An introduction to the geographical significance as well as the history, culture and art of the Bay of Bengal, an area of growing interest amid Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Act East policy, will now be available , in the form of an academic year at Nalanda University (NU). ), which has created a role to strengthen India’s ties with East Asian countries.
The university, now operating from its sprawling campus in Rajgir, Bihar, is offering ‘Bay of Bengal: An Introduction’ as a certificate course from this September through online classes. NU also plans to make the course available offline in the future. The three-week course will include expert lectures on navigation, fisheries, Track II policies and culture from countries involved with the Bay of Bengal: India, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, China, USA, France, Germany, UK, Japan and Korea.
Prime Minister Modi had announced on 30 August 2018, during the inaugural session of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) Summit in Kathmandu, that the Center for the Study of the Bay of Bengal would be established in NU. The center was inaugurated on September 29 by Saurabh Kumar, Secretary (East), Ministry of External Affairs, along with NU Vice-Chancellor Dr Sunaina Singh.
The first batch of the ‘Bay of Bengal: An Introduction’ course has 19 participants from India, Indonesia, Colombia and China. Most of them are researchers and academics.
Course content includes the study of trade and commerce in the Bay of Bengal, traditional and non-traditional security, major sea lanes, energy and other resources, blue economy, sustainable development, coastal tourism , geopolitical competition, migration and refugees, piracy, pollution, traditions, art and architecture, religions, food, festivals, music, dance, clothing, films and the global economic and ecological relevance of the bay today.
Ruishu Wang, who has been doing his master’s degree at Yunnan University in China, is one of 19 participants in the Bay of Bengal course. He said, “By attending the sessions, we have gained many enlightening views and gained a more systematic and deeper understanding of Bay of Bengal Studies.”
Vice-Chancellor Singh said the Center for Bay of Bengal Studies aims to contribute to research on the Bay and provide in-depth policy recommendations.
“With the world looking for solutions, more emphasis was placed on fostering collaboration among member countries through more comprehensive analysis of new problems. CBS (Center for Bay of Bengal Studies) will conduct research on new fields, as well such as historical and spiritual connections in order to ensure connection through linkages and increase understanding of the Bay and the wider Indo-Pacific region,” he said.
The fifth BIMSTEC summit served as a good example of member countries’ dedication to enhancing regional prosperity while promoting connectivity and security, added the vice-chancellor.
The Bay of Bengal is important both in terms of East Indian politics and the strategic orientations of the Bay. India’s SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region) vision and the Indo-Pacific Ocean Initiative have also made it important to create a specialized multidisciplinary research center on the bay.
At NU’s new campus, attention is on how best to preserve the cultural and architectural ethos of Nalanda Mahavihara, the 5th-12th century university considered one of the great centers of learning in ancient India .