India restricts its varsities to tie-up with China

Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with Chinese President Xi JinpingPrime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping. (PTI Photo)

The government on Tuesday barred Indian universities from entering into any agreement for exchange programmes with the institutions in China without prior clearance from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

The Indian universities, which have already signed Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) with the Chinese institutions, have also been asked to put on hold implementation of the pacts till MEA and MHA provide clearances.

New Delhi's move came at a time when China is persistently echoing Pakistan to oppose India's recent decisions to strip Jammu and Kashmir of its special status and to reorganise the state into two Union Territories. It also came days before the proposed second “informal summit” between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Modi and Xi are likely to meet at Mamallapuram in Tamil Nadu from October 11 to 13.

The University Grants Commission (UGC) sent out a communiqué to the vice-chancellors of all government and private varsities on Tuesday. It noted that a number of Indian universities have signed agreements or the MoUs with the Chinese universities for exchange programmes for both students and faculty members as well as for the opening of the Chinese language centres in India.

“In addition to other clearances, prior approval of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) must be taken by all the academic institutions / universities before signing of MoUs / educational exchange programme / agreements / joint declaration of intent / letter of intent etcetera with Chinese institutions / universities,” the UGC wrote to varsities.

The UGC sent out the communiqué following a directive from the Ministry of Human Resource Development.

“Further, those universities including private and academic institutions who have already entered into MoU with the Chinese universities, must seek clearances from the MHA for operating the MoU and till a clearance is obtained, no activities should be performed under the MoU,” the UGC instructed the varsities, asking the Vice Chancellors to ensure compliance of the direction received from the HRD ministry.

Sources said the HRD ministry's move to restrict Indian universities from entering into exchange programmes with their Chinese counterparts came after the MHA and the MEA of late expressed concern over possible implications of such tie-ups on national security.

It came four years after India and China signed MoU for educational exchange during the prime minister's visit to Beijing in May 2015.

The bonhomie that marked the relations between India and China since the first informal summit between Prime Minister and Chinese President at Wuhan in Central China in April 2018 came under stress over Beijing's repeated criticism against New Delhi's recent decisions on Kashmir.

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