NEW DELHI: The government is in the process of extending India's National Knowledge Network to SAARC countries in order to enhance cooperation in the field of education, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said here today.
The National Knowledge Network (NKN)is a state-of-the-art multi-gigabit pan-India network for providing a unified high speed network backbone for all knowledge related institutions in the country.
"We are in the process of extending our National Knowledge Network to all SAARC countries which will allow students in South Asia to access digital libraries and networking sources unimpeded. SAARC Satellite will also benefit the region in education and research," she said at the ground breaking ceremony of South Asian University (SAU).
"Cooperation in the field of education will be of paramount importance if we are to ensure improvement in the inter-linked destinies of the people of South Asia. We are taking several steps in this direction including through the use of modern means of communication," she added.
The international university is sponsored by the eight member states of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Recalling how the varsity was set up, Swaraj said, "The university owes its genesis in India's initiative at the 13th SAARC summit in Dhaka when India had offered to host the varsity. Our objective was to start a university dedicated to the region with world class facilities, professional faculty and diligent students and brilliant researchers."
SAU started admitting students in 2010, at a temporary campus at Akbar Bhawan here. 100 acres of land has been allocated by the government for a permanent campus in Maidangarhi while the operational expenditure will be borne by the governments of partner SAARC member states.
"Establishment of SAU is one of the most visible sign of transformation of SAARC from declaration to implementation. Incidentally, it is also the first international university in India and we are committed to bearing 100 per cent of the capital cost of 198 million USD towards its establishment," Swaraj said.
The minister also said that the government plans to work towards making the region more connected and prosperous.
"As Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said in his speech at the 18th SAARC Summit, India's vision for the region rests on the pillars of trade, investment, assistance, cooperation, people-to-people contacts and connectivity. In the coming days and years we will work assiduously to make the region more connected and more prosperous," she said.
"An idea proposed by the PM during his speech at the SAARC Summit last year was that SAU should connect with at least one university in each of the SAARC countries. I believe that an MoU has been signed with Dhaka University and more such arrangements are in the pipeline," added Swaraj.
The ground breaking ceremony was also attended by Ambassadors of Bhutan, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka and Joint Secretary, SAARC.
SAU offers Master's and MPhil/PhD programs in Applied Mathematics, Biotechnology, Computer Science, Development Economics, International Relations, Law and Sociology. The degrees are recognized by all SAARC nations according to an inter-governmental agreement signed by the foreign ministers of the 8 countries.
The university attracts students predominantly from the SAARC countries, although students from other continents also attend. There is also a country quota system for admissions.
"At present over 400 students are studying at the university and five batches have graduated already. The campus is likely to be operational with next three years," Kavita Sharma, President, SAU said.
"The campus which will have solar power generation and rain water harvesting set up besides a waste management plant will also have residential facility for over 5000 students and 500 faculty members," she added. PTI