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Tibet schools handover plan

New Delhi, March 28: Chinese President Hu Jintao, who landed here today for the Brics summit, may not be amused about a proposal to hand over about 70 schools to the Tibetan government-in-exile.

Delhi has been considering a demand from the Dharamshala-based government that central Tibetan schools started by the Union HRD ministry in the sixties to educate children of the Tibetan refugees should be handed over to it.

The HRD ministry was initially against the proposal. But it changed its stand last year after the foreign ministry supported the demand.

Nirupama Rao, the then foreign secretary, had written in a letter to school education and literacy secretary Anshu Vaish last March to consider handing over the schools in a phased manner by 2014.

At present, these schools are managed by the Central Tibetan Schools Administration (CTSA), a body under the HRD ministry. Nearly 8,000 Tibetan students are studying in these schools, which run from the pre-primary to Class-XII level and promote Tibetan culture and heritage.

The HRD ministry bears the expense of running these schools. The Tibetan government-in-exile says it should be allowed to manage the schools but the HRD ministry should continue funding them.

Recently, HRD officials discussed the proposal with the CTSA. As of now, the plan is to hand over 33 primary and pre-primary schools in the first phase and the remainder later. The medium of instruction in pre-primary and primary schools is Tibetan and in secondary schools English.

The Telegraph has learnt that the CTSA will send a detailed proposal about the handover to the HRD ministry after which the actual transfer will take place.

C.P. Bhambhri, a retired JNU professor and an expert on India-China relations, said the proposal revealed India’s intention to play the “Tibet card consciously”.

“India has been using the Tibet card to get the pot boiling so that the Chinese get a message. This instance is one more step in that direction.

“I think India is playing the Tibet card consciously. But it should not allow it to burst. This kite-flying is part of our diplomacy.”

Bhambhri said the Centre should, as a matter of principle, hand over the schools to the Tibetan administration. “India has a policy of encouraging diversity. Tibetan culture is part of our diversity.”

However, Manoranjan Mohanty, the chairperson of the Institute of Chinese Studies, did not approve of the idea.

“India does not recognise the Tibetan government-in-exile. These schools can be better managed by the HRD ministry than the Tibetan administration,” he said.

If the proposal is approved, it will have “repercussions on India’s relations with China”, he warned.

The schools are located in Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Chandragiri (Odisha), Shimla, Solan, Mysore and other places in Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh.

A CTSA source said its employees were unhappy about the proposal. The schools are affiliated to the CBSE and follow the NCERT curriculum.