The impact of the strained relations between India and China in the wake of Galwan valley faceoff is apparent on the Nalanda University, an international institution funded by the Central government in the foothills of Rajjgir, around 100 kms from Patna, to recreate the glory ancient Nalanda epitomized.
Since the end of term of the Chinese representative on the Nalanda governing board Prof Wang Bangwei in November 2019, there has been no replacement or extension. Sources said it was unlikely in the present atmosphere.
Prof Wang Bangwei is professor and director of the Institute of Oriental Studies and Oriental Literature Research Center at Peking University. He had been the member of the Nalanda University governing board since its inception and had been involved with the setting up of the institution.
“His term ended November, 2019. At present, there is no Chinese representative. It is not decided at the university level. We have representatives from other Asian countries,” said Nalanda University VC Sunaina Singh.
Ancient Nalanda had profound influence of China. The Chinese traveller Hieun Tsang (now Xuan Zang) stayed here in the 7th century AD and left a detailed description of the excellence of educational system and purity of monastic life practiced here. He also gave a vivid account of both the ambience and architecture of this unique university.
It was the reason China was involved with the evolution of New Nalanda University. The NU governing board had also held its third meeting in Beijing, October 14-15, 2011. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, had hosted the stay of the governing board in Beijing and arranged for their visit to Xian.
Bangwei’s research included textual studies of Buddhist literature (of Sanskrit and its Chinese translation), history of Buddhism (both of China and of India), Sino-Indian cultural interactions particularly those topics related to Buddhism, accounts of the Chinese Buddhist pilgrims to India—Faxian, Xuanzang and Yijing—and the historical and religious sources related to these accounts.
The proposed Xuanzang centre for Asian Studies with the Chinese collaboration also remains a non-starter. Former Nalanda University Chancellor George Yeo had signed an MoU with Peking University president Lin Jianhua on May 26, 2016 during Pesident Pranab Mukherjee’s China visit.
Later, the Consulate General of People’s Republic of China in Kolkata Ma Zhanwu had also visited the university to work out the modalities, but after that nothing happened, while China came up with its own version of Nalanda University, Nanhai Buddhist College on Nanshan Mountains in Hainan Province in 2017.
“Nothing has happened on the Xuanzang centre. It remained still born since its inception. We are starting two new centres – Centre for Bay of Bengal Studies and Centre for Conflict Resolution –this year,” said the VC, adding the university did not have any student or faculty member from China, though there were quite a few from East Asian Asian countries and even Cambodia and Romania.
China had also initially pledged $1miilion for the library. However, with Singapore coming forward to fund the library, the money was to be used for the Xuanzang centre.