Prof. Vidya Prakash Dutt, eminent China scholar and Indian foreign policy expert credited with setting up what is now the Department of East Asian Studies at Delhi University, passed away in the Capital on Tuesday morning. He was 86.

Nehru Memorial Museum and Library Director Mridula Mukherjee, who was a student of Prof. Dutt, said: “He was an expert on Chinese history as well as contemporary China. Prof. Dutt was one of the few who knew the Chinese language fluently, had lived in China for some years in the 1950s for his research and had contacts with several Chinese leaders and academicians. He was a rare talent and was also one of the best scholars on Indian foreign policy and understood India's relationship with the world.”

Prof. Dutt is credited with setting up the Centre for Chinese Studies in Delhi University in 1964 which later became the Department of Chinese and Japanese Studies and is now the Department of East Asian Studies. The scholar played a key role in grooming a new generation of China and East Asia scholars.

During the 1970s and 1980s, Prof. Dutt also taught a course titled “China in Revolution” to Master's level students of History and Political Science in Delhi University. Several of his students are now established diplomats, administrators and academics.

A Rajya Sabha member, Prof. Dutt was also DU Pro-Vice-Chancellor and on several high-level academic committees of the University Grants Commission and of various universities and institutes. He was a Distinguished Fellow at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses. He remained physically and academically active till he fell ill in late March.

Prof. Dutt's funeral was attended by Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and former Prime Minister I. K. Gujral.

He is survived by his two children.