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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 19, May 1, 2010

Two Views on India-China Relations

Saturday 1 May 2010, by Harish Chandola

The language used to describe India-China bilateral relations by the media of the two countries is so very different that one sometimes wonders if they are talking of the same thing. The Indian media has been suggesting that whatever activities China was conducting around were dangerous and detrimental to India. For instance, the recent Chinese hint of wanting to open bases overseas has been interpreted in India as its desire to set them up in Pakistan, to encircle and threaten India. Chinese incursions into Indian-controlled border areas have been shown as a demonstration of its expansionist territorial ambitions and its issuing visas to some Indians including Kashmiris on separate pieces of paper rather than stamping them on their passports, as trying to confer on them a status different from their Indian citizenship.

Then one reads about reports of talks between Indian and Chinese Prime Ministers in Hua Hin, Thailand, on October 24, 2009, on which a joint communiqué was issued. The Chinese media said the two heads of governments (Manmohan Singh and Wen Jiabao) agreed to continue advancing their strategic cooperative partnership oriented towards peace and prosperity, to achieve common and harmonious development. Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said: “China and India, as neighbours, are both populous big developing countries. Good-neighbourly friendship, mutually beneficial cooperation and common development not only benefit both peoples, but are of great positive significance to Asia and the world at large. China is glad to see India’s development and its playing a due role in regional and international affairs. China is ready to maintain high-level exchange with India, build up mutual trust, expand cooperation and strengthen coordination and cooperation in addressing such major issues as the global financial crisis and climate change.”

The two sides agreed to take earnest measures to maintain stable trade, oppose trade protection-ism and work hard to reach the US$ 60 billion trade target by 2010.

The Chinese Government encouraged its businesses to invest in India, and welcomed Indian enterprises to explore market in China. Both China and India have splendid culture and they also share traditional friendship.

The Joint Communiqué issued at Hua Hin did not skip the border problem. It said: “The Prime Ministers also reached consensus in the following aspects on the border issues. Both sides should abide by the political guiding principles reached and tap the role of relevant mechanisms. Both sides should continue to gradually narrow differences and strive for continuous progress through candid dialogue, with the aim of reaching a solution that is fair, reasonable and acceptable. Both should try to ensure peace and stability in the border area, as it would be conducive to resolving the border issues and furthering bilateral cooperation in other areas and the overall bilateral relationship.”

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment of India-China diplomatic relations, during which they agreed to hold an Indian festival in China and a Chinese festival in India to improve the friendly feelings between both peoples.

There was no mention of any difference or concern in the Joint Communiqué.

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Similar sentiments were also expressed at the ninth meeting of the Foreign Ministers of India, China and Russia, in Bangalore on October 27, 2009. Their Joint Communique talked of deepening and strengthening their trilateral cooperation for the benefit of their peoples and stability in the region, which stretched over 20 per cent of the total world landmass and represented 39 per cent of the world population.

Describing of G-20 summits as a premier forum for international economic cooperation, they advocated that future G-20 summits should be held in developing countries by rotation. The Ministers emphasised that one of the ultimate goals of governance structure reform for international financial institutions was equitable distribution of voting power between developed countries and developing ones.

The three Foreign Ministers stressed the need for a comprehensive reform of the United Nations with a view to make it more efficient so that it can deal with the current global challenges more effectively.

And they did not forget to mention the role they wanted India to play at the UN They reiterated that their countries attached impor-tance to the status of India in international affairs, and understood and supported India’s aspirations to play a greater role in the United Nations.

They urged all UN member-states to urgently conclude and adopt the Comprehensive Convention on International Terriorism. The Ministers condemned the terrorist attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul on October 8, 2009.

The Foreign Ministers of Russia and China expressed satisfaction that the Indian delegation to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit was led by the Indian Prime Minister for the first time and welcomed India’s cons-tructive engagement in its activities.

The language India and China used in their dialogue was friendly and helpful and did not contain any hint of differences. It was a bit of a surprise that this goodwill at the Bangalore meeting was not reported in the Indian media.

The reverses India suffered in its 1962 border conflict with China has left deep suspicion of China in India’s political, academic and diplo-matic circles, which is reflected in the Indian public opinion from time to time. India is full of voluble politicians, academics and ordinary people with strong views on China, which often find expression in the media.

But the reality is different, as reflected in the high level India-China talks.

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