New Delhi, June 4, 2015: The South Asian University (SAU), an educational initiative of the eight SAARC neighbours, has already inked a partnership agreement with Dhaka University, while it is in the process of linking up with the Royal University of Bhutan and Kabul University, giving it a wider footprint in the South Asian region.
According to SAU president Kavita Sharma, the collaboration with Dhaka University was signed about 20 days ago.
"We hope to have the Royal Bhutan University and Kabul University on board. We are exchanging letters with each other.
It is in the pipeline," Sharma told IANS on the sidelines of the ground-breaking ceremony for the SAU university campus at Maidangarhi near Chhattarpur here on Wednesday.
A link-up is also planned with the Gurgaon-based American Institute of Indian Studies as "through them we can get a lot of South Asian specialists", she added.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, speaking at the ceremony on Wednesday, said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had proposed at the SAARC Summit in Kathmandu last year that SAU connect with at least one university in each of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries.
The campus is coming up on 100 acres of land that India has provided free of cost.
India is also funding the $198 capital cost, including the construction.
According to Sushma Swaraj, India is "committed to bearing 100 percent the capital cost towards establishment of the varsity".
Sharma said they are working to speed up construction, with a boundary wall to be erected first after which four sets of buildings, for housing, a guest house and the faculties of earth sciences, life sciences and humanities would be constructed.
Set up in 2010, SAU has been functioning out of the Akbar Bhawan campus in Chanakyapuri.
At present it has 418 students, five faculties and seven departments.
The fifth batch of students passed out earlier this year.
The varsity at present offers masters' and research programmes in Applied Mathematics, Biotechnology, Computer Science, Economics, Legal Studies, International Relations and Sociology.
When ready in five years, the campus is estimated to cater to 5,000 students from the eight SAARC countries, as well as 400 faculty members who would be staying on campus.
Sri Lankan High Commissioner Sudharshan Seneviratne, who was present at the ceremony, termed it a "fantastic initiative".
"The political success of SAARC would have been much more productive once the people get together, this is my belief," Seneviratne told IANS on the sidelines of the event.
I always said that for SAARC, we should have started ground up, with people-to-people connect with artistes and academics; all the connectivity and shared heritage comes from the ground level," he added.
He said establishment of the SAU would have a "ripple effect" with it connecting to other varsities in the region.
He said he could write to Sri Lankan varsities and tell them to connect to SAARC. "This (SAU) will be like a nucleus", said the envoy, adding that political differences should not intrude into the arena of education.
"When it comes to education, no one wants to block it," he said. "I feel good about it; each country's students bring in a different experience and come and share ideas. This is the best people-to-people connect," Seneviratne said.
According to the Indo-Nepali team of architects, from Archiplan of Nepal and Abrd Architects of India, the campus will have 10 hostels to house the students and faculty.
It will have a 600-seat convention centre that will act like a multi-purpose hall for baithaks and exhibitions.
The state-of the art building has already got 5-star rating fom GRIHA, India's National Rating System for Green Buildings. Equipped with solar panels on top of each building, the university campus would generate 25 percent of its electricity, said an official.
The rain water would be harvested and waste water would be recycled at three in-house treatment plants, which would make it reusable for horticulture and flushing and for the cooling towers, the official added. (Ranjana Narayan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)