Passage to India
Accompanying Premier Dalton McGuinty on his “Clean Tech” mission to India in December was an opportunity not to be missed, one that will pave the way for expanded collaboration between Queen’s and Indian partners from the educational and industrial sectors.
Political Studies graduate Rana Sarkar, Artsci’93, the President and Executive Director of the Toronto-based Canada-India Business Council, assisted with the mission, and it was my pleasure to connect with a number of our alumni from India. Among them was Faqir Kohli, Sc’48, DSc’07, who founded India’s largest IT company, Tata Consultancy Services, and is now helping improve literacy by distributing computers into Indian villages.
I also toured some fascinating sites, including the country’s only “Platinum- LEED” (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) building in Hyderabad, where all the water used is internally recycled. Another particular highlight was being in the IT hub that is Hyderabad – a bustling city of 8.8 million in the state of Andhra Pradesh – during the prospective birth of a new state; the Indian government has proposed the formation of a separate Telangana state, with Hyderabad as its capital.
Because I was a member of the Premier’s delegation, the itinerary was shaped around the mission’s goals of promoting clean, renewable energy resources and developing more academic, research and business partnerships between Ontario and India. (India has recently introduced a national plan to fight climate change, focusing on green solutions to help the country grow sustainably.)
As I met various business and educational leaders, opportunities for student recruitment, research partnerships, and new business opportunities capitalizing on Queen’s expertise were top of mind. During visits to New Delhi, Mumbai, and Hyderabad, I made contacts that I hope will help move these priorities forward.
India has one of the world’s most rapidly growing economies right now, yet it only has the capacity to educate a small percentage of its 1.2 billion people. There is great potential for Queen’s to have a continuing presence in the country, participating in on-site education and student exchanges, research, recruitment and the development of markets for our expertise.
We have an excellent model for these initiatives in our China Liaison Office (CLO) – the first such office opened by a Canadian university in China. (See “The Queen’s-China connection” in Issue #4- 2009 of the Review.) Launched in 2007 at Shangai’s Fudan University, the CLO fosters cooperation between Queen’s and Chinese partners and strengthens teaching and research links.
In India, we have forged an alliance with the Sri Ramasamy Memorial (SRM) Institute of Science and Technology for research into population, public health, and the environment. This has led to several collaborative research projects. We are also represented on the India-Ontario Nanotechnology Steering Committee – a consortium of five Ontario universities and Indian counterparts. Queen’s is also an active member of the Shastri Indo- Canadian Institute, which fosters crosscultural understanding in the humanities, social sciences, other academic areas, and development initiatives. Professor Emeritus (Chemistry) Gary vanLoon recently served as president of this Institute.
Current student and academic exchanges with Indian universities include the Ontario/Maharashtra-Goa (OMG) Consortium, open to both undergraduate and graduate students; an MBA-level exchange with the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad (the first bilateral exchange signed by Queen’s with an Indian institution); and a new exchange of Civil Engineering doctoral students, post-doctoral fellows, faculty members, and research fellows with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) at Guwahati in the northeastern Indian state of Assam.
There are many opportunities that our recruitment, research and technology transfer portfolios could explore on future visits.
V-P Research Kerry Rowe will travel to Bangalore in April as the only Canadian invited to serve on an international panel that is reviewing the civil engineering program at the Indian Institute of Science, one of the country’s pre-eminent schools. Kerry’s presence will serve to open more doors for Queen’s. He will also present the keynote lecture at the International Congress on Environmental Geotechnics, in New Delhi in November.
Overall, my visit to India strengthened my belief in the great international potential of Queen’s. One way we can tap into this potential is to continue building links in developing countries around the world, to enhance education, recruitment, alumni relations and trade.
Principal Woolf and Rana Sarkar, Artsci’93, president of the Canada-India Business Council (centre), traveled in India with an official delegation headed by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty (left).