Renewing Ties with India

4 June 2019

The long-standing ties between Somerville and India were renewed as the High Commissioner of India to the UK Mrs. Ruchi Ghanashyam planted a tree to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi during a visit in May.

Her visit featured a roundtable discussion with the Oxford India Centre scholars in the college’s Margaret Thatcher Centre. After planting the tree, the High Commissioner met with other Oxford students.

The tree was a 4m tall aesculus indica, known as an Indian Horse Chestnut or a Himalayan Horse Chestnut. It was chosen by Professor Fiona Stafford, Senior Common Room co-president and an English Fellow who is also the author of ‘The Long Life of Trees’, which was featured on Radio 4 as a series of essays.

Rt. Hon. Patricia Hewitt, Chair of the Advisory Board of  OICSD said: “Many people both in the UK and India revere Gandhi. The tree planted by the High Commissioner today to commemorate this anniversary will serve as a continuing reminder of the links between our countries and how this global co-operation is not just fruitful but absolutely necessary for the success of education and sustainable development.”

The roundtable began with scholars sharing their research with the High Commissioner. The rest of the discussion focused on questions of staying linked. Our scholars agreed that their India-focused research helped them stay in touch with home, going back both intellectually and in person.

The High Commissioner emphasised her desire to support Indian students in the UK and discussed the importance of student organisations and networks at universities in maintaining ties.

She said: “I was blown away by the breadth of the research being carried out by the Oxford India Centre Scholars. We are proud to have established a direct link with the Scholars and the Centre here today, who are carrying out such important work to help India meet its sustainable development goals.”

The first Indian students attended Somerville in the 19th century. Their ranks included Cornelia Sorabji, who was also the first woman to read law at Oxford. Sorabji returned to India and embarked on a distinguished legal career working on behalf of women in purdah. Indira Gandhi, India’s first female prime minister, read Modern History here.  Today’s Somerville’s Oxford India Scholars are selected both for their exceptional talent and their commitment to return to India.


The High Commissioner in conversation with Navya Jannu, an Indira Gandhi Scholar

To learn more about research at the Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development, click here

To learn how you can support the centre, please contact Sara Kalim at

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