Pakistan high commissioner to India Sohail Mahmood visited Panjab University and met vice-chancellor Prof Arun Grover on Tuesday. As a graduate from the University of the Punjab in Lahore, “he just wants to see how this university is doing,” said Grover, referring to the two namesake varsities on both sides of the border.

“Regular exchange of ideas and addressing concerns can neutralise the negative impacts. The purpose is not only to reach academia, but the youth for improving perceptions. We need to talk to each other rather than at each other for a smooth flow of communication,” said Mahmood.

Prof. Grover said they discussed how research and academics should not suffer due to poor political relations between India and Pakistan.

“A soft link between the two universities through video conferencing, discussions and lectures on Skype can help. You can call it an under the table exchange of ideas and knowledge,” Prof Grover said. “Though, autonomy provided Panjab University access to foreign universities, it won’t be possible for such exchanges with Pakistan”. This was a result of taking into account the current fragile political scenario.

Mahmood, however, informed Prof Grover that Punjab University was planning to open a Centre for Indian Studies. Then, the Panjab University VC informed that they were too setting up a Shahmukhi Learning Centre in Department of Defence & National Security Studies. The significance here is that people in Pakistan’s Punjab follow the Shahmukhi script of Punjabi language.

The faculty and students also provided insight into steps to bridge the gap between the two nations. “The high commissioner spoke a lot about student and faculty exchange programmes by encouraging research. We should do this to bring the youth of the two countries together. Only then the culture of hate will transform into that of respect for similarities and differences,” said a student.

100 years of honours degrees in Panjab University

Meanwhile, Panjab University will mark the centenary of honours school system, established in Lahore in 1919 — which the University of the Punjab has abandoned — next year.

The Pakistan High Commissioner told VC Grover that all old systems had been revamped.

“I told the high commissioner about the honours school system and its centenary next year. But they don’t have this system anymore. I guess it is a matter of emotional attachment for us,” said Prof Grover. “A majority of the academicians and stakeholders of the honours school system were the ones who left everything behind and came to India during partition in 1947”.

The honours school of Panjab University is a research-oriented five-year integrated course. Prof Grover has previously announced that PU will organise a three-day extravaganza on the centenary next year.

Dean of University Instruction, Director of Internal Quality Assurance Cell, members of Research Promotion Cell, senior faculty members, researchers and students also attended the meeting between the Pakistan high commissioner and Panjab University VC.

Mahmood was here to meet the Chief Ministers of Punjab and Haryana to discuss various issues, most important the plan to host Indian pilgrims who have applied for visas to visit Gurdwara Janam Asthan Nankana Sahib in Lahore (Guru Nanak’s birthplace) on the 550th birth anniversary of the founding guru of Sikhism.

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