Project ‘Mausam’ is a Ministry of Culture project with Archaeological Society of India (ASI), New Delhi as the nodal agency and Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA), New Delhi as its Research Unit. ‘Mausam’ or Arabic ‘Mawsim’ refers to the season when ships could sail safely. This distinctive wind-system of the Indian Ocean region follows a regular pattern: southwest from May to September; and northeast from November to March. The English term ‘Monsoon’ came from Portuguese ‘Monção’, ostensibly from Arabic ‘Mawsim’. The etymology of this word signifies the importance of this season to a variety of seafarers. This intertwining of natural phenomena such as monsoon winds and the ways in which these were harnessed historically to create cultural networks form the building blocks of Project ‘Mausam’.
The endeavour of Project ‘Mausam’ is to position itself at two levels:
- At the macro level it aims to re-connect and re-establish communications between countries of the Indian Ocean world, which would lead to an enhanced understanding of cultural values and concerns.
- At the micro level the focus is on understanding national cultures in their regional maritime milieu.
The central themes that hold Project ‘Mausam’ together are those of cultural routes and maritime landscapes that not only linked different parts of the Indian Ocean littoral, but also connected the coastal centres to their hinterlands. Project ‘Mausam’ is an exciting, multi-disciplinary project that rekindles long-lost ties across nations of the Indian Ocean ‘world’ and forges new avenues of cooperation and exchange. The project, launched by India in partnership with member states, will enable a significant step in recording and celebrating this important phase of world history from the African, Arab and Asian-world perspectives.
Project Mausam and China’s Maritime Silk Route
The project is one of the most significant foreign policy initiative designed to counter China. Project Mausam would allow India to re-establish its ties with its ancient trade partners and re-establish an “Indian Ocean world” along the littoral of the Indian Ocean.
The project is supposed to have both a cultural and serious strategic dimension. Perhaps one thing India could consider is seriously developing its Andaman and Nicobar Islands as a security and trade zone, which is sensible given the islands’ location close to the strategically important Straits of Malacca and Thailand. It is clear that Indian government intends to expand its maritime presence, culturally, strategically and psychologically (in order to remind the region why the ocean is called the Indian Ocean). Project Mausam seems like a positive step in that direction and one that will generally be well-received.