Campus & Community

Next step for South Asia Initiative

3 min read

Initiative gains formal recognition as an academic institute

In response to the South Asia Initiative’s demonstrated commitment to the advancement of South Asian studies and programs, the Office of the President and the Office of the Provost at Harvard have formally renamed it the South Asia Institute (SAI) at Harvard University.

“With this endorsement SAI joins the highly regarded group of centers and institutes at Harvard that lead the University’s intellectual and academic inquiry on area-specific global issues,” said Jorge I. Dominguez, the vice provost for international affairs.

Established in 2003, SAI engages faculty and students through interdisciplinary programs to advance and deepen the teaching and research on global issues relevant to South Asia. In conjunction with the name change, SAI’s website will also change to

SAI’s elevated status comes in the wake of years of work engaging more than 150 faculty from across the University who teach and conduct research on the region, as well as more than 300 students from South Asia studying at Harvard — the fastest-growing sector of Harvard’s student population.

“SAI will remain a catalyst for interdisciplinary scholarship on problems in this important region,” SAI Director Tarun Khanna said. “We look forward to fostering work with those on the forefront of change in South Asia, with the aim of increasingly becoming a leading center of intellectual activities related to South Asia.”

Harvard’s engagement with South Asia dates to 1872 when the University became the first in the nation to offer Sanskrit courses. In 1964, the Harvard Water Program in Pakistan was established after then-President Ayub Khan asked President John F. Kennedy for assistance in managing the country’s failing water systems.

Today, professors and students from across Harvard conduct collaborative research on strategic social, economic, environmental, and political issues with scholars and institutions throughout South Asia. SAI now has offices in four South Asian locales: Mumbai, India; Dhaka, Bangladesh: and Lahore and Karachi, Pakistan. These offices make the institute optimally placed to facilitate productive exchange between Harvard students and faculty and regional partners — for academic engagement, research, collaboration, and internships — while enhancing Harvard’s South Asian studies, which are grounded in deep contextual knowledge of the region’s diversity and complexity.

The elevation to the mantle of University-wide institute is a source of encouragement and excitement to the faculty, staff, students, and members of the broader community who contribute on a daily basis to raise the profile of South Asian scholarship at Harvard.

“It is an indication to these stakeholders and to observers globally of Harvard’s commitment to continually deepen its engagement with South Asia,” Khanna said.