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Asix-member delegation from Chengdu-based Sichuan University (China), led by Yang Wenwu, Senior Professor and Deputy Director, Institute of South Asian Studies (Sichuan University), and comprising Mr. Zhen Bo, Assistant Director, Institute of South Asian Studies, and Mr. Zeng Xiangyu, Mr. Liu Jiawei, Mrs. Wang Juanjuan and Mrs. Liu Siwei, all Associate Professors, as members of the delegation, visited the Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF) for the annual VIF-Sichuan University dialogue, hosted alternatively by the two institutions. Held over a day and a half day on 12 & 13 April 2017, the dialogue focused on the broader dimensions of Sino-Indian relationsas also on thecontours of global and regional developments with implications for the bilateral relationship. More specifically, areas identified for detailed examination included: Future of Afghanistan and Pakistan, Economic Reforms in India and China, India and China view of US under President Trump, Public Diplomacy, Maritime Issues, and Panel on Developments Related to the Frontier Areas.
The dialogue between the two institutions was held in a frank and candid atmosphere leading to better understanding of each other’s viewpoints on a number of critical issues. At the outset, General NC Vij, Director, VIF, stressed the significance of India-China cooperation from a wider regional and global perspectivestating that21st century belongs to Asia, where India and China - both rising and aspirational powers - need to cooperate with each other in order to secure the future of about one third of humanity as also to maintain strategic balance in the region, a view that leader of the visiting delegation also shared. The ensuing interactions, however, pointed out that while China and India have had almost similar historical experiences as the two oldest surviving civilisations, the cultural and religious linkages between the two countries have not been fully exploited for the furtherance of bilateral ties.
On a flip side, the dialogue highlighted that while China and India have had more or less the same developmental goals and trajectories of development, there remains serious concerns on both sides as regards their strategic and economic interests overlapping each other’s. A reference, in this regard, was drawn to Beijing’s ambitious Maritime Silk Route (MSR) initiative, which upon completion will tend to integrate the region and its economy through an overarching presence of infrastructure projects. While the Chinese delegation sought to pass off MSR as an economic and cultural initiative, the Indian interlocutors felt that the initiative would seriously undermine India’s security interests, especially in and around the Indian Ocean. They further pointed out that lack of clarity as regards ground rules on the proposed MSR has made India even more hesitant. Besides, Indian objections to China building an economic corridor through disputed Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) were also placed on the table. Among other issues, the rising presence of the Islamic State in South Asia, especially in the AF-Pak region, came up for a detailed discussion during the conference. While there was general consensus across the table that radicalization posed a common challenge to both China and India, perceptions of both sides differed with regard to China adopting an accommodative stance on the Taliban in Afghanistan. Both sides however agreed that Afghanistan’s security and stability is central to the region’s security and stability.
With perceptional differences between the two sides persisting, the Chinese side alluded to ‘imagined security dilemmas’, while the Indian side insisted that China come up with transparent policies vis-à-vis MSR, especially the nodes that impinge on India’s security. There were a few significant takeaways from the dialogue. Interaction between the two sides highlighted the need for confidence building measures, especially in the maritime domain. Both sides agreed that the two countries needed to step up their level of security cooperation by taking up coordinated operations against sea-piracy as also sharing intelligence on terrorism, especially in the Af-Pak region. Both sides also agreed that expanding the scope of public diplomacy would lead to an overall improvement in the bilateral relations. Amb Kanwal Sibal, Lt Gen Ravi Sawhney, Amb Ashok Kantha, Amb TCA Rangachari, Mr. TN Ninan and Mr. Sanjoy Hazarika, among others, participated in the dialogue on behalf of the VIF.