Event ReportsPublished on Oct 22, 2009
A five-member delegation from the Beijing-based China Institute of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR) exchanged views with the ORF faculty on bilateral relations, media reportage, regional issues, international terrorism, and possible areas of research cooperation
Delegation from Chinese think tank visits ORF

A five-member delegation from the Beijing-based China Institute of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR) visited ORF campus on 22 October, 2009 for an interaction with the ORF research faculty. The two sides exchanged views on a wide-range of issues including the bilateral relations, media reportage, regional issues, international terrorism, and possible areas of research cooperation. The interaction was most candid.

Initiating the discussion, Mr. Sunjoy Joshi, Distinguished Fellow at ORF, said that trade has brought the two countries closer and despite some misunderstandings highlighted in the media between the two neighbours, the economic fundamentals of the growing relationship remain strong. He also said that there were gaps in the contemporary understanding of “New India” and “New China”. He noted that the aim of the meeting was to know about regional issues and common concerns and exchange views freely so as to narrow their perception gap.

India-China relations

The discussion noted that the relations between India and China were moving in a satisfactory manner despite the dispute hyped in the media in the recent months. Participants from both sides felt that India and China need to look beyond the boundary question and enter into a greater dialogue that address regional issues including terrorism and continue their close cooperation on global issues such as climate change and the financial crisis.

It was also pointed out that India-China bilateral relations have been largely driven by governments and that future relations would need to necessarily involve the people-to-people relationship; the media; and the intelligentsia of the two countries. A view was expressed that both India and China were now icons of the global south and there was a need to cooperate with each other to provide a new path in establishing a sustainable and equitable model for other developing countries.

The growing relations of the two armies in terms of exchange of officials and joint exercises on counter-terrorism were seen as healthy signs. It was also noted that despite minor issues that crop up from time to time local commanders were able to resolve much of these and their relationship needs to be encouraged. On the boundary issue it was noted that there was need for mutual concessions to resolve the issue. A suggestion was made that India and China could draw lessons from China-Russia boundary resolution. In Africa, it was noted that China and India could cooperate towards developing the African nations and reaching prosperity to their people.

The Role of Media

The role of the media in the two countries was also discussed. Both sides were of the view that the media in both countries have sometime played up tension between the two countries to cater to domestic constituencies and in the hunger for newsworthy content.

The Chinese side pointed out that the media in their country has been undergoing some changes in the age of the internet. The increase in the use of internet has also thrown up “netizens” with diverse views and opinions who are beyond the control of the government. It was not true that the Chinese government has complete control over the media as seen by outsiders, pointed out the Chinese participants. It was noted that the Chinese leadership was aware of this trend and because sometimes the mass media misled public opinion, the Chinese authorities were briefed about domestic public opinion. It was also pointed out that the media reports do not necessarily represent the government’s viewpoint.

South Asia

Regional issues that dominated the discussion incldued the situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan; growing international terrorism; and increasing piracy in the Indian Ocean. The meeting felt that South Asia was becoming the focus in the recent years because of the rapid destabilization and uncertainty in the region; Afghanistan and Pakistan. In this context it was noted that India and China need to cooperate for the stability of in the region.

China-India relations were most important in the regional context and there were common economic and strategic interests that could be cultivated to counter the challenges posed by the deteriorating security situation in South Asia. Joint efforts against piracy and terrorism were also emphasized.

“Af-Pak” Policy

The Chinese side provided their assessment on the South Asia security situation by identifying three broad trends emerging after Obama’s “Af-Pak” policy. The first was that the western part of South Asia has been dominated by the US while the eastern side dominated by India. Second, the focus of security in South Asia has been shifting from Kashmir to countering terrorism in the western regions of Pakistan. Third, the cost of US “anti-terror war” has been on the rise and Washington does not know how to obtain success in its campaign against terror any more.

It was felt that the US’ success in its military engagement in Afghanistan was doubtful. The Chinese side felt that India’s policy was submissive to the Af-Pak policy. The Indian side also noted that they share the same concerns but clarified India’s Afghanistan policy was independent of any external policy and agreed that India and the neighbouring countries including China need to articulate their own independent policy.

On the recent Pakistani army offensive in its western region, the Chinese side noted that Pakistan may be more serious this time around. The Indian participants however pointed out that it may be too early to be sure of Pakistan’s sincerity. The Indian side was of the view that the problem between China and India was Pakistan. It was pointed out that China needed to do more by using its leverages with Pakistan to stop Pakistan becoming a “failed state”.

Radical ideology was a major threat to both countries and the region at large. The Chinese side noted that a consequence of the wave of independence in the Central Asian republics after the collapse of the Soviet Union had provided the stimulus to this problem in the bordering Chinese province of Xinjiang.

It was noted that instead of competitive policies in the region, China and India need to adopt more cooperative policies. It was also pointed out that regional powers should provide options to the Taliban soldiers so as to enable their defection. The Chinese side noted that Afghanistan was important for China both in terms of security and economic interests.

The Chinese side mentioned that China was considering sending peace-keeping troop to Afghanistan; a development welcomed by the Indian side. Regional countries need to emphasis on economic aid to Afghanistan. Bilateral and multilateral dialogues need to be encouraged to address the issues of Afghanistan. Both sides agreed that neighbours would have to get involved to stabilize Afghanistan. It was pointed out that terrorism should be seen as a regional issue instead of nation seeking to cut specific deals with terror groups.

A New Forum

The need for a regional forum where regional issues could be discussed was emphasized. The Indian side pointed out that there was already a trilateral forum in the form of RIC (Russia-India-China) where they three countries could cooperate on issues of regional concerns, if China wanted. It was noted that regional organization such as Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), where both India and China are members, could also discuss the issue of Afghanistan.

The discussion ended with the view that India and China need to find some cooperative frameworks which could help stabilize the region and the world. Both sides have also expressed their desire for institutional collaboration between ORF and CICIR in an effort to contribute towards strengthening the relations between the two countries.

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