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As India and China mark 70 years of establishment of diplomatic relations next year, preparations to hold  as many events in either country to match the occasion have begun. This is certain to give a big boost to people to people relations and to the objective of attaining connectivity. 

A recent meeting of Foreign Minister of India S.Jaishankar and Foreign Minister and State Councillor Wang Yi in Beijing set the ball rolling. Earlier, both countries had celebrated `Year of China in India` and `Year of India in China`.

 These celebrations will also coincide with the 70th Anniversary of founding of People’s Republic of China. The events will bring together artists, musicians, athletes, acrobats, media personnel, students, historians, academia, linguists and intellectuals on common platform to exchange ideas and create more avenues for enhancing Sino-Indian friendship. 

Needless to say that this is happening despite differences on various political issues. Positive aspect is, neither China nor India have allowed differences to overshadow efforts of building common ground for reducing the trust deficit. Language still poses a major hurdle. While Chinese are catching up with English fast, Indians need to learn Mandarin.  

In Vol no.1 on `Indian Foreign Policy- Agenda for the 21st Century`,  writer Utpal K Banerjee has quoted UNESCO’s definition of culture, coming from its 1982 Conference in Mexico which succinctly states: “ Culture comprises whole complex of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features that characterise a society or social group. It includes not only the arts and letters, but also modes of life, the fundamental rights of human being, value system, traditions and life.“  Since we belong to the Orient, we have the advantage of understanding each other must faster. But, As far as India and China are concerned, people to people connectivity is yet to achieve its full potential. The common bond of Buddhism has created spirit of neighbourliness. According to Banerjee and a well know Chinese historian, Tan Chung “ The finest encounters between the two countries of gigantic proportions, were not prompted by any king, nor accompanied by any army, nor marked by any trail of bloody devastation. Beginning in 217 BC, the influence of Buddhism on Chinese life and culture has been tremendous and unmitigated.“

 “Many centuries of exchange of scholars between India and China, apart from trade and commerce, have included such well-known Chinese traveller-scholars as Fa-Hsein (in the fifth century), Hsuan –tsang and Yijing (both in seventh century) . While Fa-Hsein carried back many Buddha images and scriptures, the other two enjoyed high royal patronage both in India and China. Hsuan-tsang studied at the Nalanda University under Silabhadra and was helped by emperor Harshavardhan with a horse retinue on return journey. He aided the two emperors Taizong and Harsh to exchange several ambassadors till 648-49.“ It was truly “ ageless neighbourliness as described by Tan Chang who gave list of 52 Indian monks in China (with their year of arrival there) The Chinese source materials, on cultural ambassadors between India and China, also mention a list of 36 names of Chinese monks who went to India. “

Xian’s famous Big Wild Goose Pagoda built by Hsuan-tsang  (Xuanzang) when he returned from his stay in India, is a treasure of Buddhist texts.  The Cien temple is like a structure of a pagoda in India. This is a place of pilgrimage not only for Chinese but for Indians. As I visited it, nostalgic memories of those times reverberated in my mind.  The sight of towering statue of Hsuan-tsang and view of colourful dancing fountains are a must for any Indian traveller.  

  “ Images of India in the eyes of Chinese culture went through vicissitudes of time“ says Tan Chung. He divided the entire history into six phases “1) The Mystic Phase 2) The Adoration Phase 3) The Nihilist Phase 4) The Sympathetic Phase 5) The Friendship Phase and 6) The Indifferent Phase.  In the book entitled “ Across the Himalayan Gap- A Chinese Quest for Understanding India“ Edited jointly by Chung, Zhang Minqiu and Ravni Thakur, he devotes an entire chapter to explain in detail, all the six phases. As I was reading it, I felt that India and China should return to Friendship Phase from the Indifferent Phase, that we experienced in 1960s and quite some time later. We have to move forward to combine the energies of the two great nations to reclaim our place in the comity of the nations. With rapid development in the last 30 years, China has achieved a feat of becoming production house of the world with excellent infrastructure and number of technological innovations. With India’s expertise in the soft power sector, pharmaceuticals and growing service industry, cooperation between both the countries can work miracles.

 On the cultural front, Bollywood films such as `Dangal`, `Padman`, `Bajrangi Bhaijan` have become craze with the Chinese audience. According to reports , `Dangal`, a film about Indian wrestling directed by Nitesh Tiwari chalked up nearly 1.3 billon yaun ( US $190 million) in China ticket sales. In a recent visit to Beijing and Shanghai, it was heartening to learn that people still remembered even 50 year old movie `Awara` and its song “ Awara hun.“ While Indian `Yoga` has captured the mind and body of Chinese people, Chinese food and marshal art `Kung Fu` have become popular all over India. Chinese high tech products have replaced Japanese products long ago. Chinese mobile brand` Xiaomi` has become market leader. `Samsung` has been lagging behind` Xiaomi` for more than two years now. `Oppo` and` Vivo` are also among the top five brands in India. Indian audience thoroughly enjoyed Jackie Chan starring   `Kung Fu Yoga` a jointly produced film of 2017. Researcher Ms.Poonam Suri has thrown light on the similarity of gods and goddesses of China and India in her book,`A search for its soul- leaves from a Bejing diary.` It focuses on iconography.      

India and China follow different models of governance, but the objective is to achieve progress through peaceful means while adhering to the principle of non interference in the internal affairs of each other. The non resolution of boundary issue has not deterred either of them from enhancing trade which today stands at $95 billion. Through, cooperation in ASEAN, SCO, BRICS, RIC and BISM, WTO and other global forums, they have become a driving force and lend a powerful voice to the countries of the South, challenging the prolonged dominance of Bretton Woods institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. 

 A recent visit to Shanghai and a discussion with K.V.Kamat, President of the New Development Bank (BRICS Bank) along with Bank’s Board of Directors convinced me that the institution has a great potential to become premier financial institution of the Southern hemisphere.          

On the media front, exchanges are taking place with rapid succession. China has become more open to the visits of Indian journalists to various provinces including autonomous region of Tibet and Xinjiang, which are in the news and need better understanding. A word of praise for the Diplomatic Association of China and All China Journalist Association would not be out of place. The former has started training courses for Indian journalists in  last 5 years and the later has been inviting delegations of journalists to visit number of places in China which give chance to familiarise with the development of the country. India and China have instituted `Editors Forum` which meets once a year as well as `High Level Media Forum` continues to discuss exchange of information and cooperation. The new media is playing important role in that respect. With a dozen of Chinese Correspondents stationed in New Delhi and Mumbai and about half a dozen Correspondents of India’s national dailies along with premier news agency Press Trust of India stationed in Beijing, there is far greater understanding of each other. Dependence on the transnational news agencies has reduced considerably. Xinhua’s recent agreement with United News of India for exchange of news is a new development, which augers well. `China Daily’ proposes to open a news bureau in Delhi later this year. That will open another window. It will not be out of place to quote Chinese Ambassador to India HE Mr. Sun Weidong, who recently said, “ China is striving for its `two centenary goals` and India is working towards the goal of building `new India` China and India should learn from and help each other to realize win-win cooperation and common development.“

The writer, who travelled to China  recently, is Convener, Indian Association of Foreign Affairs Correspondents (IAFAC)

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