The collaboration of Indian educational institutes with China’s Confucius Institutes will now require Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act clearance, a decision that comes two years after the government reportedly undertook a review of such tie-ups, India has said.
The University Grants Commission (UGC) and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) conveyed the decision of the Centre to the heads of colleges and universities on April 5 through a circular marked “confidential”.
“Any collaboration with any NGO/Foundation is subject to Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA). Hence, all Universities/Institutions having collaboration with Confucius Institutes/Hanban/CLEC or planning to collaborate to set up Confucius Institutes (CIs) or any other joint venture in any other name will be required to seek prior clearance under FCRA,” reads the communication.
The UGC and the AICTE circular informed these colleges and universities that the control and operation of the Confucius Institutes now rest with the Centre for Language Education and Cooperation (CLEC) in China. Earlier, they came under the Hanban, which is China’s National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language (NOCFL).
CLEC, affiliated with China’s Ministry of Education, is registered as a non-profit professional educational institution for international Chinese language education, the circular adds.
Confucius Institute is defined by China as a non-profit education institution jointly hosted by Chinese and foreign partners that seeks to “deepen international understanding of Chinese language and culture, and promote people-to-people exchanges between China and the rest of the world”.
The Indian government considers the Confucius Institutes as foreign cultural centres and requires them to have the approval of the Ministry of External Affairs. Under the revised regulations, the need for the FCRA approval will be over and above the MEA clearance.
The Confucius Institutes says there are 550 such institutes across the world and 1,172 Confucius classrooms in 162 countries. In 2020, India had reportedly reviewed the collaborations involving seven universities and 54 memoranda of understanding on inter-school cooperation signed between Indian and Chinese institutions, an exercise which had taken place in the immediate aftermath of clashes between Indian and Chinese troops along the Line of Actual Control.
The Chinese Embassy in India had then issued a statement saying, “We hope India-relevant parties can treat Confucius Institutes and China-India education cooperation in an objective and fair manner, avoid politicising normal cooperation…”
The MEA had then responded saying institutes that have entered into collaborations with Confucius Institutes without taking the necessary approvals would be under the scanner.
The running of these institutes had run into rough weather even in the US under the Donald Trump administration. The US government had in 2020 written to educational institutes in the country saying the programme offered under the arrangement with Confucius Institutes “gives China’s ruling Communist Party a foothold on U.S. soil and threatens free speech.” China had hit back at the US saying its stand reflects “ideological prejudice”.