The China-India Media Forum, launched in 2013, has just held its second meeting in Beijing. The Indian Government, which recently changed hands and is now led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) since May 2014, sent a delegation of seasoned journalists to participate in the second edition.
The two major political parties of India, the Indian National Congress and the BJP, both agree on the importance of China for India as well as the crucial role that the media of the two countries can play to bring the two Asian giants closer.
It is encouraging that the governments of India and China have been making such efforts to bring their media entities closer to each other. However, because the two countries are so large and their media units are so diverse, the media forum should sharpen its focus in three respects to become more vibrant and results-oriented.
Journalists should be tasked with running the forum. The state support to the media forum from the two governments is both welcome and crucial. But the day-to-day management of the forum should be given to proven experts in the field.
India and China cannot hope for much from the media forum if it continues to function at its current pace. The first meeting of the forum was held in 2013 in New Delhi and since then, one has not heard of any activity from the body. Each government can nominate two or three journalists from its side on the forum's administrative panel with tenure of two or three years.
In other words, the India-China Media Forum should be of the journalists, by the journalists but not for the journalists. In fact, this body should be for the bigger entity of "ChIndia."
The media forum is at present required to meet twice a year. The forum must meet more frequently—perhaps twice a year at alternate venues. Incidentally, the venues too must keep shifting and should not be the two countries' capitals all of the time.
The forum should conduct seminars on specific themes as frequently as possible. The themes for the seminars should be diverse: sports, cinema, economy, science and technology, space, political, defense, society, crime or entertainment.
Media outfits from the two sides could benefit from exchanging notes on various disciplines and see how their respective countries are covering these issues and what each can learn from the other.
As journalists from the two sides meet with each other more frequently, it would ensure better synergy between the two peoples. If the people of India and China are ignorant of each other's customs, traditions, cultures and systems, it is simply due to underreporting by their respective media outfits.
In the past decade or so, there has been renewed interest and curiosity among the people of India and China to know each other better, for both political and economic reasons. After all, in this Asian century, it is India and China who are still registering impressive GDP growth rates even though Japan, the whole of Europe and many other parts of the world are severely hit by declining economies.
The International Monetary Fund projects that India is likely to outpace China in terms of annual growth rate from next year. There is a healthy rivalry between Asia's number one and number three economies.
If business journalists from the two sides were to get together on this topic, they could help their respective audiences better understand their neighbors.
Journalists should be part of the nation-building process.
China commands a lot of respect for its proven ability to undertake difficult projects and complete them on or before schedule. Similarly, India too is respected in China for its vibrant democracy.
These are the two areas where the media can perform a vibrant role and plug loopholes. The world knows about China's massive Three Gorges Dam project or the sheer engineering marvel of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway or the fact that the China-Europe cargo train track has been operational for quite some time. But in India, most people are unaware.
Apart from elections, India has a lot to offer the world, especially China. It would do a world of good if Indian and Chinese journalists showcase how their respective governments built a particular project—a tunnel, a railway line, an airport, a bridge, an iconic building or an industrial park.
Companies in charge of these projects should take journalists from the other country and show them the progress of the construction work. In this way, journalists may take part in the nation-building process and give their audiences a clearer understanding of these important developments.
The author is a New Delhi-based independent columnist specializing in Indian politics and China-India relations
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