There is a proposal of bringing in regional prosperity through a proposal for setting up of ‘Special Tourism Zones’. Restoration of monuments, aesthetic landscaping and upkeep, creation of tourist shopping avenues, village and cottage industries, cultural learning and performing centres, and other worldclass facilities to attract tourists may be the part of the development plan.
Bihar is the best candidate that must take the maximum advantages out of this plan. With almost all its mineral wealth gone to Jharkhand, the new Bihar will have to look for new ways to earn revenues and create wealth for the state and prosperity for its people. Tourism sector can be the best bet for Bihar. Bihar has many historical and religious places that attract tourists. Unfortunately, the archeologists have not done sufficient research works on the places in Bihar associated with the greats of the Indian histories such as Budhha, Mahavir, Chandragupta Maurya, and even those of other eminent persons of later era such as Vidyapati, Sher Shah, and Guru Govinda Singh.
An international seminar on the Nalanda University, kicking off in Singapore on November 10, is expected to focus on the many themes of the project. It will showcase the glory of ancient Nalanda, and the experts from 16 countries will discuss the revival of the ancient glory of Nalanda. It is strange that the ancient Nalanda ruins of outstanding universal value representing the creative genius of the era are not even in the Unesco’s list of World Heritage Sites.
Can Bihar’s priceless Buddhist heritage emerge as an entirely unexpected but powerful bond between India’s most backward regions and the world’s most dynamic economies of East Asia? Can the proposal to build an international university at Bihar’s ancient seat of learning, Nalanda be materialized? As opined by many columnists and educationists, “For Bihar the Nalanda Project could be that single big idea to kick start economic reconstruction in the long neglected state and put it back at the heart of a re-integrating Asia.”
The Singapore government, especially its foreign minister George Yeo, sees the Nalanda University Project as the cutting edge of the important effort to re-establish the ancient links between the Subcontinent and East Asia. Singapore believes an international university, with centres of excellence on science, religion, and humanities, all of which flourished in ancient Nalanda, could become the symbol of renewed cultural vigour in Asia along with its widely admired prosperity.
Some enthusiasts are doing their bits. Traveling overland, two Buddhist monks, one from Mainland China and the other from Taiwan, are arriving in Nalanda in the next few days. The monks are retracing the steps of Xuan Zang (better known in India as Hieun Tsang) who visited India in the seventh century when the Nalanda was at the height of its intellectual influence all across Asia. After visiting Patna, the monks will be in New Delhi, in time for President Hu’s arrival in the third week of November for the state visit. As reported, the Chinese President has shown keen interest in the project and may meet the monks and also formally endorse the Nalanda International University Project. (I wish president Kalam and Manmohan Singh too pursues this project with Hu) Apart from the two monks, a team of 30-40 members from the Chinese Central Television have taken the ancient Silk Route, the route taken by Xuan Zang, and are scheduled to reach Nalanda on November 18 to produce an 8-hour documentary on the traveler.
With China taking active interest in the project, the rest of Asia will also join in what could be unprecedented multi-national Asian project to build the Nalanda University. As reported, Japanese have already shown interest in developing a mega international university at Nalanda in a meeting with the CM. China, Japan, or Singapore may seek a formal participation of the other Asian nations at the East Asia Summit in the project too.
I have written about the possibility of a globally unique International University at Nalanda in many of my write-ups and proposal to the new CM of Bihar, whose own constituency is Nalanda. Sitting on the throne of Ashoka, the CM must think big and at least do something that can make him immortal in the history of the present Bihar. Unfortunately, all the leaders of post- independence Bihar who could have done some project worth making them immortal in history have failed to do it.
I have a vision of immense dimension for the project that someone called ‘utopia’, but I wish the Nitish government and the government at center without any political bias give shape to that.
Can this far-reaching proposal to build an international university at Bihar’s ancient seat of learning, Nalanda be materialized? Some doubted about the huge financial burden of the project. I don’t think the finance can be a hold up, if the prosperous East Asians, including the Communist Chinese and Japan whole-heartedly participate. For all of them, the participation in grand Nalanda project will be some sort of paying back a spiritual debt.
But the most important and critical will be the close liaison and agreement between New Delhi and Patna. Can the two make it a joint project of national importance? Can NKSingh, the former administrator of repute take the challenge of getting the project marketed, accepted and going? Can Bihar administration handle such an international venture? Will the project get materialized fast if handed over fully to either Japan or Singapore if they volunteer?