Towards India-China harmony and a shared future

Towards India-China harmony and a shared future

By Prof.B.R.Deepak/China Daily

The concept of a Community of with a Shared Future has been propounded by President Xi Jinping on a number of occasions since 2013, including at the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2018.

“I hope that people around the world will work together toward this Community with a Shared Future for mankind and make Asia and the world peaceful, tranquil, prosperous, open and beautiful,” Xi said on April 10 in Boao, South China’s Hainan province.

The concept of a Community with a Shared Future integrates the Chinese dream with the desire of the people of the neighboring countries for a good life and with prospects of regional development. It is matched with actions by China while executing its bilateral, multilateral, regional, and major country economic and foreign policy.

Inter-Civilizational Exchange 

As regards India and China, I want to highlight the inter-civilizational exchange, one of the fundamentals of the concept of a Shared Future. It was the unhindered circulation of ideas, technology, objects and people that enriched these civilizations. Whether it was the birth of Chinese Buddhism, or the dissemination of ancient India and Central Asian astronomy, literature, music and languages into China, or technologies such as sugar making, paper manufacturing, steel smelting, silk, porcelain and tea — traveling from China to India and other countries the concept of a Community with a Shared Future enriched the knowledge systems across the world, beyond doubt.

Moreover, this happened owing to the unimpeded flow of the people. For example, the translation industry it created in China had people from India and many Central Asian countries. Most importantly, these were the people who were responsible for creating the entire repository of the Buddhist literature in China and Northeast Asia, which in fact preserved many of the sutras (suttas) that were lost in India. Therefore, it was ‘learning from civilizations’ rather than the Fukuyama thesis of the ‘clash of civilizations’ that prevailed..

Presently, even though there is a flow of one million people between India and China, there is a tremendous scope for taking this exchange to new heights, especially in the field of education.

Secondly, common prosperity through mutual cooperation, openness, inclusive and sustainable development is integral to the Community with a Shared Future. Accounting for almost 40 percent of the world population, India and China are the world’s seventh and second largest economies, respectively. These are like the twin engines of global economic growth. China by itself contributed over 30 percent of the present global growth.

Both have initiated grandiose development strategies and connectivity initiatives that will integrate these countries even more closely with the regional and global economic ecosystems. Examples are: Made in China 2025, the Belt and Road Initiative, Make in India, Digital India, and Sagarmala, India’s program for port-led development.

Now the question that arises is: Can India and China harmonize their development strategies, complement each other, and forge a win-win partnership?

There are tremendous complementarities for realizing and sharing the benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

I believe China’s development experience of the last 40 years, its capital and technology, will immensely complement India’s labor-intensive market. Some of the most competitive industries such as pharmaceuticals and information technology can be sent out to China,provided there is reciprocity in market access.

India will tend to benefit more than China, being able to build capacities in hard and soft infrastructure that will unleash productive forces and ensure sustainable economic growth.

The docking of connectivity initiatives even selectively, will integrate India more closely with the countries of ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations). Economic globalization is a historical and irreversible trend. The circulation of ideas, commodities, technology and people during ancient times had demonstrated that it was never mono-dimensional — rather it was multi-vectored, multi-nodal and multilateral.

Dialogue A Key Requirement

Thirdly, the community of Shared Future calls for peace and security through dialogue. It calls for abandoning the Cold War mentality and the zero-sum game.

Meanwhile, it advocates common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security. Both India and China need to be mindful of the fact that the bilateral security boundary is not just limited to the border issue between the two; it has sprawled into various other fields such as maritime, river water, cyber security, counter terrorism and other nontraditional security areas.

In view of this, both India and China need to establish new dialogue mechanisms while substantiating or replacing the older ones. Many of these issues have transcended the bilateral dialogue mechanisms and have been discussed at other multilateral forums such as BRICS (the grouping of major emerging economies Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.

The peaceful resolution of the Doklam (Donglang) standoff last year shows that both sides would like to resolve such crises through peaceful dialogue, minimize differences and broaden cooperation.

Nonetheless, the occurrence of such episodes must be avoided at all cost, for these are extremely dangerous and injurious to good neighborliness.

Finally, building a sound ecosystem remains an important element of the Community with a Shared Future. India and China being two of the largest consumers of energy are duty bound to build a sound ecology not only for the region but also for the future of humankind. In this context, they must be complimented for adhering to the Paris Agreement despite being at crucial stages in their development.

Therefore, cooperation in the energy sector is crucial. India and China coming together against the so-called Asian Premium by OPEC (the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) is a good development.

Also, both could think of building a network of gas and oil pipelines in order to integrate their economies more closely, and forge collaborative partnerships in renewable energy and anti-smog technologies where China has made huge advances.

The India-China relationship remains one of the most important relationships of this century, that will determine the future global economic and political architecture.

However, while building the Community with a Shared Future in Asia and beyond, India and China need to be sensitive towards each other.

(The image at the top shows an Indian student with his Chinese classmates. More than 13,000 Indian students study in China)

(The author is Professor of Chinese studies at the Center for Chinese and Southeast Asian Studies of Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi)