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Speech by M.J. Akbar, Minister of State for External Affairs at the second convocation of South Asian University (June 12, 2017)

June 13, 2017

Mr. Amjad Hussain B. Sial, Secretary General of SAARC,
Mr. Deep Kumar Upadhyay, Ambassador of Nepal to India and Visitor's nominee
Dr. Kavita Sharma, President of the South Asian University,
Distinguished delegates,
Dear Students,

  • Let me start by congratulating all students who have their convocation today for their hard work and the successful completion of their academic programme. I can see the determination in your faces to create a far better world than what you had inherited. I also take this opportunity to compliment the SAU Gold Medallists for their excellent performance. In a short while, SAU has moved from a dream to an institution of academic excellence. Congratulations are due to faculty and administration. Teachers are truly the unsung heroes of civilization. Our nations owe much to the teachers, and no dakshana can match their contribution. I would also like to make special mention of the positive role the Government of Nepal as the SAARC Chair, and the Visitor of the University have played during the last few years. It is only appropriate that the Ambassador of Nepal to India is the Visitor's Nominee today.


  • For us in India, an ancient saying conveys our philosophy "Vidhya dhanam sarva dhanam pradhanam” - wealth is knowledge and is the best of all possessions. With SAU, we sought knowledge for its own sake, of course; but we also wanted to expand our regional horizons to include knowledge of one another in our region. History has left us with too many divisions. But knowledge is the answer to political barriers, and the fruitful seed that flowers into a regional consciousness. The mathematics of knowledge is very unique. Knowledge is the only thing that increases and multiplies when you share it. Hoarding of knowledge will only result in its destruction.
  • The University has succeeded in translating a vision into reality. It has already produced about 900 scholars during the last few years of its existence. As noted by Honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 18th Summit, SAU today partners with at least one academic institution of excellence in each SAARC country. I am given to understand that the number of applications for SAU programmes has jumped considerably in 2017-18 academic year as compared to that of the previous academic year. This is an endorsement of excellence by those who matter the most – students. I take this opportunity to thank member countries for their steadfast support to the University and participation in the project. Our institution is hitting critical mass.


  • Physical infrastructure is a crucial element in the success of any academic institution. As you are aware, the permanent campus of SAU is being constructed in Maidan Garhi in New Delhi, with India fully committed to bear 100% of the capital cost. The Government has identified and allotted 100 acres of land. It is a matter of great happiness that construction of buildings under package 2 and package 3 is now in full swing. The University will be able to have its full-fledged curriculum of courses in identified disciplines once the campus is ready. Speed is essential, because contemporary generations are impatient – as they should be.

    Dear Students,

  • You enter an epoch which is more exciting than anything seen in generations. For South Asia, if 19th was the century of dreams and struggle and the 20th was century of hope, also riddled with havoc; then 21st is going to be the century of fulfilment. There is always going to be challenge, of course, for human duality has always included the desire for self-destruction. But what is the opposite of destruction? It would be entirely logical to say that the answer is construction. But let me leave you with another thought: the opposite of destruction could be instruction. Knowledge is creative, and creation leads us, almost always, towards a better quality of life, greater serenity, and a greater desire for cooperation forwards mutually shared prosperity.
  • Our region is entering an age of opportunity. As young graduates of the youngest University in South Asia, what are you seeking? The answer is simple. You should seek to move our nations towards modernity – modern nations with freedom of expression, freedom of faith, gender equality - academic, social, political and economic equity. Your duty will be to eliminate the poverty that has riddled the region. I want every one of you to show real concern for those who did not get the opportunity that you have got today.
  • Once again, I congratulate you on your graduation and wish you all the best for the journey ahead.
Thank you.

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