Not long ago, the Chinese media and establishment in general were antithetical in their perceptions about Narendra Modi as a Prime Minister. Suddenly it has changed into euphoria and enthusiasm with his announcement of the visit through Chinese social media platform. Lord Buddha, Dr Kotnis, Rabindranath Thakur and Atal Behari Vajpayee are four figures that have made deep impressions on China’s popular consciousness vis-à-vis India. Modi has an opportunity to enter this league through his three days visit to China provided; he decides to go beyond the established popular rhetoric created by the western scholars and continues to create more space for societal interactions.
Since the end of the Cold war many rhetorics were established to explain the relationship between two Asian giants, India and China. Elephant and Dragon, Tortoise and Hare, Tiger and dragon etc are popular expressions that are used in evolving relationship. Of course, there are areas of contention and competition among the two powers, at the same time there is ample scope for cooperation. Unfortunately, most of the contentious issues are of colonial legacy, which have further created misperceptions with the Western interpretations. If civilisationally we could co-exist for centuries together, why we cannot do so while shaping the Asian century is the critical question we need to address.
Another Cover Story: Encashing Synergies
India and China began their journey as modern independent nations almost around the same time. At the same time, they also had a long legacy of civilisational heritage. Unfortunately, when Nehru and Chau-en-Lai signed the agreement in 1954, the colonial legacy undermined the civilisational perspectives. The 1962 War further ruptured the trust element and our understanding about each other, since then has been defined by the Western parameters. The Sino-Pakistan strategic partnership has been bone of contention in this post-independent journey. The Cold-War politics did not allow us to see each other with our own perspectives. The cultural, spiritual and trade linkages that defined our shared civilisational space suddenly vanished. We started talking only at the government to government level.
With the symptoms of end of the Cold War, first Rajiv Gandhi and then P V Narasimha Rao government tried to establish direct contacts with China. But it was former Prime Minister Vajpayee who really made the difference and injected element of trust in the bilateral relations. During the last 10 years, border incursions, Pakistan and the US strategy to use both the powers against each other has again overshadowed the possibility of meaningful dialogue.
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to India and now the Indian Prime Minister making a reciprocal visit has opened up ample opportunities to rekindle the civilisational and societal interactions. The trade routes, cooperation in energy sector and provincial or state level cooperation are areas where the colonial shackles can be broken and new vistas can be explored. Organiser reviews the possibility of new levels of cooperation in these sectors.