On 16 December, the Institute of Asian Studies was launched. In this interview, the director of the Institute, Prof. Eugénio Viassa Monteiro, discusses the project.


What is IdEA?

"The Institute of Asian Studies is a centre that will be dedicated to the study of Asia, its evolution, prompt solutions for its problems, its social and economic innovations, etc. It arose from the observation that, today, all of Asia is growing rapidly, having become extremely important from an economic and social point of view, but also with regard to the balance of power. This is not to say that it did not carry significance before, as the population was already very large: in China and India alone, there are 2.4 billion people. Simply put, at this time, and in a geopolitical context, having a large population is not enough; purchasing power and economic clout are also necessary.

China and India, and also countries like Vietnam and Malaysia, are gaining importance due to their robust economic growth. We cannot continue to forget a substantial part of the population, especially now that its situation is improving. This is what led to the establishment of IdEA. First, to learn about the trends, as these countries supply very interesting ideas; indeed, we have already written Cases on Indian organisations, offering original solutions to societal problems. Next, to spread information on the most important economic and social developments, as Europe and other Western countries can learn from the countries of the East. We also consider it possible to create a basis for collaboration with economic groups and other entities from these countries. IdEA aims to teach and study the social and economic evolution of Eastern countries, so that there may be more widespread knowledge in the West that makes collaboration possible."

Where did the idea to create the Institute of Asian Studies come from?  

"The idea resulted from the observation of Asia. We have frequently gone to Bangalore with MBA students. And, really, no one who goes to India and observes the great transformations that are in progress, with powerful innovations in the economic, social, technical and technological sectors, can feel indifferent about it. All of the East is experiencing a tremendous dynamic of change.

This year, I had the opportunity to be in Singapore, with Dr João Santos Lucas, and I remarked that a small and immensely poor country like Singapore used to be, with great social tensions and conflicts, is today an extremely developed, avant-garde country, heading forward into the future. This is a case of a society developing not only economically but socially as well. The coexistence of people of diverse religions, races, ethnicities, etc., is carried out extraordinarily well, and is worthy of being experienced, embraced and reproduced. Singapore also offers a remarkable accumulation of knowledge in almost all fields. For example, consider its management of limited resources, as in the case of water, cities, traffic, ports, airports, etc. Suffice it to say that, currently, in any large enterprise there related to the ports and airports, one can find positions filled by highly competent technicians, capable of collaborating on works in other locations at a very high level. Thus, the initiatives and domains in which the East has developed know-how must be taken into account. At AESE, it has always been believed that we cannot be out of touch with what happens there. We must understand this reality, along with what is thought and done in Europe and the United States."



What is the mission of IdEA?

"In a way, the mission of IdEA is to bring the West and the East closer together. Portugal has always had a significant presence in the East, at least since the Discoveries, when it reached India, the Strait of Malacca, Goa and Ormus, among other places, by sea. In the same spirit of adventure that drove the Portuguese in the past, Portugal must not be indifferent to what is happening there today. And, for this reason, we find it very interesting for AESE to take this initial step into the East and make observations, in order to establish a connection between these two regions, from an intellectual and practical point of view."

Who formed IdEA and what partnerships were established during the launch of the Institute?

"First of all, we have counted on the Professors of AESE and their knowledge of the East. Personally, I am quite familiar with events taking place in India. Prof. José Miguel Pinto dos Santos has extensive experience with Japan, where he was a University Professor for 18 years, teaching classes in Japanese. And there is also Dr. João Santos Lucas, who lives in Singapore and knows it and surrounding countries very well. Next, we will expand our scope with the collaboration of Professors who have been in contact with these countries. We have also established contacts in Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam. Finally, we will expand our presence as IdEA is consolidated."

How will IdEA be financed?

"IdEA will be financed through revenue from the seminars and continuous education sessions taking place at AESE. It is possible that there will be an Association similar to the Portugal-India Friendship Association, with members who pay dues. Another form of financing will be through providing services and conducting studies. In developing a research project, we will try to have IdEA cover a small percentage."

The public unveiling of IdEA took place on 16 December. The Continuous Education Session included lectures by Eugénio Viassa Monteiro and João Santos Lucas on India and Singapore, respectively.