World / Asia-Pacific

Scholar: India-China ties need better interaction

By Faisal Kidwai ( Updated: 2014-04-02 14:44

Border issues should not hurt business and cultural ties between China and India, says a leading Indian scholar.

Alka Acharya, director of New Delhi-based Institute of Chinese Studies, says the two nations are witnessing a transformed scenario, from the hurt and lack of trust after the 1962 conflict to an increase in trade and interaction.

But both countries need much better interaction at the people-to-people level as that would change our perception of each other, she says in a phone interview with China Daily.

While once China figured quite prominently in discussions and in media, it somewhat fell off the radar in India mainly because there was so little interaction, few and far meetings and dearth of information available about each other’s nations, she says.

“We don’t talk to each other directly, we don’t have the means to talk to each other and we don’t understand each other’s language. We need to focus more on transforming the way in which both the countries interact at the level of people because that will give the nations a solid foundation for the relationship. I would like to see an expansion in the interactions that are taking place, particularly at the people-to-people level.”

Acharya says the boundary issue has to be addressed if both parties want truly harmonious, normal and friendly ties because that is the source of a lot of suspicion and mistrust and also “core” of the fast-expanding relationship.

“There is an attempt to maintain dialogue on the boundary issue and at the same time also take steps that ensure that problems don’t escalate. We are also making sure that diversification in all other realms – economy, trade, cultural ties, and exchange of students – is not affected because of our differences. Therefore, we are gradually seeing a start of a process that is going to provide a much more comprehensive character to our relationship.”

While admitting that the two countries are not yet best of friends, Acharya is confident that both nations are moving toward a more rounded relationship.

Lack of focus

Her perception is that one of the reasons why there isn’t much understanding and knowledge of China in India is because there is not much reporting on China in the media.

“There isn’t much coverage of China in the Indian media because we don’t have people who have the language capability and who are willing to go to China and stay there. The main reason why China does not loom large on our horizon is due to our own lack of capabilities. With business and trade ties increasing, maybe our own vested interests will force us to start providing an in-depth coverage of the country. Unfortunately, we haven’t reached that point yet,” she says.

But Acharya is more positive on government-level talks, which she describes as having gone a major shift, particularly in the past five years. According to her, the Indian government is opening up an entire debate on broadening economic and commercial ties and allowing more opportunities to Chinese foreign investors.

“With national elections coming up in India, maybe the new government will follow-up many policies that have been debated in the recent past, especially in terms of boosting trade and investment” she says.

Exchange of scholars

The two countries have a combined population of more than two billion, but only a fraction of students visit each other’s countries. Both India and China need to focus on increasing the student exchange program, especially at the scholarly academics level. This should be the focus area in the next decade, says Acharya.

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