The Embassy of China on Tuesday asked India to treat Confucius Institutes and higher education cooperation between both the countries in an “objective and fair manner”. The Confucius Institute programme – administered by the Chinese government agency Hanban – teaches Mandarin and runs hundreds of those institutes abroad.

The Ministry of Education will review the Confucius Institutes in India and others that offer Chinese language training on Tuesday, The Hindu reported. “The Ministry of Human Resource Development and University Grants Commission are in the process of reviewing the work being done by higher education institutions as part of agreements/educational arrangements with foreign institutions,” said a letter sent on July 29. “As part of this process we would like to review the activities undertaken by the Confucius Centre in your university/ institution affiliated to your university.”

In a statement, the Chinese embassy said Confucius Institutes have played an important role in teaching Mandarin and that this has been recognised by the Indian education community. “We hope Indian relevant parties can treat Confucius Institutes and China-India higher education cooperation in an objective and fair manner, avoid politicising normal cooperation, and maintain healthy and stable development of China-India people-to-people and cultural exchanges,” it added.

The embassy said the Confucius Institute programme has been carried out for more than 10 years. “All Confucius Institutes were established by the Chinese and Indian universities after signing legally binding cooperation agreement in accordance with the principles of mutual respect, friendly consultation, equality and mutual benefit, and on the premise that the Indian side applied voluntarily and met the conditions for running the institute,” it added.

Intelligence agencies have raised security concerns about the Confucius Institutes, according to Hindustan Times. China began setting up Confucius Institutes in 2004 with the stated aim of satisfying soaring global demand to learn Mandarin. But critics see the institutes as a vehicle for Chinese influence and propaganda in international higher education. Additionally, there have also been allegations of them being used as espionage hubs.

Mumbai University and the Vellore Institute of Technology in Tamil Nadu are the two functional Confucius Institutes in India. Five others – Lovely Professional University, Jalandhar, OP Jindal Global University, Sonepat, School of Chinese Language, Kolkata, Bharathiar University, Coimbatore, and KR Mangalam University, Gurugram – have also been asked to send details of collaboration since 2017. The review by Education Secretary Amit Khare will also look into 54 Memoranda of Understanding signed by central universities and institutions with Chinese universities.

This came after the new National Education Policy dropped Mandarin from its list of foreign languages that can be taught in schools. Tensions between India and China soared after a clash between their armies in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley. Twenty Indian soldiers were killed and 76 injured in the violent altercation on the intervening night of June 15 to 16. The face-off between the two neighbouring countries was the worst instance of violence along the Line of Actual Control since 1975.