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Sino – India Relations:NEED TO CHANGE MINDSET, by Dr Venkateshwaran,12 Nov, 2010 Print E-mail

Open Forum

New Delhi, 12 November 2010



Sino – India Relations




By Dr Venkateshwaran

Geopolitics & Intl Rel Dept, Manipal University


At a time when India and China are seen as global competitors, looking to carve their niche in each other’s traditional spheres of influence --- Indian Ocean and the East/South China Sea --- there are four recent developments that came as a breath of fresh air.


One, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh observation that the world had enough space for both countries to grow, in reply to a question on India and China on 27 October. Two, on the same day, a premier Chinese think tank the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, in a report on national competitiveness, suggested that China could learn from India’s legal system, protection of “vulnerable groups”, industrial structure and preservation of vulnerable culture. 


Three, two days later on 29 October Anil Ambani’s Reliance Power signed the largest China-India power deal for $10 billion pact with Shanghai Electric Group Company for the supply of power generation equipment and related service contracts. Four, interestingly, the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao seconded Manmohan Singh’s observations on the side-lines of the East Asia Summit in Hanoi on 31 October.


Questionably, why can’t both countries identify potential areas of convergence to transform this new wave of momentum and build relations that is mutually beneficial? Specially, on their 60th anniversary of bilateral relations, 


Particularly, against the backdrop that both are great civilizations and historically were at the centre of Asia’s related civilization circles. In North-east Asia and some South-east Asian countries, the historical influence of Chinese culture can be easily detected even today. Similarly, the influence of Indian culture can be traced in many South and South-east Asian countries.


Further, despite being frequently invaded by outside armies, accompanied by an onslaught of foreign culture, the backbone of the two ancient cultures, namely Confucianism in China and Hinduism in India, vigorously sustained. It is this vitality and continuity of both civilizations, exceptional in the world, which both countries should draw inspiration from to cooperate rather than compete in the region.


Second, both have been victims of colonialism that has wreaked havoc on their resources. China was forced into humiliation by treaties signed after its defeat in the Opium Wars, subsequently defeated by the Japanese and ultimately divided into ‘spheres of influence’ by all the European countries.


The Indian sub-continent was a playground for many dynasties from Central Asia before undergoing similar humiliation as a colony of the British for almost 200 years.  A history filled with common painful experiences makes it imperative for New Delhi and Beijing to build a foundation together for their future.


Third, the combined geographical size of both nations will make them huge markets, impossible to resist for the world. China’s strength in manufacturing will complement India’s strength in service.  Beijing can share its progress in the field of science of technology while a young growing Indian population at ease with English can teach their Chinese counter-parts. If the two most populous countries came together, they would be able to provide cheaper labour to the world.


Fourth, the developed countries are increasing pressure on India and China to set binding caps on carbon emissions. However, the world’s fastest-growing economies have united and instead called on rich nations to slash carbon dioxide output and lower emissions by 40% from the 1990 levels by 2020. As also share technology with poorer nations to help them fight climate change.


Meanwhile, New Delhi and Beijing signed an agreement in 2009 to increase cooperation in tackling climate change while simultaneously refusing to accept any binding reduction targets as that would hurt development in both countries. Particularly, as the issue of climate change is closely inter-connected with the need for energy security in both the heavily populous countries.


Currently both have a huge demand for energy and are competing against each other to acquire a diversified portfolio to meet their respective needs. Instead, if both countries could jointly bid rather than vie in their acquisition efforts, it could help reduce costs, de-escalate tensions and help build mutual trust.


Sixth, both New Delhi and Beijing have common concerns in countering the threat of terrorism. India has been a victim of terror attacks largely fuelled by the Kashmir conflict for a number of years. China has to deal with Xinjiang, a focal point of ethnic tensions, as it is home to a number of ethnic groups. Both countries can share intelligence to draw up a competent response to their internal and external challenges.


Seventh, both also face common concerns in regard to disaster management, both man-made and natural. China has been affected by six of the world's top 10 deadliest natural disasters. The region has also witnessed recent earth quakes in Indonesia and floods in Pakistan. Not to forget the 2004 tsunami. Needless to say, cooperation between Beijing and New Delhi would help in not only providing adequate response but also preventing such disasters.


Last but not least, both countries can also cooperate pro-actively in the area of food security since agriculture plays a vital role in their economics and politics. Both traditionally agrarian economies, have over the last few years of opening their markets, moved towards a more secondary and tertiary economy. Nonetheless, agriculture continues to be the engine of inclusive and accelerated economic growth and livelihood security in both nations.


True, while factories have replaced farms, drought and food inflation continues to aggravate hunger and cause demographic divides. Towards alleviating these, New Delhi and Beijing made a start by signing a pact to create a joint agricultural information base that would help each country calculate production and consumption balances and establish national grain reserves in March last.


Besides exchanging vital information, they also agreed to share experiences of providing food to the vulnerable population and victims of natural disasters. Along-with swapping agricultural technology to help reduce the effect of climate change on food production, in order to learn from each other’s experiences.


In the ultimate, If India and China develop a strong relationship that is based on mutual trust, the world could be their playground. Beijing can help New Delhi by bringing Pakistan to the negotiating table for a meaningful deal. India can work closely with China in solving the Tibet issue and sharing its experiences in Kashmir to help deal with Xinjiang.


However, the big question however is: Are both India and China willing to put aside issues of divergence, to transit from a small regional playground that includes a 50-year border dispute to a larger global playground? ----- INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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