From time immemorial India has had a dialogue with other countries, particularly the geographical area today identified as Asia. In 1997, IIC established a long-term project called the IIC-Asia Project (renamed IIC–International Research Division in 2016) to focus on the long history of dialogue between India and Asian countries and between and amongst Asian countries. It has been a convention that the demitting President was made in-charge of the project.

IIC–International Research Division has continued, in an expanded framework, the work of the IIC–Asia Project with the objective of promoting the substantive study of Asia led by the countries of Asia, accompanied by a purposeful intra-Asian dialogue, so as to reinforce the larger effort of government and society for developing cultural understanding and amity within Asia. The core of the Project/Division’s endeavour in fulfilling this mandate is the bringing together of scholars from Asia and elsewhere, in a sustained, long-term manner through programmes such as seminars and conferences, as well as publications. This mode of engagement has helped stimulate rigorous scholarship and research on Asia, and also provided a forum for dialogue and cross-cultural interaction.

These programmes were, in the first place, centered on the cultures of specific regions, individual nation-states, societies and political formations in Asia. Since 2003, under the guidance of Dr. (Smt.) Kapila Vatsyayan, the scope has expanded to encompass a thematic approach, so as to do justice to the rich variety of themes and issues relating to the cultures of Asia and their interactions.

Some of the specific themes taken up in this framework in the last few years included: ‘The Sacred Landscapes in Asia: Shared Traditions, Multiple Histories’; ‘Transmissions and Transformations: Learning through the Arts in Asia’; ‘Sui–Dhaga: Crossing Boundaries through Needle and Thread’; ‘Culture of Indigo: Exploring the Asian Panorama’; ‘Speaking for Myself: Anthology of Asian Women’s Writing’; ‘Asian Encounters: Exploring Networks of Cultural Interaction’; ‘Mind and Body in Health and Harmony in the Asian Systems of Medicine’; ‘Remembering Raimundo Panikkar: A Pilgrim across Worlds’; ‘Discoveries about Buddhism in Western Central Asia’; ‘The Arabian Nights in World Literature’; ‘Across the Himalayan Gap: A Chinese Quest for Understanding India’; ‘Maritime Cultural Heritage of the Western Indian Ocean: Bridging the Gulf’; and ‘Relevance of Traditional Cultures for the Present and the Future’.

The major projects undertaken by IIC-IRD in the last few years have covered themes such as ‘Linguistic Diversity in South and South-East Asia’; ‘India and Indonesia: Exploring Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Pluralities and Inclusive Identities’; ‘India and Central Asia’; and ‘Understanding Africa: Change and Continuity’.

A large number of scholars from all over the world have participated in these programmes, some of which were held in collaboration with other organizations, and which have resulted in publications. A list of publications brought out by IIC–Asia Project/International Research Division is given below:

First phase, under the chairmanship of Dr. Karan Singh (edited by the then Director, and now President, IIC, Shri N.N. Vohra):
1. Religion, Politics and Society in South and Southeast Asia (Konark, 1998)
2. Culture, Society and Politics in Central Asia and India (Shipra, 1999)
3. Culture, Democracy and Development in South Asia (Shipra, 2001)
4. India and East Asia: Culture and Society (Shipra, 2002)
5. History, Culture and Society in India and West Asia (Shipra, 2003)
6. India and Australasia: History, Culture and Society (Shipra, 2002)

A list of the publications brought out by IIC–IRD in its second phase, under the Chairmanship of Dr. (Smt.) Kapila Vatsyayan, is given below:
1. Sacred Landscapes in Asia: Shared Traditions, Multiple Histories (Manohar Books, 2007)
2. Transmissions and Transformations: Learning through the Arts (Primus Books, 2011)
3. Embroidery in Asia: SUI-DHAGA—Crossing Boundaries through Needle and Thread (Wisdom Tree, 2010)
4. Asian Women Look through the Lens (2009)
5. Speaking for Myself: An Anthology of Asian Women’s Writing (Penguin, 2009)
6. Indigo in Asia: Plant, Product and Power (Niyogi Books, 2014)
7. Asian Encounters: Exploring Connected Histories (OUP, 2015)
8. Essays on the Arabian Nights (Primus Books, 2015)
9. Across the Himalayan Gap II: Chinese Quest for Understanding India (Konark, 2013)
10. Mind and Body in Health and Harmony in Asian Systems of Medicine (Primus Books, 2017)
11. The Relevance of Traditional Cultures in the Present and the Future (Konark, 2017)
12. Remembering Raimundo Panikkar: A Pilgrim Across Worlds (Niyogi Books, 2016)
13. Bridging the Gulf: Maritime Cultural Heritage of the Western Indian Ocean (Manohar, 2016)

Forthcoming Publications:
1. The Blind Owl: Hooting for 80 Years
2. Linguistic Diversity in South and Southeast Asia
3. India and Indonesia: Exploring Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Pluralities and Inclusive Identities
4. India and Central Asia
5. Understanding Africa: Continuity and Change

Other programmes organized by the International Research Division:
•    Seminar: ‘Cultural Diversity in South Asia: Literary Confluence and Divergence’ (February 2007, in collaboration with Zakir Husain College, Delhi University)
•    Lecture: ‘Africa, African Diaspora and the Prospect of Global Cultural Dialogue’, by Ambassador Olabiyi Babalola Joseph Yai, Chairman, UNESCO Executive Board (September 4, 2008)
•    Seminar: ‘New Discoveries about Buddhism in Western Central Asia’, led by Professor Gerard Fussman, Professor of History of India and Greater India, College de France, Paris, and former General Secretary, Union Rationaliste (September 29, 2008).
•    Lectures by Professor Gerard Fussman:
1. ‘Buddhist Monuments in the Kabul and Begram Areas (Afghanistan)’ (September 29, 2008)
2. ‘New Data on the Origin of the Gandharan Buddha Image’ (October 18, 2010)
3. ‘History and Meaning of Secularization in France’ (October 19, 2010).
•    Lecture: ‘Higher Education in Sri Lanka’, by Professor Jayadeva Tilakasiri, Sri Lanka (2009)
•    Seminar: ‘Endangered Languages in India’ (Collaboration: INTACH, 2009)
•    ‘Re-searching Dance’: A programme comprising seminar, workshop and performances (Collaboration: Dance Alliance–India Chapter of the World Dance Alliance, Asia Pacific, 2009).
•    Lecture Demonstration: ‘Taijiquan: A Way of Self-Transformation’, by Dr. Venessa Vidal, Paris (2010)
•    Talk: ‘Auriculotherapy, an Innovative Diagnostic and Therapeutic System’, by Dr. Vidal Pascal from Paris (2010)
•    Two lectures: ‘Rediscovering Angkor’ and ‘The Dance of Shiva in the Theatre State of Angkor’, by Professor Sachidananda Sahai (2011).
•    ‘Rendering the Categories of Classical Indian Thought in the English Language: Perspectives and Problems’ (workshop held in December 2011 in collaboration with ICPR. Conveners: Mohini Mullick and Madhuri Santanam Sondhi)
•    ‘Asia: Speaking to Ourselves: Asian Media Conference (October 29-31, 2013) (Directed by Shri Suhas Borker)
•    Seminar: ‘Shared Heritage in Indo-Korean Relations: Historicizing the Legend of Princess of Ayodhya and its Legacy’ (September 14-15, 2015, in collaboration with ICCR)
•    ‘Indigenous Languages: Survival of the Oral in the Digital Future’, in collaboration with Bhasha Research Centre, Baroda (September 22-24, 2015)
•    Seminar: ‘Buddhist Monasteries of South Asia and China’, in collaboration with Society for Buddhist Art and Archaeology [SBAA] and the Rock Art Society of India (December 7-9, 2015)
•    Symposium: ‘Mysticism as Universal Phenomenon’, to celebrate the Spanish–Hindu philosopher Raimon Panikkar’s centenary (December 6, 2018)
•    Colloquium-cum-Poetry Reading: To mark the release by Dr. Kavita Sharma of the second and expanded edition of the volume, Speaking for Myself: An Anthology of Asian Women’s Writing (March 2, 2019)
•    Discussion: ‘Multilingualism as a Stimulus to Islamic Literary Theory’, led by Professor Rebecca Ruth Gould, Professor, Islamic World and Comparative Literature, College of Arts and Law, University of Birmingham (March 15, 2019)
•    Five volumes of collected essays/addresses by Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan were released on September 17, 2018 by Dr. Karan Singh, with Shri N.N. Vohra, President, IIC, in the chair. The volumes were brought out by D.K. Printworld and Aditya Prakashan