Using interviews with Indian participants in the IIOE, planning documents and published reports and papers, we try to understand how Indians viewed the IIOE, what were their motivations to participate, what aspects of the IIOE interested them and what were the implications of the IIOE for Indian meteorology and oceanography, in terms of institutions, ideas and human resources.
Since participation in the large expeditions like the IIOE was on a voluntary basis, such expeditions could not proceed in the “metropolitan science at the periphery” model which characterized large colonial projects like the Trigonometric Survey. Thus, while the IIOE was conceived and planned by a group that was predominantly from the West, Indian participation was influenced by topics of local interest and prior expertise.
Indian scientists had in-depth knowledge in certain disciplines (such as biological oceanography and meteorology) and could therefore articulate their needs precisely to an international audience and to their own Government. It is in these disciplines that India stood to benefit most, and this is where the energies of Indian scientists were focused. Those Indian Ocean countries that did not have such established research traditions were understandably hesitant to contribute, since the “returns on investment” were not entirely clear.
Thus, while the IIOE represented a high point for “Bergen values” and physical oceanography, it was ironically a high point for meteorology and biological oceanography in India. We try to understand this by looking at the development of these disciplines in India before the IIOE, why they were in a good position to take advantage of the IIOE, and how they progessed post IIOE.