The education ministry of India has decided to review the setting up of local chapters of the Confucius Institutes in association with seven local colleges and universities, in the next week. This decision was taken after security agencies alerted the Education Ministry of the growing Chinese influence in higher education in India.
The 54 Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) signed between prestigious educational institutions like BHU, IITs, NITs, and JNU and Chinese institutes are also being planned by the Ministry to be reviewed.
A notification has already been issued by the education ministry to the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the Ministry of External Affairs.
The Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China directly funds the Confucius Institutes. They are funded with an ostensible aim to promote Chinese culture and language. The US and UK and all over the world have criticized them for helping the Chinese propaganda. Australia had launched an investigation of whether the agreements between the institutes and the universities have broken anti-foreign interference laws recently, according to a BBC report of September 2019.
That report added that around the same time, several universities around the world shut down programs operated by the institute. The ranking members of the Chinese Communist Party Politburo have been quoted saying that the Confucius Institutes are part of overseas propaganda that will project the soft power of Beijing.
The reviewing of Confucius Institutes and the MoUs have come at a time when more than 50,000 troops have been amassed by the PLA (People’s Liberation Army). These troops, missiles, tanks, and artillery guns have occupied the Aksai Chin. The deployment has also been spread by the PLA to the middle sector in Uttarakhand and the eastern sector in Arunachal Pradesh.
High ranking officials in the government say that the Confucius Institutes at Vellore Institute of Technology, University of Mumbai, LPU Jalandhar, School of Chinese Language Kolkata, O P Jindal Global University, Sonepat, K R Mangalam University Gurugram, and Bharathiar University Coimbatore, will be reviewed.
An official also said that the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi also has an MoU with Hanban, though a center has not been set up.
The MoU between Peking and JNU was signed around 2005. Since there were some disagreements over the constitution of the board, the institute was never set up. The MoU was signed only for five years, and it lapsed. The Chinese officials wanted to revive the MoU but much interest was not shown by the University.
The Education Ministry will be questioning the colleges, universities, and institutions if they had taken permission from it or the ministry of External Affairs before signing MoUs with Hanban or Chinese universities.
Another interesting thing is that this is not the first time that the Education Ministry is acting along these lines. A circular was issued by the UGC on October 1, 2019, that asked the universities to get approvals from the central government before offering any course associated with the Chinese institutes.
In 2013, the Confucius Institute was established at the University of Mumbai which was followed by an MoU with Hanban in the same year. The institute was set up as an apex Chinese institution that provided standard international certification and assured quality Chinese language teaching.