD in Bihar, India and survived until circa 1200 AD.

It was devoted to Buddhist studies, but it also trained students in fine arts, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, politics and the art of war. Ancient Taxila or Takshashila, in ancient Gandhara, was an early Hindu and Buddhist centre of learning. According to scattered references that were only fixed a millennium later, it may have dated back to at least the fifth century BC.

Some scholars date Takshashila's existence back to the sixth century BC. Vikramashila was one of the two most important centres of learning in India during the Pala Empire, along with Nalanda. Vikramashila was established by King Dharmapala (783 to 820) in response to a supposed decline in the quality of scholarship at Nalanda. Atisha, the renowned Pandita, is sometimes listed as a notable abbot. It was destroyed by the forces of Muhammad bin Bakhtiyar Khilji around 1200. India, the fabled land of seers, sages, spiritual leaders and healers has been a beacon of light for the West for centuries. It is known for its tremendous cultural power that has maintained a deep impact on the world for thousands of years.

The richness of India's culture is manifest in myriad traditions, languages, faiths and rituals that lend it both wealth and depth. People of this revered land exude a sense of vitality and positive energy that conveys the essence of life. Though the west has cast its influence through colonial rule, the people of India still hold on to their rich culture and heritage which is a thing to be marvelled at. India has been working to make this concept of Unity as well as share the Knowledge of Spirituality with the world, which India considers to be its family.


Modern India


Role Of ICCR As The Medium Of Soft Power

ICCR is working to its fullest extent to facilitate and improve foreign relations in terms of education. The Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) was founded in 1950 by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, independent India's first Education Minister who led the nation with wisdom and determination from the dark days of despair to a future of hope is no less an inspiration.

Its objectives are to actively participate in the formulation and implementation of policies and programmes on India's external cultural relations; to foster and strengthen cultural relations and mutual understanding between India and other countries; to promote cultural exchanges with other countries and people, and to develop relations with nations.
The primary mandate of the Council is to create international understanding through culture.

To meet this objective, the Council showcases quality performing artists/groups in countries across the world so that the people get to see and understand the diversity and the vibrancy of India's performing art forms like classical, folk, theatre, modern dance and music etc.

These groups are sent within the ambit of India's Cultural Exchange Programme with different countries as well as outside it. Artists have travelled abroad from every corner of India during the past six decades. The ICCR has sent thousands of cultural troupes across the globe, apart from organizing Cultural Weeks and Festivals dedicated to a specific country or region.

On average, more than 160 groups have been travelling abroad in the last few years. The Council prides itself in having sent great masters, living legends as well as young and promising artists. This is a great way to showcase India's enduring and vibrant culture and its incredible diversity. The following schemes are offered by the ICCR under the Ministery of External Affairs of the government of India.

General Scholarship Scheme - ICCR - The GSS is one of the important scholarship schemes of ICCR for Foreign Students which is awarded at the level of undergraduate/postgraduate levels and for pursuing research to foreign students belonging to Asian and Latin American Countries. Apart from this initiative for the following specific categories have been taken up by the ICCRBangladesh Scholarship Scheme - ICCR, Commonwealth Scholarship Scheme - ICCR, Nehru Memorial Scholarship Scheme - ICCR, CEP/EEP Scholarship Scheme - ICCR.

The government of India, under the Ministry of External Affairs, has the following policies under its banner:

  • Silver Jubilee Scholarship Scheme - MEA;
  • AYUSH Scholarship Scheme for BIMSTEC Countries - MEA;
  • Aid-to-Maldives Scholarship Scheme - MEA;
  • Mekong Ganga Co-operation Scholarship Scheme - MEA;
  • Afghan Scholarship Scheme - MEA;
  • Africa Scholarship Scheme - MEA;
  • Aid-to-Mongolia Scholarship Scheme - MEA;
  • Nehru Memorial Scholarship Scheme - MEA;
  • Maulana Azad Scholarship Scheme - MEA;
  • Rajiv Gandhi Scholarship Scheme - MEA;
  • India Scholarship (Bangladesh) Scheme - MEA;
  • Aid-to-Bhutan Scholarship Scheme - MEA;
  • AYUSH Scholarship Scheme for Non-BIMSTEC Countries;
  • AYUSH Scholarship Scheme for Malaysian Nationals;
  • AYUSH Scholarship Scheme for South-East Asian Region (SEAR) Countries;
  • Scholarship Scheme for Children/Dependents of Afghan Nationals Defence & Security Forces - MEA;
  • Scholarship to Wards of Border Guard Bangladesh - MEA

ICCR, an autonomous organisation under the Ministry of External Affairs, annually awards 3,940 scholarships under 26 schemes to foreign students from about 140 countries.[2]


India And Its Cultural Ethos

India is taking effective steps to spread this concept of Unity through Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. Yoga is a way to learn and understand spiritual India. Also, yoga is associated with the culture and heritage of India. In Sanskrit, yoga means 'to unite' and describes a way to live a healthy life.Many people from India and foreigners are resorting to yoga and meditation to de-stress and rejuvenate their minds.

From Jawaharlal Nehru to Narendra Modi, India's leaders have often evoked the phrase Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (the world is one family), taken from the Maha Upanishad, to elucidate the country's global outlook. While the term has become a mantra of India's diplomatic lexicon. Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam has become a catch-all notion for India's diplomatic orthodoxy to be deployed in numerous scenarios. Although it might be open to myriad interpretations, it has been used to broadly convey India's ideal and liberal concept of global norms, themes of globalization, or global commons. In doing so, it suggests that this is an ideal world worth achieving and it can be created through negotiations alone.

Unity in diversity is a short and common phrase that envelops an entire world in it. A true image of unity in diversity is presented by the people of India. India is a diverse country, a fact that is visibly prominent in its people, culture and climate. The Indian culture varies by its vast geography. People speak in different languages, dress differently, follow different religions, eat different food but are of the same temperament. For the most part, the continental size of the country accounts for the variations and diversities.

The dynamism and the flexibility, of the people and in turn the nation, have enabled the Indian culture to survive despite its many diversities and heavy odds. Through these diversities runs a common stream, as it were, and the similarity and unity of outlook can be noticed across the length and breadth of the nation. Indian culture is a continuous synthesis and has absorbed many external influences in the course of history.

Another notable characteristic of Indian culture is that it has always been based on moral, religious and ethical values. The shades of these are found even in the field of education. The global image of India is that of an upcoming and progressive nation. India has progressed by leaps and bounds in all sectors- commerce, technology and development.

The beauty of the Indian people lies in their spirit of tolerance, give-and-take and a composition of cultures that can be compared to a garden of flowers of various colours and shades of which, while maintaining their entity, lend harmony and beauty to the garden - India! Religion in India also sees no bounds. India is the place of reunion of many religions and languages of the world. Great spiritual leaders and reformers like Swami Vivekananda and Raja Ram Mohan Roy have worked incessantly as the harbinger of a new age in this great land. In Indian culture, art, languages, literature, festivals and practices we see the indelible mark of timeless Buddhist preaching and the philosophy of non-violence espoused by Mahatma Gandhi.


The ICCR's Role in Educating Afghan Students'

India is attracting students from all over the globe especially from Afghanistan, Africa, China, Japan, Maldives, Canada, France, Iran, Iraq, Germany, Australia, UK and USA. This unbelievable progress in the educational scenario also includes low costs of tuition as compared to the western countries. Afghan students coming from a war-torn nation where peace, in the last few decades, has been nothing more than an interlude between wars, no girl that steps into the world should have to slip into the darkness of denied opportunities. No son should have to choose between a war for the motherland or refuge in a distant land.

No mother should fear bringing a child into this world. Too much blood has been shed. Too many tragedies have darkened the mountain ranges. Too many dreams have burnt in the fire of a senseless conflict in the name of religion. Religious superiority and fundamentalism cannot be the instrument that shapes a nation's future or dictates the choices a nation makes, instead we need at the heart of every free nation the freedom of life and humanity.

The Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), had offered Under its Scheme, a total of 1,000 scholarships every year to Afghan nationals for undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD courses through Indian Universities.


Post-Taliban Regime

As Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) indicates that there are 2,164 Afghan students in India under the ICCR scheme. Of these, 1,722 Afghan students are physically present and studying in India, while 442 students are studying online from outside India, mainly in Afghanistan.[3] For the academic year 2021-2022, around 800 ICCR scholarships were given to Afghan students, with 650 being accepted. Between September and November 2021, the ICCR awarded more than 350 scholarships to Afghan graduates in India. The ICCR also appealed to the MHA Govt of India to grant visas to students who are stranded in India till the situation improves.

On 8th October 2021,ICCR determined its decision on the following[4]The ICCR Scholarship will be given to students enrolled in the previous as well as current Academic Year 2O2I 22. Scholarships to students from Afghanistan who are not physically present in India are allowed to attend the institution on online mode and the benefit will be granted according to the prior norm on arrival to India. ICCR has put a step forward to get an e visa and open a new door to India for Afghan Nationals under Special Scholarship Scheme (SSSAN) and Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) for the A.Y 2021-22.

Note: During my study difficulties I have come across, to meet or contact a few ICCR top profiles viz; Hon'ble Director General of ICCR, Senior IFS, AmbassadorShri. Dinesh K. Patnaik, ShriVinay Vohra and Senior Programme Director (Afghan) and Shri P.Venugopal Senior Regional Director, Bangalore. I learned that in the heart of every Indian, there is boundless love and hospitality. I have been deeply touched by their simplicity, commitments and friendly approaches towards international students, after my involvement with the above personalities I learn the sense of respect, command, beauty in heart and spirit, patriotism in bureaucracy and educating the world with soft power called rich cultural heritages in usage and practice of constitutional democracy.

During my stay in India, I have found that people are immensely kind, generous and mindful of others, at every point of need. We are truly privileged to have our education done in India, a country of great freedom of life and respect.

Finally, I must say that India has equipped Afghanistan with as many as a thousand young educated professionals in various disciplines who were employed in a different capacity in the civil service administration and hundreds of young military officers from IMA of Dehradun, were serving the ministry of Defence of Afghanistan unfortunately 20 years struggle, sacrifices, expenditures have been grabbed by the self-styled groups called The Taliban.

End-Notes:

  1. Indian Council for Cultural Relations, Government of India, A2ascholarships.iccr.gov.in (2021), http://a2ascholarships.iccr.gov.in/home/getAllSchemeList (last visited Nov 20, 2021).

  2. Id.

  3. A2 as cholarships.iccr.gov.in (2021), http://a2ascholarships.iccr.gov.in/assets/site/main/notification/1633692810_NOTIFICATION_Notification%20for%20Afghan%20Student%20under%20ICCR's%20Afghan%20Scholarship%20Scheme.pdf (last visited Nov 20, 2021).


Written By: Sayed Qudrat Hashimy - Afghan National
E-mail: [email protected]

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