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10,000 partition stories to be added to ‘The 1947 Partition Archives’

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

partitionWashington: During India-Pakistan partition in 1947, Pakistan’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah sent a message to renowned Indian author Khushwant Singh asking him to stay in Lahore and become a high court judge, an offer he declined and decided to move to Delhi.

“I drove on a totally empty road, blank road, all the way to Delhi. I didn’t see a soul till I reached Delhi,” he told 21 year old Manleen Sandhu before his death in March 2014 relating his personal experience of Partition.

“Jinnah sent a message to me through my father–he was his friend–to stay on in Lahore and become a high court judge. I was a lawyer.”

“Bad times. No humanity at all…After Partition I returned to Lahore many times. I had no venom against anyone,” he said shaking his head as he explained his decision to move amid escalating violence.

Khushwant Singh’s story is among nearly 2000 stories comprising over 4000 hours of video footage recorded by citizen historians like Sandhu for ‘The 1947 Partition Archive’.

What began as a small grassroots effort to preserve the disappearing memory of Partition, at the University of California at Berkeley in 2011, has quickly spread across the globe to 157 cities where Partition witnesses reside.

Young, tech savvy citizen historians train to record oral histories and spread out in their communities with their phones or any other recording device as part of what has become the largest known oral history collection of South Asian memories.

Today a majority of the stories come from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, though many pour in from diasporic communities spread across Europe, North America, the Middle East and Australia.

They’re telling of how far refugees scattered in search of a stable life following Partition.

With those who were teenagers at the time of Partition, in their 80’s now, The 1947 Partition Archive has announced a manifesto to record 10,000 stories through 2017, commemorating the 70th anniversary of Partition.

The people-powered Archive relies in part on trained volunteers, or citizen historians, for recording the stories, according to a media release.

To accelerate the recording of stories and reach the 10,000 story goal, the Archive is announcing its next call for story scholars, a ten month long concentrated story collection fellowship programme.

Anyone who has attended a free training to become a citizen historian and recorded a story is eligible to apply. Applications opened on Aug 30 and the deadline to apply is Oct 31.

An anonymous donor, feeling the urgency for recording stories, has endowed the programme with $100,000 which will fund the field work and back-end archiving for 10 story scholars. Together they will record 1800 stories.

As founding donor Dr. Narinder Kapany, an Indian-born American physicist known for his work in fibre optics, says, “Partition affected every community. Stories of Partition are everyone’s stories. And time is of the essence to make them known.”

The Archive will begin releasing the stories for public viewing in 2017.

The Archive’s long term plans include building Centres for Learning on Partition that combine tolerance education, in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. It will be launching its task force for institutionalising the memory of partition later in 2015.

The first exhibit based on The Archive’s stories launched in 2014 at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg.

With inputs from IANS

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India And Vietnam Come Together Against Maritime Rival China

Beijing has been protesting against joint Vietnamese-Indian oil exploration activities in the South China Sea for almost a decade, but New Delhi has refused to budge.

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India- Vietnam
Indian President Ram Nath Kovind, left, shakes hands with Vietnamese President Nguyen Phu Trong before heading for talks behind closed doors in Hanoi, Vietnam. VOA

Advances in relations between Vietnam and India will help both countries resist Chinese expansion in Asia including the contested South China Sea, Asia scholars say.

India-Vietnam relations are growing again this week as Indian President Shri Ram Nath Kovind visits Vietnam Sunday through Tuesday. He was set to meet Vietnamese President Nguyen Phu Trong for closed-door talks.

The visit advances a long-standing, fast-improving friendship that began in the 1970s, when Vietnamese leaders tapped India to diversify foreign policy, and leapt forward in 2016 when the two sides entered a strategic comprehensive partnership. Now both worry about China.

“Given a shared apprehension of Chinese assertiveness, New Delhi seeks to bolster Hanoi’s capabilities to check China, to expand Indian influence in Southeast Asia as a counterweight to China’s growing footprint in South Asia,” said Sameer Lalwani, deputy director for U.S. think tank The Stimson Center’s South Asia program.

India, elections, vietnam
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures as he addresses the gathering during the ‘Global Mobility Summit’ in New Delhi, India, VOA

South China Sea dispute

Vietnam and four other governments dispute all or part of Beijing’s claim to about 90 percent of the South China Sea. The two sides got into two deadly ship clashes, in 1974 and 1988, and rammed each other’s boats in 2014. China cites historical documents to support its claims.

India, located west of the Indochinese peninsula, does not claim the sea that lies east of Vietnam.

But last year hundreds of Chinese and Indian troops faced off on a Himalayan plateau disputed by China and India’s ally Bhutan. India also resents China’s support for its territorial rival Pakistan. It has grown eager to help Australia, Japan and the United States patrol Asian seas where China has alarmed other countries by landfilling tiny islets, in some cases for military use.

Those countries want the 3.5 million-square-kilometer South China Sea open internationally instead of under increasing Chinese control.

“I think Vietnam wants India to play a more active role in the South Asian region because Vietnam knows that India is not so active in the quadrilateral, including the U.S., India, Australia and Japan,” said Trung Nguyen, director of the Center for International Studies at Ho Chi Minh University of Social Sciences and Humanities.

India-Vietnam
Indian President Ram Nath Kovind, right, and his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Phu Trong review an honor guard in Hanoi, Vietnam. VOA

​India and Vietnam held their first joint drill In the Bay Of Bengal in October to strengthen “working-level” relations, the Press Trust of India says. India has offered Vietnam $500 million in credit for arms purchases, as well, and proposed a South China Sea warning system able to send tsunami data to Vietnam.

Oil and gas exploration

Vietnam and India will use fuel exploration to consolidate their stand in the South China Sea, and with a potential profit, analysts forecast.

India and Vietnam already do “robust” trade, worth $12.8 billion in 2017-2018, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs says. Bilateral trade should reach $15 billion by 2020, the vice chairman of the Indian Business Chamber of Vietnam said last year. Indian investment in Vietnam was $2 billion then.

For the past four years, the overseas subsidiary of India’s government-run ONGC has worked with PetroVietnam Exploration Production Corp. to search for oil and gas in the South China Sea. China is probably watching warily, experts say.

Climate Change, Indian President Ram Nath Kovind, right, and his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Phu Trong review an honor guard in Hanoi, Vietnam
Submerged tombs are seen at a flooded village after heavy rainfall caused by tropical storm Son Tinh in Ninh Binh province, Vietnam. VOA

Vietnam happens to need outside expertise and investment to find gas and oil off its long seacoast. Both domestic and foreign oil firms would earn money from any discoveries.

“The issue of oil is probably one of the larger political elephants in the room, so to speak,” said Maxfield Brown, senior associate with the business consultancy Dezan Shira & Associates in Ho Chi Minh City. “I’m sure that Vietnam is keen to find countries that are willing to invest in its natural resources and aren’t necessarily scared off by the threat of Chinese naval incursions.”

Spanish driller Repsol quit a Vietnamese-approved project in the South China Sea in March, apparently under pressure from China, media reports said then. Vietnam is now considering a $4.6 billion gas exploration project with ExxonMobil, local partner CNG Vietnam Joint Stock Co. says. China claims that site, as well.

“Vietnam is always trying to get them to do more exploration and India has been wary of holding onto blocks that aren’t productive or getting blocks that are in sensitive areas vis-a-vis China,” said Carl Thayer, professor emeritus with the University of New South Wales in Australia.

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India has shown little fear to date, said Mohan Malik, professor in Asian security, Daniel K. Inouye Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies in the United States.

“Beijing has been protesting against joint Vietnamese-Indian oil exploration activities in the South China Sea for almost a decade, but New Delhi has refused to budge,” Malik said. “Through joint naval exercises and port calls at Vietnamese ports, New Delhi is signaling to Beijing that China’s growing naval expansion…would be countered by India’s naval outreach in the South China Sea.” (VOA)