On March 30, prominent politicians, entrepreneurs and journalists from China and India gathered in Beijing for the beginning of the 2010 India-China Development Forum, a series of intense discussions on how to build closer ties between the two powers.
Minister of the State Council Information Office Wang Chen, Indian Ambassador to China S. Jaishankar, President of China International Publishing Group Zhou Mingwei, Chairman of China-India Eminent Persons' Group Liu Shuqin, and former Chinese Ambassador to India and Secretary General of the China-India Eminent Persons' Group Zhou Gang spoke at the event held under the theme of "India & China: Building the Future Together."
As the two most ancient civilizations of the world, Wang Chen said, China and India have maintained cultural exchanges and trade for centuries. Today, both countries possess active cooperation in bilateral, regional and international affairs. Exchanges are strengthening in various fields ranging from the economy, trade, humanities and the media. A solid Sino-Indian relationship is important for both countries and also contributes greatly to peace and development of Asia and the world.
Indian Ambassador to China S. Jaishankar emphasized the significance of cooperation between the two countries. "We grow best when we grow together," he said. "We need to understand each other better--including each other's societies and beliefs--to embrace closer relations."
Strengthening economic ties
An emphasis on economic ties was a highlight of the forum. Both sides agreed on the need to further explore the cooperation potential in this area.
Economic cooperation is the core of a new type of Sino-Indian relations, thus trade and mutual investment are critical, said Jaishankar at the forum.
Economic and trade cooperation, nonetheless, is a relatively new area in Sino-Indian bilateral relations. China can find huge commercial potential in demand from Indian consumers and the Indian infrastructure construction sector. India also seeks to expand its exports to China in terms of IT and engineering, as well as pharmaceutical and agricultural products.
The ambassador also expressed his anxiety on problems that have emerged--including a trade imbalance and the difficulties that Chinese companies face while carrying out infrastructure projects in India. He said New Delhi attaches much importance to its trade imbalance with China. It has been agreed that China will purchase more Indian products. He added that he hopes bigger progress can be made this year.
The envoy added that the problems facing Chinese companies regarding infrastructure projects in India are being addressed. "The bottom line for Sino-Indian relations is that as long as we develop together, we can achieve prosperity together," said the ambassador.
In recent years, China has replaced the United States to become India's biggest trade partner, while India is China's seventh largest trading partner.
Promoting political mutual trust
Political differences were discussed heatedly in the forum. Participants on both sides emphasized the importance of mutual trust. Karan Thapar, President of Infortainment Television of India, said suspicions in the past several decades had led to misunderstanding between people of the two countries. These suspicions mainly arose from the border disputes and China's relations with Pakistan.
"In order to realize mutual trust, we must put suspicions and differences aside," he said.
Zhou Gang, former Chinese Ambassador to India and Secretary General of China-India Eminent Persons' Group, responded that the two countries should strive for the solution of border disputes accompanied by the development of bilateral relations. "The two tasks should go side-by-side," he said. "We cannot let the border disputes block the development of bilateral relations."
Due to their different histories, cultural traditions, social norms, ideologies and development models, it is natural that the two countries hold different views and attitudes towards many issues. Moreover, "even twins have big differences, not to mention two big powers," said Zhou.
He called for a broader strategic vision and political wisdom of politicians from both sides in this regard.
President of China International Publishing Group Zhou Mingwei also proposed that the two countries should adopt constructive means to resolve the disputes, putting aside differences to strive for common development.
Promoting cultural exchanges
Cultural exchanges represented another important topic in the forum. Zhou Mingwei emphasized that "we should make more efforts to promote cultural exchanges between the two countries," he said. "The cultural exchanges between the two countries are far behind economic and trade contacts. Great importance should be attached to cultural exchanges to promote communication and mutual understanding between the people of the two nations."
The year 2010 marks the 60th anniversary of Sino-Indian relations. China and India will hold the Festival of India and the Festival of China respectively, coupled with various celebratory activities. Hopefully, people of the two countries will have a good opportunity to appreciate each other's brilliant cultures and deepen their mutual understanding.