India's dream of reviving Nalanda, the ancient seat of Buddhist learning, moved a step closer to reality with the mentor group headed by Nobel laureate Amartya Sen fleshing out the details of the proposed international university which will act as a bridge between East Asia and South Asia.
"The Mentor Group agreed that Nalanda University should be an international university enjoying academic autonomy. It would be a secular academic institution," the external affairs ministry said in New Delhi on Monday in a statement after the second meeting of the group in Tokyo last week.
The mentor group underlined the importance of the project in the context of "an Asian renaissance" as they firmed up the details of the university, which will be guided by "a global philosophy while maintaining local relevance."
According to the blueprint envisaged by the mentor group, the university will have schools in Buddhist studies, philosophy and comparative religions; historical studies; international relations and peace studies; business management and development studies; languages and literature; and ecology and environmental studies.
The university may also consider expanding its curriculum to include some subjects like the neurosciences at the frontier of scientific research.
A framework for the proposed university will be finalised for discussion at the next East Asia Summit in Thailand.
The mentor group also endorsed a proposal to establish a research and teaching entity in Singapore, to be called the Srivijaya Centre, which would work in cooperation with the Nalanda University.
The Nalanda Mentor Group held its first meeting in Singapore last month.
The mentor group, constituted by the Indian external affairs ministry at the request of the government of Bihar, is aimed at spurring the revival of Nalanda as a Centre of Intellectual Excellence.
The group, headed by Sen, comprises Singapore's Foreign Minister George Yeo, Harvard historian Sugata Bose, academic and writer Lord Meghnad Desai and scholars and experts from Japan and China.
The university, to be located in Bihar, will have 46 faculty members hired from abroad. There would be 582 faculty members at the end of the 10-year project.
Nalanda University, which existed until 1197 AD, attracted students and scholars from Korea, Japan, China, Tibet, Indonesia, Persia and Turkey, besides being a pedestal of higher education in India.