Revival of Nalanda & Asian renaissance
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The revival of Nalanda University as a centre of learning, proximate to the site of the old university of which only 20 per cent has been excavated, has now gathered momentum. Nalanda Mahavihara was an old seat of educational and cultural excellence circa 4th-13th century AD before its destruction by the Khiljis. At its height, it provided accommodation to thousands of students and scholars from all over Asia. Earlier attempts to revive the university did not yield tangible outcomes. However, following the initiatives of former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the catalytic role played by the Singaporeans, particularly Foreign Minister George Yeo, imparted seriousness both in conceptualisation and an implementation strategy.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has professed encouragement in bilateral and multilateral meets for a creative international partnership. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has personally monitored the progress and milestones for an early start. The Bihar government acquired over 500 acres and has taken steps to improve infrastructure through better roads, assured power, and modernising the nearby Gaya airport.
A mentor group was constituted under the chairmanship of Prof Amartya Sen with the broad mandate of suggesting the academic disciplines, a governance structure and financing options. Two successive East Asia Summits, one at Cebu in Philippines, and the other in Singapore this November, strongly endorsed the revival of Nalanda University.
The second meeting of the mentor group in Tokyo last week, in which I participated, built on the progress made at the Singapore meeting and the communiqué of the East Asia Summits. It recognised that Nalanda should "be a symbol of Asian Renaissance and as a secular International Centre of Excellence" and concentrate on post-graduate studies. Some of the other ideas that crystallised at the Tokyo meeting include:
The university should be established through an inter-governmental treaty among the participating countries.
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