The Centre for Security and Strategy (CSS), India Foundation organized a bilateral conference with the Institute of International Studies (IIS), Fudan University, China on India-China Relations at India International Centre, New Delhi on 11th December 2014.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed by Captain (IN) Alok Bansal, Director, CSS on behalf of CSS and Prof Wu Xinbo, Executive Dean IIS, on behalf of IIS, to collaborate on academic and research cooperation and exchanges.
Delegates from China remarked that relations with India are assuming a higher priority in Chinese Foreign Policy, and the visits of Premier Li Keqiang and President Xi Jinping to India, were both substantive initiatives. They noted that since Sino-Indian relations are fast-paced, scholars from both sides have to catch-up quickly. The participants were informed that Fudan University is one of the top universities of China, having over 15 research centres, including a strong South-Asian studies programme. Delegates fromFudan University expressed their commitment to this partnership, and the potential role that both institutions could play in reshaping the geopolitics and economic landscape in Asia.
Shri Jayant Sinha, Hon’ble Minister of State (Finance), Government of India delivering the keynote address, and speaking as a director of the India Foundation, noted that there is a unique opportunity between both participating institutions to shape how Indo-Chinese relationship evolves over the next decade or so. Three key areas were outlined where collaboration between the two nations could prove mutually beneficial, namely business, Science & Technology, and geopolitical security.It was emphasized that collaboration between the two nations could be deepened in the manufacturing sectors, particularly through the Make in India program, while taking lessons from the speed and scale in which China has boosted its own manufacturing sector. Both nations were called upon to explore shared interests, particularly in the fields of climate change and maritime trade, to work towards geopolitical security. It was also highlighted that this bilateral relationship is part of India Foundation’s larger initiative of having people-to-people dialogue.
The first session focused on discussing contentious issues in the context of Indo-China relations. The delegates discussed issues such as Indo-China border issues, river water disputes,Economic Trade Imbalance and Sino-Pak Nuclear and Defence Cooperation.
Indian delegates noted that it was important to understand that both countries share a long cultural history, and are growing on the same planes. While Indo-China trade has been rapidly growing, there is also a need to achieve a balance of trade from both sides. The Indian delegation called upon China to support India in the Make in India campaign, particularly in the skill development sector for a more balanced trade partnership. Greater cooperation was also encouraged in sectors such as energy security, software engineering, medicines, and cost-effective research, where India can provide a comparative advantage. The Indian delegates noted that it is imperative for India and China to manage the border-issue effectively. It was suggested to take lessons from the basis on which China and Myanmar were able to address their border issues to reach a mutually beneficial agreement. The Indian delegation emphasized that though the Indian media does shape popular opinion on the Indo-China border dispute, it is the price that India has to pay for a free media, and society.
The Chinese delegation noted that strategic cooperation between India and China was reaching a new high. In this context, it was suggested to establish principles that would address the trust deficit between the two nations. The delegation noted that the Indo-China border issue must not be sensationalized, but at the same time, there should not be further delay in addressing it. Moreover, the delegation explained that the perceived border-conflict was essentially due to the two sides having differences on the Line of Actual Control (LAC), which must be addressed.The delegates from China noted that the trade imbalance is a recent issue, arising primarily as a consequence of the positive and welcome increase in trade relations between the two nations.
In terms of cooperation in the North-East, and particularly on water issues related to the Yarlung Tsangpo or Brahmaputra River, the Indian delegation highlighted the need for hydrological experts from both parties to discuss a mutually beneficial arrangement. It was also noted that keeping the discussions on a technical level would also help to gradually reduce the knowledge-deficit to address the issue effectively.The delegates noted that lessons could be learnt from the Indus water treaty between India and Pakistan.The Chinese delegates welcomed the suggestions on hydrological cooperation between the two nations in the North-Eastern region, and agreed for greater transparency and accessibility to the upper reaches of the river for better understanding of the flow patterns and to allay the fears of water diversion, particularly among the local population.
The Indian delegates expressed concern over the increasing engagement of China with Pakistan particularly in the field of nuclear cooperation, since the radiological material produced could be misused by radical elements operating in Pakistan.It was emphasized that it was under the NDA government that the relations between India and China improved considerably, and China should move away from the past approach of looking at India through the prism of Pakistan. Delegates from China remarked that both India and China are peace-loving, and have similar policies particularly in the defence sector.They explained that, China is cooperating with Pakistan to support them to tide over their current problems.The delegates also reiterated that India is afar more important partner in terms of foreign policy for China, and Chinese relations with Pakistan will not come at the expense of the relations between India and Chia.
The second session focused on exploring avenues for cooperation and the way-ahead for relations between India and China.The delegates discussed economic and trade partnerships, cooperation on regional security and stability and cultural exchange.
The delegates from China highlighted that thetrade relations between India and China have been continuously expanding and the recent trade imbalance between India and China is perhaps a result of the different economic models that the two countries follow. They suggested that increasing Chinese investments in India, in view of the Make in India campaign, could in turn help correct the trade imbalance. The Indian delegation noted that in addition to addressing economic relations between the two nations, it is also important to manage emotional and political expectations. In this context, it was emphasized that China and India both have a unique opportunity to cooperate on Investment; India would benefit from Chinese investment to boost its industry at home, while China would be able to diversify its investments by investing in India. Moreover, it was emphasized that India would be a particularly good financial investment destination for China.
In this context, it was stated that China plans to invest$20 Billion in India over the next five years. The Chinese delegation also called for greater cooperation in Maritime affairs, as both countries have common interest in smooth flow of shipping in the Indian Ocean.It was suggested that India could provide security to Chinese vessels in the Indian Ocean, if requested. It was also suggested that in future, the Indian government must review its visa regulations for Chinese business travellers, and also for scholars traveling for conferences and other research exchanges to facilitate greater Chinese investment and better understanding. The delegation also called for channelizing greater awareness about India and its tourism among the Chinese population to increase tourist activity of Chinese in India.
The Indian delegation called for collaboration to address the transition in Afghanistan collectively, in the interest of the region’s security and stability. It was also noted that the Afghanistan issue could not be addressed without looking at it in the context of Pakistan, and its influence on the region. The Chinese delegation recognized that both the countries had a role in helping Afghanistan with the transition process, and suggested that perhaps a trilateral dialogue could be held between India, China and Afghanistan in future. Moreover, they reiterated China’s policy to help Afghanistan maintain its national defence and strategic independence, and desire to achieve it through regional and international cooperation.
In conclusion, the Indian delegation highlighted that both countries have a long civilizational links, which stems from strong influence on each other’s faith and culture. In this context, it was suggested that a greater exposure to each other’s culture and traditions through media and educational curriculum must be explored.