A number of academics have signed a letter accusing the Association for Asian Studies of failing to inform the participants of an upcoming conference that the Centre had explicitly asked it to exclude scholars from Pakistan from the event. The conference will take place in New Delhi from July 5 to July 8.

“These directives were written in a letter from the Ministry of External Affairs dated February 19, 2018, prior to the deadline for registration,” the letter said. “As such the conference organiser’s claim that too much prior planning and organization had already been done, does not hold weight.”

Accusing the organisation of lacking transparency, the academics said that had the AAS made it known in advance that Pakistanis were barred, “participants could have made informed decisions about whether to support and attend the conference”. The academics said that it was not financially viable for many participants to boycott the conference at this stage.

“It is ethically unacceptable that the AAS did not immediately publish a statement of support for our Pakistani colleagues, and did not immediately condemn the government’s attacks on academic freedom,” the letter said. “This is despite the fact that the American Institute for Pakistan Studies was a co-sponsor of the conference.” It accused the association of complicity with the government of India.

The signatories said that the Association for Asian Studies, though it had expressed “regret” at the government’s decision, could have explored alternative ways of holding the conference, including a different location, a virtual event or registering a formal protest with the Indian government.

“The AAS cannot simultaneously claim to represent scholarship on Asia while allowing its conference to become the grounds for the Indian state – or any other state, for that matter – to enact virulent and blatant forms of religious, national, or other forms of exclusionary violence,” the letter said. It claimed that the association’s acceptance of the government ban on Pakistani participants meant that either it did not think the country needed to be represented, or it wanted Pakistan to be represented but not by Pakistanis themselves.