17. November 2006 The creation of

Despite its humble beginnings as a student project in 1999, has since evolved into the most comprehensive German-language website on South Asian affairs. This article explores the development of this site and the motivations behind the founders' voluntary engagement.

In early 1999, ten students majoring in Political Science at the Free University in Berlin frequently met-often immediately after their seminar on the political dimensions of India-in order to debate topics under discussion in their course. Bound by a mutual passion and interest for India, they soon decided to formalise a regular monthly meeting for those in and around Berlin wishing to exchange and debate past and current events in Indian politics and society.

Near the end of the same year, a devastating cyclone slammed India's eastern shores claiming up to ten thousand lives. More than ten million became internally displaced or homeless, especially in coastal Orissa. In response to this crisis, the group of students collated reports and articles on the aftermath of this natural disaster. Further, they assembled a directory of related aid agencies for circulation amongst the group's members.

In this context of action the group took steps to engage a broader base of members beyond political science students. New members enlarged the number of participants while adding new ideas, as they looked at India through different academic lenses. Initially, the venue of the regular meeting was a vacant room inside the Political Science department. However, due to lack of official support, it eventually rotated between the homes of the participants themselves. At the same time the focus of discussion also enlarged to include all South Asian states (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) and was later extended to include Afghanistan as well.

Entry Into Cyberspace

In addition to a shared interest for South Asia, a general consensus existed amongst the group's members that German media coverage of the region was both superficial and limited in scope. In their opinion, German press coverage was not aligned to the reality of South Asia which many journalists from elsewhere regarded as one of the most comprehensive regions in the 21st century in terms of political, economic and social trends and issues. Consequently, in early 2000 the group proposed the creation of a German language website with more comprehensive and less over-simplified knowledge on South Asia. Initially, information gathering centred on posting general knowledge of each South Asian country. By March 2000 the website was launched under the name Suedasien-Online (South Asia Online) on the Uniform Resource Locator (URL) and featured links to external sites on the respective countries as well as information on South Asian related happenings in Germany. Despite the concurrent trend of increased commercialisation on the internet, the group held to its pledge of making the information lastingly accessible at no cost to users.

For the most part the initial content of the site was comprised of academic contributions from multifarious fields. Most articles dealt with themes on politics, economics, society, culture and traditions. Furthermore, the site strived to connect people together who have an interest in South Asia through personal interest, study and/or profession. However, within six months of its inception, several members began enhancing the existing content with summaries of current news articles. In doing so, these members aimed to further the resourcefulness of the site whilst simultaneously improving their own journalistic skills. Needless to say, the possibility to see one's work published on the internet both fascinated and motivated the contributors to hone an individual journalistic and professional style. More and more analyses emerged on the site covering a range of issues including internal / sub-national and regional conflicts, economic development, Islam and Hindu nationalism.

Official Recognition

For the first year and half Suedasien Online operated without any external assistance. In light of the dearth of German language information on South Asia, the members agreed to seek official recognition as a registered association (German: Verein). This prospect would not only pave the way to increasing ties with other organisations, it also held the promise of fund raising opportunities whilst attaining freedom from taxation. According to German laws on associations, at least seven persons must support the application. In December 2001 the group was officially registered as " Südasien-Informationsnetz e.V." (South Asia Information Network) with the objective of disseminating information on South Asia in German speaking countries (Germany, Austria and Switzerland), forging institutional ties and bringing people together who are tied by a mutual interest for South Asia. As the site's Top Level Domain (TLD) was extended, it henceforth became available under the URL in order to better reflect the name of the newly established association.

Activities & Content

Since its inception the activities of have grown considerably from its modest beginnings. The website was officially registered in 2004 (ISSN 1860-0417). Since that time a series of academic reports known as the Südasien-Informationen (ISSN 1860-0212) have been published on a regular basis. These can be downloaded for free from the site as Portable Document Format (PDF) documents. Further, the site regularly explores specific topics with greater in-depth analysis (German: Schwerpunkt). Recent themes have included human rights in India, the World Social Forum in Mumbai, the parliamentary elections of the Lok Sabha in summer 2004, the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami and the situation of "queer" people and movements in and from South Asia. Since the start of 2005 a newsletter is regularly posted to more than 350 subscribers with references to news articles, events, book releases inter alia.

At the same time, the outreach of Südasien-Informationsnetz has made it a considerable platform for networking with other organisations and initiatives. These include the Indo-German Association (German: Deutsch-Indische Gesellschaft), the Adivasi Coordination, the Right Livelihood Foundation or the South Asia Day of the University of Hamburg. More recently, the association became a member of Berliner Entwicklungspolitischer Ratschlag, a network of nongovernmental organisations for development (BER e.V.).


By April 2006 the association had 22 official members. Diversity within the membership is evident in the plethora of academic backgrounds which cover anthropology, cultural studies, law and economics to name a few. Several members reside in non-German speaking countries such as Columbia, India, Afghanistan and Britain whilst others are regular visitors to South Asia. Nonetheless, the ability of cyberspace to transcend physical space ensures a steady flow of communication and contributions.

The association maintains an office in the Berlin district of Kreuzberg. The office houses a modest yet developing collection of books in a library. Further, the workspace allows the local editorial staff and members to meet and work together. The office, telephone and internet connection are financed through donations and membership fees.

Web Traffic has not only carved a niche for itself, it has also emerged as the most reputable German language information portal on South Asia. Accordingly, interest in an enlarged cooperative framework has led it to engage in multiple strategic partnerships, for example, with the Asienhaus (Asia House) in Essen with whom information was exchanged during the 2004 elections in India. This has led to a subsequent change in the workflow of the association, as the content is no longer limited to the publications of its own members, but also encompasses the works of non-members and re-publications with permission. Consequently, the site now holds more than 2000 files.

Links to the webpage of are also found on other well-known organisations such as the Germany's Federal Centre for Political Education, various television networks and newspapers. Furthermore, the site is well ranked in ubiquitous searching catalogues and engines on the internet such as Google. As such, there have been a growing number of inquiries on the content of the site as well as requests to link with other groups and host information on upcoming events. The progress is most strongly evidenced in the number of page hits. In 2005 alone the page hit rate stood at 675,852. The average number of unique visits reached more than 33,000 different visitors per month with the most visits posted in December (42,000) and the fewest in August (28,000).

The majority of visitors link to the site via common TLDs such as Google and its different national portals including India. While the overall number of guests seems to be rising only slowly, in February 2006 the number of page impressions showed a marked increase.

Looking Ahead

Thus far, both the editorial and organisational work is wholly voluntary. The technical and logistical infrastructure continues to be financed by the member fees and donations. Although there are ideas for a broader engagement beyond the website, their realisation is for the moment bound by the ongoing editorial and organisational duties. However, thanks to a sizeable private donation and the strong support of the most active members, a process is underway to install a content management system (CMS) which will make way for a new and professionalized appearance of the site. Ultimately, the members envisage removing the original name and operating solely under the banner of the URL-title, ""

Through a widening of partnerships encompassing associations active on similar fronts but outside the realm of the internet, is seeking to further its position as the premier German language gateway for South Asian affairs. Plans for cooperation with organisations such as Südasienbüro (South Asia Bureau) in Bonn and the Zentrum Moderner Orient (Centre for Modern Oriental Studies) in Berlin illustrate moves in this direction and are nearing finalisation. Both partnerships are expected to encompass a range of co-sponsored activities such as book premieres as well as the joint publication of articles.

This article was published by Sprung, Christoph S. and Rao, Sushant Palakurthi , in: Klaus Voll / Doreen Beierlein (Eds.): Rising India – Europe’s Partner? Foreign and Security Policy, Politics, Economics, Human Rights and Social Issues, Media, Civil Society and Intercultural Dimensions; Berliner Studien zur Internationalen Politik und Gesellschaft (Hrsg. von Klaus Voll und Uwe Skoda), Bd. 3 Weißenee Verlag / Mosaic Books, Berlin / New Delhi, 2006, ISBN 3-89998-098-0 Pick It! , p. 1148-1153.


Als registriertes Mitglied können Sie einen Kommentar zu diesem Beitrag verfassen.