Avoid politicising normal cooperation, says China on India’s Confucius Institutes move

Ministry of Education recently put several higher education institutes that offer Chinese language training under the scanner

August 04, 2020 01:26 pm | Updated 01:28 pm IST - CHENNAI

Need for review: The Vellore Institute of Technology runs one of the two Confucius Institutes in India.

Need for review: The Vellore Institute of Technology runs one of the two Confucius Institutes in India.

China on Tuesday called upon India to “avoid politicising normal cooperation,” following moves to review ongoing cooperation for language training between Indian universities and Chinese government-run programmes.

Following the decision to drop Mandarin from its list of suggested languages under the National Education Policy, the Ministry of Education (Ministry of Human Resource Development) has also put several higher education institutes that offer Chinese language training under the scanner, as The Hindu reported on Monday.

The Ministry is looking closely at universities that have in the past had links with the official Chinese language training department Hanban that runs hundreds of Confucius Institutes overseas. “The Ministry of Human Resource Development and University Grants Commission (UGC) are in the process of reviewing the work being done by higher education institutions as part of agreements/educational arrangements with foreign institutions. As part of this process we would like to review the activities undertaken by the Confucius Centre in your university/institution affiliated to your university,” said a letter sent to the institutions on July 29.

On Tuesday, the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi issued a statement responding to reports that the “Ministry of Education of India has decided to review Confucius Institutes and Confucius Classrooms jointly established by China’s Confucius Institute and 7 Indian universities and colleges, as well as 54 Memoranda of Understanding on inter-school cooperation signed between Indian and Chinese higher education institutions”.

“China-India cooperation on Confucius Institute Project has been carried out for more than 10 years,” said the statement from spokesperson Ji Rong. “All Confucius Institutes were established by the Chinese and Indian universities after signing legally binding cooperation agreement in accordance with the principles of mutual respect, friendly consultation, equality and mutual benefit, and on the premise that the Indian side applied voluntarily and met the conditions for running the Institute. The school-running mode of Confucius Institutes has always been ‘foreign side mainly managing, Chinese side assisting and both sides raising funds jointly’. Over the years, Confucius Institutes have played an important role in promoting Chinese language teaching in India and China-India people-to-people and cultural exchanges. This has been generally recognized by the Indian education community.”

“We hope Indian relevant parties can treat Confucius Institutes and China-India higher education cooperation in an objective and fair manner, avoid politicising normal cooperation, and maintain healthy and stable development of China-India people-to-people and cultural exchanges,” the statement said.

As The Hindu reported earlier, India has only two functional CIs at present — at Mumbai University and the Vellore Institute of Technology. The Ministry has sent letters to at least five institutions that offer Chinese language training, asking them to send all details of collaboration since 2017, which will be reviewed by Education Secretary Amit Khare on August 5. Some university officials said they were confused by the letters, as they do not run CIs.

O.P. Jindal Global University in Haryana, among those on the Ministry’s review list, said the university has established partnerships with various universities in China, but runs its language centre not with the Hanban in Beijing but in collaboration with the National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan.

Former Ambassador to China Ashok Kantha said India had “maintained a distinction between Confucius Institutes, which we had strong worries about, and Chinese language training support in CBSE schools in conjunction with Hanban.”

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