On April 2, 2021, Chinese Ambassador Sun Weidong held a virtual dialogue with Mr. Sudheendra Kulkarni, who is a well-known writer and media commentator and close aide to India’s former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Ambassador Sun shared his views on China-India relations, the boundary question, the two countries’ cooperation in bilateral and multilateral areas and other topics of common interests.
Here is the full transcript of the dialogue.
Mr. Sudheendra Kulkarni: Your Excellency, it’s an honour and a privilege to have this dialogue with you. As you are aware, I have been a strong and consistent advocate of India-China friendship and cooperation for close to twenty years.
Ever since my first visit to China in 2003, when I accompanied our former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on his landmark visit, I have believed in the imperative need for good relations between our two great Asian nations.
I often quote what Mahatma Gandhi said in 1942, when neither of our two countries was free. He said, “As a friend of China, I long for the day when a free India and a free China will cooperate together in friendship and brotherhood for their own good and for the good of Asia and world.” These words have lost none of their meaning or relevance even after nearly eight decades.
I am a great and genuine admirer of China, Chinese people, Chinese culture and civilisation, and China’s spectacular achievements in many fields. One of China’s greatest achievements is its recent success in complete eradication of poverty, which has important lessons for India and many other developing countries.
Let me add here that, as an Indian, I am also a great admirer of Chinese President Xi Jinping. His thoughts are highly important for the entire world – especially, his call to “Build a Community of Shared Future for Mankind”. I have read all the three volumes of Xi Jinping’s speeches and writings – GOVERNANCE OF CHINA. I am deeply impressed.
I send my heartiest congratulations to the fraternal people of China on the occasion of the FIRST CENTENNIAL this year -100 years of the founding of the Communist Party of China. It’s a world-changing event, which we all deeply appreciate.
Ambassador Sun, I do hope that, through this conversation, you will shed light on some important questions and issues that have cropped up in India-China relations. I am sure that our conversation will be sincere and candid, as it should be among friends, and will make a small but positive contribution to the broader India-China dialogue.
Ambassador Sun Weidong: Thank you. Mr. Kulkarni. I’m so glad to have this virtual dialogue with you today. Thank you for kind words towards China, to President Xi Jinping, to the people of China and the Communist Party of China, and for your close following of China’s development over the years and also your efforts in firmly supporting and promoting China-India friendship.
I’m deeply touched by your words of admiration for President Xi Jinping. Yes, President Xi Jinping is the trail-blazer of socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era. He is the navigator in the course of realizing the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation. And he is a great leader supported by the whole Party and loved by the people.
The Communist Party of China (CPC) will celebrate its centenary this year. I heartily thank you for the cordial congratulations on this historic occasion. Under the leadership of the CPC, China has been able to march forward over the past one hundred years in the historic course of standing up, growing rich and becoming strong.
The CPC was born for the people, achieves success because of people’s support, and always works hard for people’s interests. For example, last year, the CPC led the Chinese people in making major strategic achievements in fighting COVID-19. Not long ago, President Xi Jinping declared a complete victory in the battle against absolute poverty in China. That means the “absolute poverty” lasting for thousands of years in China has been eliminated. The CPC’s “people-centered” philosophy of governance is fully demonstrated in the two great achievements.
President Xi has emphasized that, the people must always be put above everything else and we must regard people’s opinions and feelings as our own. The past 100 years represent a history of the Party breathing the same breath as the people, sharing the same future with the people, and staying truly connected with the people.
I am so pleased to learn that you have read all the three volumes of “Xi Jinping: The Governance of China”. This set of works is extensive and profound. They cover China’s politics, economy, society, culture, ecology, and the governance of the party, state and military and many other topics. These books comprehensively and systematically reflect the rich connotation of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era. They serve as the “gateway of thought” for the international community to understand China’s development philosophy, path and domestic and foreign policies. I believe after you have read these books, you have more accurate, profound and thorough understanding of China. I also hope that more Indian friends will read these books and get an in-depth understanding of the current China. I hope to start today’s dialogue with these words, and let us work together to make contribution to the great cause of China-India relationship.
Mr. Sudheendra Kulkarni: Thank you Ambassador for these very warm and illuminating remarks, which set the tone for the dialogue. So let me begin with my first question.
ONE: India and China, as two great Asian nations, have enjoyed friendly ties for thousands of years and the two countries have many similarities in terms of population, development and civilization. However, all of us know the year 2020 was a difficult year for India-China relations. Many people are apprehensive about the future trajectory of our ties. How do you see the characteristics and prospects of India-China relations? How can this year 2021 become a better year? What should India do? What should China do? Your candid answer will greatly help in changing the public perception in India about China.
Ambassador Sun: To fully understand China-India relations, we need to start with the basic characteristics of the two countries, which you mentioned just now. I think there are at least three important similarities between us.
First, China and India are the only two major developing countries in the world with a population over one billion. The problems we are facing cannot be found in rest of the world. For instance, over one billion people have to consume about 7 lakhs tons of food each and every day to feed themselves. Food is the No. One need for the people. Food security is therefore a big issue for China and India. Another example is employment. China aims to create 1.1 crore new urban jobs this year. India also needs to furnish employment to tens of millions of young people every year. These numbers are equivalent to the entire population of a medium-sized country. China and India have huge economic size. However, when it is divided by over one billion people, our per capita GDP still lags far behind that of developed countries. As China and India are both at a crucial stage of development and revitalization, development is our top priority. When China and India were both developed, it would mean that one third of the world’s population achieve development. It would be our biggest contribution to the world. In this sense, the top agenda of our countries should focus on development and concentrate on doing our own business well.
Second, China and India are important emerging economies in the world. The world today is undergoing profound changes unseen in a century. The international landscape is undergoing profound transformation. China is the only country in the world that has all the industrial categories listed in the United Nations industrial classification. It has the largest and fastest growing middle-income population in the world, which is more than 400 million people. So we have huge production capacity and consumption potential. India is rich in human resources and has robust market demand with nearly two-thirds of its population under the age of 35. From a long-term perspective, we can see that China and India are on an upward slope, with dreams and aspirations for development and rejuvenation. We should jointly run in the marathon of development for good results. During the course, we should encourage each other and give a helping hand to each other when we encounter obstacles and challenges. The least thing we want to see is that China and India are in a boxing ring to fight with each other and undercut each other. That is not in the interests of either side.
Third, China and India are ancient civilizations in Asia living side by side for thousands of years. Our ancient cultures have given us a long-term perspective and great wisdom in dealing with problems. People of our two countries have enjoyed friendly exchanges for more than 2,000 years and will continue to live together for a long time to come. We should view and handle our relationship from a perspective of several years, decades or even centuries, not just several months. It is natural for neighboring countries to have some differences. The key point is to manage differences through dialogue and consultation and find a peaceful solution. As two ancient civilizations, we should have a long-term view and more wisdom, treat the differences in a mature and rational manner, and find a right way to get along with each other.
Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi pointed out that the China-India relationship is essentially about how the world’s two largest developing countries get along and pursue development and rejuvenation together. As I see it, at present, China-India relations are facing some difficulties. But as long as the three basic characteristics or similarities I mentioned just now remain unchanged, the essence of China-India relationship will not change.
We have just commemorated the 71st anniversary of our diplomatic ties. This year in Chinese lunar calendar is the year of Ox. The Ox means hard-work and diligence. It’s an auspicious year for both China and India. You ask how can we bring our bilateral relations back on a sound and stable track? I think we need to achieve three “commitments”.
First, we should commit to the consensus. Our two leaders reached important consensus that China and India are neither competitive rivals nor threats, but cooperation partners and development opportunity to each other. This is the political cornerstone of our bilateral relations that we must firmly adhere to and never waver.
Second, we should commit to dialogue. Both sides should treat each other with a calm, pragmatic and constructive attitude with mutual respect. We should seek to eliminate misunderstandings, enhance mutual trust, build consensus and manage differences through dialogues. We should respect each other’s core interests and major concerns and refrain from interfering in each other’ s domestic affairs.
Third, we should commit to cooperation. Cooperation between China and India is mutually beneficial in nature. And cooperation in various fields can promote each other forward. We can start from easier issues to resume and enhance practical cooperation and friendly exchanges step by step. That will help to accumulate conditions for further improvement of bilateral relations.
Mr. Sudheendra Kulkarni: My second question in some ways is a continuation of the first. The unfortunate incidents at Galwan Valley cast a long and dark shadow over our bilateral relations. That shadow has not yet disappeared fully, even though the beginning of the disengagement process in February is a welcome development.
I have written in several of my articles in the media, both Indian and Chinese, that the time has come to ensure that there are no more military standoffs in future along the LAC, such as the one that took place at Galwan Valley in June last year. This is also the view of all right-thinking people in our two countries.
The reason is simple. Every time such an incident happens, our bilateral relations get pushed back by several years. It is also well recognised that the best way of putting an end to such incidents is to reach a final settlement of the boundary dispute.
Do you think resolution of the boundary dispute should now be on top of the India-China agenda? I have a related question. Since 2003, the Special Representatives of our two countries have had as many 22 rounds of talks on the boundary question. All the issues must have been discussed threadbare. Can we expect a positive movement in this regard? If so, do you think – as you have stated in other contexts – that both India and China should move half way towards a final settlement?
Ambassador Sun: I think the incidents which occurred in the border areas last year was unfortunate. Neither China nor India would like to see it happen. As China has repeatedly emphasized, the rights and wrongs of the incident are clear. So are the stakes involved. The foreign ministers and defense ministers of our two countries have communicated on this issue on many occasions. The two sides have held ten rounds of Corps Commander Level Meeting and seven meetings of the WMCC Mechanism. You can see there are smooth diplomatic and military channels of communication between us. Both sides are willing to resolve issues and deescalate tensions through dialogue and consultation.
The recent disengagement of the front line troops of both sides in the Bangong Lake area is conducive to building mutual trust and further easing the situation on the ground. Against this backdrop, we should implement the consensus reached by the two leaders and strictly abide by the existing agreements, step up dialogue and communication, and improve the border management and control mechanisms to further ease, stabilize and control the border situation, avoid relapse and jointly safeguard peace and tranquility in the border areas.
The boundary question is a historical burden imposed on us by the Western colonists. It is very sensitive and complex. Border disputes are reality to both of us. We need to attach adequate attention and take them seriously. Both China and India have the political will to resolve the boundary question. The two sides have established the mechanism of the Special Representatives’ Meeting for the China-India Boundary Question in 2003. That was also the year former Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee paid his visit to China. I was also lucky enough to work for receiving his delegation in Beijing. Since then, the two Special Representatives had 22 rounds of meetings, and reached an Agreement on the Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for the Settlement of the India-China Boundary Question. We are now working on a road map for negotiations on the settlement framework. The two sides should actively push forward boundary talks and strive to reach a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution. Pending final settlement, the two sides should jointly maintain peace and tranquility in the border areas.
China-India relations are multi-faceted. It should be viewed in a comprehensive way rather than limited to one part. The boundary question is not the whole story of China-India relations and should be put at a proper place in the overall bilateral relations. We should not allow differences to become disputes.
The past experiences have repeatedly indicated that highlighting differences will not help solve problems but erode the foundation of mutual trust. A sound bilateral relationship is conducive to enhancing political mutual trust and creating favorable conditions and atmosphere for the settlement of the boundary question.
Maintenance of peace and tranquility need our joint efforts. The border disputes can only be resolved through dialogue and negotiations. The two sides should strictly abide by the existing agreements and protocol, properly manage the border situation and prevent from jeopardizing peace and tranquility in the border areas. In case of an incident, a timely communication through military and diplomatic channels should be undertaken to avoid any action that may complicate or escalate the situation. We should strengthen confidence-building measures to jointly maintain peace and tranquility in the border areas. The lesson of last year’s border incident is profound and such incident should not be repeated.
Mr. Sudheendra Kulkarni: Both sides have reiterated that differences should not be escalated into disputes. I think that it is wise thing to move forward and I hope we can indeed move forward. Let me come to the next question.
There is a huge and untapped scope for economic cooperation between India and China. Our trade, business and investment cooperation suffered a setback in 2020. Around the same time, some countries in the West intensified the talk about decoupling and disengagement of economic relations with China. That dangerous talk and such efforts are still continuing.
Ambassador, what are your thoughts on how India and China should expand and deepen their economic cooperation? You are well aware of India’s legitimate concerns in this matter. How will China address them? And what in your opinion should India do?
I have a related point to make here. Since last year, our Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been emphasising the need for India to become ‘ATMA NIRBHAR’– that is, self-reliant in critical areas of the economy. In its own way, China is also pursuing the path of Self-Reliance and giving primacy to further developing its domestic economy through its DUAL CIRCULATION strategy.
I believe that the strategies of India and China are not mutually exclusive and opposed to each other. For example, both being huge markets and rapidly growing digital economies, we should cooperate in hi-tech areas. Such cooperation will make both our economies stronger and more self-reliant.
The same is also true about India-China cooperation in green and clean energy development, since our two countries are equally committed to cooperation in fighting the Climate Crisis. Can you throw some light on this matter?
Ambassador Sun: As you said, China is accelerating the building of a new development paradigm with domestic circulation as the mainstay and domestic and international circulations reinforcing each other. It is by no means a closed domestic circulation. It’s a dual circulation.
As China adapts to the new development stage, we will enhance our capacity for self-sustained development and achieve high-quality development. Meanwhile, China will promote further opening-up to connect the Chinese market with the international market.
We noted that the Indian government had unleashed “Atma-nirbhar Bharat” campaign to accelerate India’s development and also emphasized that India will not separate itself from the global trends.
In my view, major economies like China and India with over 1 billion population, are not likely to solve the problem of survival and development relying on other countries’ favor. We have to find development paths that suit ourselves on our own efforts. This is what happened in China in the past few decades.
In the era of globalization, the interests of various countries are deeply integrated. We all have a stake in each other’s future. Relying on oneself to develop does not mean “closing one’s own door”. We need to stick to opening up and promote cooperation and inclusive development.
Despite global pandemic last year, China’s economy has shown remarkable resilience and vitality. We serve as a “stabilizer” and an “engine” for the world economy.
I would like to give you three examples. First, China took the lead in controlling the epidemic and achieved positive economic growth. China’s GDP has exceeded 100 trillion RMB yuan with its per capita GDP exceeding $10,000. We can see the promising prospects for high-quality economic development.
Second, the third China International Import Expo (CIIE) held last year attracted companies from 124 countries and regions and achieved cumulative intended turnover of more than $72 billion. It demonstrates China’s firm conviction to open its domestic market to the world.
Third, ASEAN has surpassed the EU to become China’s largest trading partner. The two-way trade has reached $684 billion, among which, Vietnam, one single country, accounted for $192 billion. Both China and ASEAN are beneficiaries in such win-win cooperation.
China will continue to improve all-round business environment. The negative list of foreign investment has been further shortened and the door to the outside world will only open even wider. As the world’s second largest economy, China’s development will present even greater opportunities to India and other countries in the world. So, decoupling from China means closing the door to opportunities. I believe that wise governments and businesses will make the right choice.
China has never deliberately pursued a trade surplus with India. The current imbalance in China-India trade is mainly caused by the difference in the trade structure.
According to China’s statistics, despite the impact of the pandemic last year, the bilateral trade reached $87.6 billion, of which India’s exports to China were $20.8 billion, a year-on-year increase of 16%. It shows that the Chinese market will always welcome marketable commodities.
The economies of China and India are highly complementary. China has been India’s largest trading partner for consecutive years and India is China’s largest trading partner in South Asia. This is the result of the market functions and enterprises’ choices. Whether it be “complete decoupling” or “selective decoupling”, it will not be realistic and harm others without benefiting oneself.
China and India should integrate into the process of globalization and strive to make the pie of cooperation even bigger. We need to ease trade imbalance in the course of opening-up and mutually-beneficial cooperation to achieve common development.
We hope that India will treat all as equals in its opening-up and refrain from imposing restrictions on specific countries or regions, over-stretching the concept of national security to exclude companies from specific countries. We hope Indian authority will treat Chinese companies in accordance with the WTO principles of non-discrimination and fair market competition, and provide an open, transparent and fair business environment.
You mentioned environmental protection. Protecting the environment and tackling climate change are important for our future generations. President Xi Jinping has pointed out that “lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets”. China is pursuing the vision of innovative, coordinated, green, and open development that is for everyone. We are striving to promote ecological civilization. We will adopt more vigorous policies and measures to have CO2 emissions peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060.
China and India are members of the BASIC countries with similar positions on climate change. We have a good foundation for cooperation in this regard. India’s service sector has developed rapidly, and service sector has relatively low carbon emissions. China has advanced technologies in areas like new energy vehicles, smart grids, energy conservation and emission reduction. So we can further strengthen mutual learning, work together to tackle the challenge of climate change and complement each other in various fields.
Mr. Sudheendra Kulkarni: You really put it very well that when we expand the pie of cooperation, it is good for India and China and for many other countries in the world.
The COVID-19 pandemic has proved to be the worst public health crisis, also an economic crisis, the world has faced in modern times. How can India and China cooperate in fighting these crises – especially, by joining hands in vaccine cooperation and not competition?
Ambassador Sun: This is an important question actually. As you said in the beginning of this dialogue, we advocate building a community with a shared future for mankind. The global fight against the Covid-19 pandemic has proved that humanity is a community with a shared future. We are all in the same boat. It is only through mutual help, unity and cooperation can humankind overcome this crisis. The human society today is faced with many global challenges. There must be global action, global response and global cooperation.
China is a firm believer in making COVID vaccines a public good. China was among the first to pledge that its vaccines would be made a global public good. China has worked in real earnest to improve vaccine accessibility and affordability in developing countries. The safety and effectiveness of the Chinese vaccine are earning widespread recognition across the world. China is ready to discuss with other countries the feasibility and protocols for mutual recognition of vaccination. We hope that Chinese vaccines will inject more confidence and hope into the global fight against the virus. No matter by which country the vaccine is produced, it is a good vaccine so long as it is safe and effective. India is also promoting vaccination across the country. We do hope that India will make further progress and bring COVID-19 under control at an early date. We also oppose any kind of “vaccine nationalism” and “vaccine divide” or any attempt to politicize vaccine cooperation.
China will continue to support the work of the World Health Organization (WHO) and its key role in the fight against the pandemic. We will continue to push forward building a global community of health for all, and strive for an early victory over the corona-virus across the world. China and India may keep close communication with each other on this issue.
Mr. Sudheendra Kulkarni: I’m very heartening to hear that China regards the COVID vaccine as a global public good, which is available, accessible and affordable to all the people around the world because a truly global humanitarian crisis calls for the widest possible global cooperation.
My next question is somewhat sensitive. We are well aware that the Indian media has been putting a lot of focus on QUAD and it does so in ways that create a negative impression about China. Recently, QUAD leaders also had their first ever virtual meeting.
Since China and many other Asian countries are also maritime stakeholders in the region, would China be willing to cooperate with QUAD members in establishing a “rules-based” order to ensure free and peaceful navigation for one and all? In other words, from what China has called “Selective Multilateralism”, is there a possibility for India and China to create genuine multilateralism in the Indo-Pacific, with the participation of all other stakeholders? If we do so, I strongly believe we can remove a major irritant in India-China relations.
Ambassador Sun: The pandemic is accelerating the profound changes in a global landscape. The mankind is facing multiple crises, as we name some of them, economic recession, climate change, regional hotspots and other challenges. They are all closely interlinked with each other. Hegemonism, unilateralism, protectionism are prevailing. The right way to solve these challenges and problems is to strengthen the solidarity and cooperation of the international community and to practice the true multilateralism.
Earlier this year, President Xi Jinping delivered a speech at the World Economic Forum. He called for lighting up humanity’s way forward with multilateralism, and send out a strong message of building a community with a shared future for mankind.
The true multilateralism means upholding the UN-centered international system and the international order based on the international law. It means openness and inclusiveness instead of closeness and exclusion. It means equal-footed consultation instead of supremacy over others.
Building small circles in the name of multilateralism is in fact “group politics”. “Multilateralism prioritizing one’s own interests” is still unilateral thinking. “Selective multilateralism” is not the right choice.
China upholds peace, development, cooperation and mutual benefit. Our foreign policy is to safeguard world peace and promote common development. We unswervingly adhere to the path of peaceful development.
Culturally, China does not have the gene of hegemony in our blood. Historically, China used to be the most powerful country in the world, but never invaded or plundered other countries. Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China, we have followed an independent foreign policy of peace, and promoted the establishment of a just and reasonable international order.
Today, despite its fast growth and great achievements, China remains a developing country that is willing to help other developing countries achieve common development. We should not take it for granted that a large country will definitely bully others. This is not true. It will not happen to China. China hopes to manage its own affairs well and create a better life for its people. We will also safeguard our own legitimate rights and interests. We have no interest in replacing others or “dominating” the world.
Now we are in the 21st century, the mankind should be much more progressive and smarter than in the previous centuries, and must not repeat the mistakes made in history.
We should stand on the right side of history and firmly against power politics, “law of the jungle”, zero-sum games and cold war mentality.
All countries need to respect each other’s social systems and development paths, respect each other’s core interests and major concerns, and respect each other’s legitimate rights to develop themselves.
All countries should seek peaceful co-existence, equal-footed cooperation and win-win results, and work together to build a new type of international relations.
China and India are major developing countries and emerging economies. We share important and extensive common interests in international and regional affairs. We should stick to our independent foreign policy, strengthen policy coordination within the United Nations, G20, BRICS, Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), China-India-Russia and other multilateral institutions.
We should promote cooperation on pandemic prevention and control, poverty alleviation, energy security, climate change, environmental protection and food safety, and jointly maintain regional stability and safeguard the common interests of developing countries. China and India should work together to build a more just, democratic and rational multi-polar international order. Let’s come to work together.
Mr. Sudheendra Kulkarni: You said something really profound that we should learn from history and not repeat the mistakes of the past. We all know how in the 19th and 20th centuries major powers had a confrontational approach and the entire world suffered. The two horrific world wars. India and China, as two great civilizational countries, have a responsibility to set a new example. And therefore, you have said, our firm commitment to peace is to establish a new model and build the way for a new world order.
Ambassador Sun: Yes. I do believe so. I think China and India will benefit from the ancient civilizations of the East, that we value harmony, peace and families. We value all these things to live peacefully together. And also we believe that the whole world is one family and it’s a community with a shared future. So we have many common grounds on these issues.
Mr. Sudheendra Kulkarni: You know, as our Prime Minister often said, “vasudhaiva kutumbakam”. The entire world is one family. This is our ancient civilization wisdom, and absolutely the same thoughts are expressed by the Chinese. So it is a wisdom of our two civilizations that can guide the entire world to a better future.
Ambassador Sun: Exactly, we are living under the same dome. We have no where else to go. So what can we do? We can live peacefully with each other and solve problems through dialogues and consultations, but not to seek any kind of hegemony, “dominance” of the world or “the rule of jungle”. In jungles, of course, those bigger animals eat the smaller ones. But in human society, it should not happen. We are human beings and we are now in the 21st century. So we have to think about something new and not repeat the mistakes in history.
Mr. Sudheendra Kulkarni: You know, Ambassador, I’m so happy that I participated in the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations, which President Xi Jinping hosted in Beijing in 2019. This is precisely the message that the conference presented to the entire world. The wisdom of all the civilizations of the entire world, India, China and all other civilizations, we should respect each and draw upon the wisdom to build the way for the future.
You have been insistently and persistently emphasising the need for expanding People-to-People contacts as a strong anchor for India- China friendship. You will agree that when influential people or organisations in India – especially those that have a negative view of China – establish contacts with China, this has a better chance of making a positive contribution to our bilateral relations. I find that the Chinese society, including the educated public, has insufficient understanding about Hindu religion, Hindu culture and their contribution to Indian civilisation.
Therefore, there is a need for an ambitious programme aimed at making the Chinese people gain a better understanding about Hinduism and Hindu culture. What do you think the two countries should do to promote people-to-people contacts, especially with this perspective?
Ambassador Sun: You mentioned a very important international conference hosted by China. President Xi Jinping delivered a very important speech on mutual learning of civilizations. The world is colorful because of different civilizations. It is just like a big garden. You cannot imagine there is only one flower in this garden. There are so many flowers in this garden that make it more colorful and beautiful. It is the same with different civilizations. There are different “flowers” in this “big garden” of the planet. Different countries, big or small, are all making their contributions to making this garden more colorful. We cannot imagine there is only one civilization in the world.
In my opinion, China, India and many other civilizations should learn from each other and they can benefit from mutual learning. China and India are the world’s two large treasure houses of civilization, which lasted for thousands of years. In ancient times, we have Faxian, Xuanzang and Dharma-ratna, Bodhidharma. They introduced Bhuddism to China. We consider they have built the bridge of cultural and people-to-people exchanges between our two great civilizations. This is also the great contribution to the global civilizations.
In modern times, we have academic masters such as Ji Xianlin and Chandra Bagchi, devoted their whole life to explore and present the Chinese and Indian cultures to our peoples and the world. We need more people like Ji Xianlin and Chandra Bagchi nowadays to bring our two great cultures and civilizations even closer.
However, we know that the foundation of personnel exchanges between our two countries is weak. Before the Pandemic, there are only about one million mutual visits between China and India each year. I think this is totally incommensurate with the size of our two countries. Some Chinese people may not have enough knowledge about Indian culture, religion and folk customs. I think perhaps the same happens in India about China. Lack of close communication and contact between us leads to some misunderstandings and misinterpretation. Therefore, people-to-people exchanges between our two countries are indispensable, and we have huge potential in this regard. I think we can start from the following areas to have a better understanding of each other.
First, we should attach importance to language education. Languages serve as a bridge for cultures exchanges. We actively support Hindi education in China. In the beginning of this century, the Peking University was the only university with Hindi course. Now there are 18 universities in China to offer Hindi courses. On the other hand, the Chinese language is the most spoken language in the world. With the rapid growth of China, learning Chinese can better embrace opportunities and future. We are ready to work with the Indian side to promote Chinese language education and encourage the Indian people to learn Chinese for better understanding of China.
Second, we can step up local exchanges. There are 14 sister provinces and cities between China and India. During the second informal summit in Mahabalipuram, the two leaders agreed to establish sister province/city relations between Fujian province and Tamil Nadu, and between Quanzhou city and Chennai. We hope the two sides could implement the consensus as early as possible to further unleash the potential of bilateral local exchanges and cooperation.
Third, we need to support youth exchanges. China and India have the largest population of youth in the world. They are the mainstay of China-India friendship. During the pandemic, our young people actively held online sessions and forums on anti-pandemic experience and business cooperation. There are very touching moments when our young people were encouraging each other to fight the pandemic. We can have more online seminars and roundtables, and encourage our young people to share their photos, words and Vlogs about their experiences in India and China on social media platforms. This is a popular way among the “Z generations”.
In addition, we are also willing to communicate with all Indian political parties to share experience and enhance mutual understanding. As I see it, the sky is the limit for people-to-people exchanges and cultural learning.
Mr. Kulkarni, you have been committed to promoting cultural and people-to-people exchanges between our two great nations for such a long time. I really appreciate your efforts. I hope you can inspire more Indian friends to have an objective view towards China through your personal experiences and maybe after the pandemic through their own trips to China.
Mr. Sudheendra Kulkarni: What you said reminds me of the enormous contributions that Prof. Ji Xianlin, who has made contribution to scholarly understanding between our two countries. Not many people in India know that Prof. Ji Xianlin translated the Ramayana epic into Chinese and many other Hindu texts. By popularizing such works, we can indeed bring the two countries closer. As you rightly said, the sky is the limit. We have enormous potential and enormous need to expand and deepen people-to-people contacts, especially among the best minds of the two countries. So their thoughts will live for centuries. We still remember Prof. Ji Xianlin. We still remember all the great adventurers and explorers who travelled across the length and breadth of the subcontinent and China. So we should follow their footsteps.
This has been a very fruitful dialogue. Your Excellency, permit me, at the conclusion of this conversation, to make an important point from my side. I must bring to the attention of the listeners of this dialogue some wise thoughts that President Xi Jinping had presented in his profound speech when he visited India for the first time in September 2014. He delivered this speech at the Indian Council of World Affairs in New Delhi.
Paying a glowing tribute to India and Indian civilization, President Xi Jinping said: “I have read a lot about the colonial history of India when the Indian people fought arduously for national independence and when Mahatma Gandhi lived and conceived his ideas. By so doing, I was hoping to get insights into the evolution and character making of this great nation. I have read Tagore’s poetry, such as Gitanjali, Stray Bird, Gardener and Crescent Moon, many lines of which remain fresh in my mind.
He wrote, “We come nearest to the great when we are great in humility”… “Let life be beautiful like summer flowers and death like autumn leaves.” Such beautiful and philosophical lines have inspired me deeply in my outlook on life. Let me confess that I am deeply moved every time I read this speech by your President Xi Jinping.
The best way to conclude our conversation would be to remind ourselves of what President Xi Jinping said: “China and India have a combined population of over 2.5 billion. If we speak with one voice, the whole world will listen; and if we join hands, the whole world will pay attention.”
Thank you. Dhanyavaad. Xie Xie!
Ambassador Sun: You just quoted the important remarks delivered by President Xi, which demonstrates the great importance he attaches to China-India relations. The precious spiritual legacy left over by Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore still inspires us today. I still remember when Rabindranath Tagore was completing his journey to China in the last century, he said “My heart stays.” So you can see this close bond between our two great nations in history. This is really something we need to carry on in the new century. That is why we always say that the significance of China-India relations goes far beyond the bilateral scope. It has global and historical meaning. It is a long and arduous task for us to promote the development of China-India relations. As our leaders have guided us, we need to make unremitting efforts and meet each other half way during this process. Let me highlight three points as follows:
First, we should stick to the strategic consensus reached by President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. As I said in the beginning of the dialogue, China and India are partners rather than rivals, and development opportunities rather than threats to each other. This is the basic judgement, a political cornerstone and a strategic guidance for China-India relations. We should abide by this basic judgement. We should transmit the important consensus to all levels and put it into action.
Second, we need to view the bilateral relations from an overall, long-term and strategic perspective. China-India relations are not one-fold or flat, but multi-faceted and multi-dimensional. Our common interests far outweigh differences. We need view the China-India relationship as a whole, and must not keep our eyes only on one aspect of it. This relationship is not confined to any specific incident or a short period of time. This is not the way we should do. Let us think from the past, present and future. We cannot just focus on the current differences, and turn our back to the fundamental and long-term interests of our two countries. We should have a comprehensive and accurate understanding of the relationship.
Third, we need to push the bilateral relationship ahead. We should always be forward-looking and firmly follow the right path of mutual trust and cooperation, and not go astray with suspicion and distrust nor fall back on a road of negative retrogression. We need to follow the trend of history, and stick to the general direction of two major neighboring, emerging economies forging ahead side by side to jointly achieve development. I strongly believe this is what all peace-loving and development-seeking countries and people in the world hope to see.
I hope to meet you and Indian friends offline after the pandemic. We had a very good dialogue today and I look forward to having another talk about China-India friendship and mutually beneficial cooperation in the future. Let’s work hand-in-hand for a sound and stable development of China-India relations. Thank you! Dhanyavaad! Xie Xie!
Source: Chinese Embassy in India