Row over Nalanda University's international school

Row over Nalanda University's international school

Parliamentary panel wants it to be set up on the main campus

The ambitious project to revive Nalanda University has been caught up in a row.
A parliamentary panel has strongly opposed the plan of the proposed varsity’s Governing Board to set up its School of International Relations and Peace Studies in Delhi and not on the main campus coming up near the ruins of the ancient seat of learning at Rajgir in Bihar.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs took exception to the plan to set up the School of International Relations and Peace Studies of the proposed Nalanda University in Delhi and recommended that the government should review the decision to ensure that it comes up on the main campus itself. The panel also opposed the plan to have a project office for the proposed varsity in the national capital.

In a report that was recently submitted to Parliament, the panel noted that setting up the school and having a project office in Delhi would go against the spirit of the project to revive Nalanda University.

“This will defeat the very purpose of setting up the varsity at the ancient seat of knowledge in Nalanda,” Shivanand Tiwari, a MP of the ruling Janata Dal (United) in Bihar and a member of the parliamentary panel, told Deccan Herald on Sunday.

The decision to set up the School of International Relations and Peace Studies in Delhi was taken long back by the Nalanda Mentor Group, which has now been turned into the Governing Board for the proposed university. In a meeting held in New Delhi on August 12-13, 2008, the Nalanda Mentor Group, chaired by Nobel laureate economist Amartya Sen, agreed that while the location of the university would be in Bihar, a School of International Relations could be set up in the national capital.

According to the Ministry of External Affairs, which is the nodal ministry for the project, the Governing Board not only reaffirmed the decision later, but also decided in a meeting in Patna in July 2011 that the university would continue to have a presence in Delhi even after the campus was built in Rajgir.

Board’s vision

“From the initial stages of our discussion, we conceived Nalanda University to be a network of centres, institutions and affiliates with the core located in Bihar. Again, this is similar to what happened with ancient Nalanda,” Tansen Sen, a member of the Governing Board, told Deccan Herald, justifying the decision to have one of the seven schools of the proposed varsity in Delhi.  

“The Chinese monk Yijing, for example, studied Sanskrit in Sriwijaya (present-day Sumatra in Indonesia) before enrolling at Nalanda. People questioning the idea of establishing the School of International Relations and Peace Studies in Delhi might have also objected to Yijing studying Sanskrit outside India,” added Sen, an associate professor of Asian History in the City University of New York.  

In March 2006, the then President A P J Abdul Kalam first mooted the idea of reviving the ancient Nalanda University, which was a seat of learning since 5th century AD till 12th century AD and drew scholars from China, Korea, Japan, Tibet, Mongolia, Turkey, Sri Lanka and South East Asia.

Parliament finally passed the Nalanda University Act in 2010, paving the way for the varsity to come up at the 450-acre site chosen by the Bihar Government in Rajgir. The project is also supported by the member-states of the East Asia Summit.

The MEA, in a note to the House panel, pointed out that the Nalanda University Act allowed setting up centres at different places having the main campus in Bihar.

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