The government is set to review the local chapters of Confucius institutes after intelligence agencies raised security concerns around these institutes. The agencies had also pointed out that many central universities and institutes had gone ahead to sign pacts with Chinese institutes without basic approvals from the Centre.
The security alert came against the backdrop of a standoff between soldiers of the two countries along the Line of Actual Control in East Ladakh that has stretched for over 90 days and mounting concerns in parts of the world over the misuse of institutions funded by the Chinese government for activities other than academics.
The review, to be carried out jointly by the higher education regulator University Grants Commission and the education ministry, is scheduled to be held on Wednesday. The education ministry has rejected the insinuation that the review is a political exercise as claimed by the Chinese embassy.
The Confucius Institutes are directly funded by the Ministry of Education of People’s Republic of China with the ostensible aim to promote Chinese language and Culture. But they have come in for criticism all around the world, including the US and the UK for helping spread Chinese propaganda. Already, ranking members of the Chinese Communist Party Politburo Standing Committee have been quoted saying that Confucius Institutes are part of the overseas propaganda to project Beijing’s soft power.
Wednesday’s review is also scheduled to take up the 54 memoranda of understanding signed by central universities and institutions with Chinese universities. This exercise, besides evaluating the academic outcome of the agreements, will also take a hard look at compliance issues. For one, if the universities, colleges and institutions took permission from the Centre or the ministry of external affairs before signing the MoUs with Chinese universities or Hanban will be examined.
Officials in India’s security establishment have been pushing for action against Chinese interests on the lines of the ban on over 100 Chinese mobile apps and barring firms based in China from getting government contracts without specific approval.
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The Confucius Institutes in India to be reviewed are at University of Mumbai; Vellore Institute of Technology; Lovely Professional University, Jalandhar, OP Jindal Global University, Sonepat, School of Chinese Language, Kolkata, Bharathiar University, Coimbatore and KR Mangalam University, Gurugram. There is a list of 54 MoUs that will be reviewed.