Having banned 59 Chinese apps and subsequently even freeing the Indian cyberspace of their clones, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is now eyeing various Chinese “soft power” institutes and centres which it uses in the country to spread subtle pro-CCP propaganda. The digital strike on China is yet to near its completion, as the government is still deliberating upon the security risks posed by 275 other Chinese apps and even those which are minutely associated with China. Now, the Union Government is all set to target Confucius institutes next.
Confucius Institutes are public educational partnerships between colleges and universities in China and the other countries. Such ‘partnerships’ are funded and arranged in part by Hanban – the Confucius Institute Headquarters which is itself affiliated to the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China. The stated aim of the program is to promote Chinese language and culture, support local Chinese teaching internationally, and facilitate cultural exchanges.
But India is in no mood of exchanging such niceties and cultural exchanges with China any longer, especially after its heightened aggression in Eastern Ladakh. Given the same, the India Ministry of Education has now scheduled a high-level review of the operations and setting up of Confucius institutes in India. Security agencies had earlier briefed Government of India’s top secretaries, including Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba of the risk Chinese involvement poses in two critical sectors – telecommunications and higher education.
The Hindustan Times has now reported that the education ministry also plans to review 54 Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) signed between prestigious educational institutions of India including IITs, BHU, JNU, NITs and Chinese institutions. It has already issued a notification to the Ministry of External Affairs and the University Grants Commission regarding the same. According to the report, the education ministry will question the universities, colleges and institutions as to whether they took permission from it or the ministry of external affairs before signing the MoUs with Chinese universities or Hanban.
The set of Confucius Institutes in India which are to be reviewed by the ministry are at: The University of Mumbai; Vellore Institute of Technology; Lovely Professional University, Jalandhar; O P Jindal Global University, Sonepat; School of Chinese Language, Kolkata; Bharathiar University, Coimbatore; and KR Mangalam University, Gurugram. A total of 54 MoUs are reportedly about to be taken up for review by the ministry, which includes those signed between IITs, NITs and other technical institutes of India with some of their premier counterparts in China.
India is not the first country to potentially shut shop for CCP propaganda centres masquerading as ‘Confucius Institutes’. Much of the contention in countries like US, Australia, Canada and Sweden when it comes to such institutes is that China directly seems to be pumping in money to spread propaganda on foreign soils. Also, the pricking issue with Confucius institutes is that they operate from within the campuses of some of the best known international educational institutions, hence raising cause of worry about the influence they command over a multitude of students, teachers and academia. Beijing decides what to teach in these schools to promote the Chinese language and culture. The books too are scripted by China, and Beijing thus completely leaves out important topics like Taiwan’s independence and persecution of Tibetans at the hands of the CCP.
Sweden only recently shut the last operational Confucius institute in the country, while the US Education Department had also announced that it had launched an investigation into allegations of Harvard and Yale Universities failing to report “hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign gifts and contracts” from China and other countries. Now, India is all set to take stringent action against the same institutes churning out Chinese propaganda at industrial levels.