China-India ties soaring

In terms of business corporation, the two big Asian markets have much to offer each other

It’s been a little over one year since I became Chinese ambassador to India, and the tangible progress in our relations is not lost on me, or anyone. I am deeply encouraged by the burgeoning cooperation and growing friendship and am more optimistic than ever of the bright prospect of China-India relations.

Engagement between our leaders has become a regular occurrence. Over the past year, President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi met five times, including their mutual visits. The chemistry between our leaders is visible as President Xi tried his hand on a legendary charkha and swung on the typical Gujarati jhoola with Modi, and as Modi opened his Weibo account to communicate with Chinese fans and posted the “super selfie” with Premier Li. Such chemistry, hard to envisage a year ago, has generated in both societies strong passion and affection for each other. Every cell of the society is now mobilized, adding wings and breathing new life to our relations.

 In terms of business cooperation, the two big markets of China and India have much to offer each other. Chinese accumulative investment in India almost tripled to $2.7 billion this year. There is huge demand and desire on both parts to join hands, especially in such key areas as manufacturing and infrastructure. The Chinese real estate giant Wanda group plans to work with Haryana government to build a township in Kharkhoda with initial investment of $10 billion. And Sany Group, China’s No.1 and the world’s No. 5 construction machinery manufacturer, plans to build on its investment in India and develop global R&D, manufacturing, sourcing and training bases here in the coming five years. Its Chairman and President, along with a group of heavy-weight Chinese businesses, are meeting with PM Modi. I am sure the meeting will be followed by more investment and cooperation.

Sub-national ties are flouring, putting the overall bilateral relations on a solid footing. The first Local Leaders’ Forum was held and 10 pairs of sister cities and states/provinces established. Every week I receive local delegations from China. Not long ago, governor Zhu Xiaodan of Guangdong province led a huge business delegation to visit Gujarat, during the economic and trade fair attended by more than 100 Chinese and Indian businesses, 15 agreements worth $500 million were signed. A number of Indian chief ministers have visited China, including Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu.

Popular move

People-to-people exchanges have picked up remarkably. The opening of Nathula Pass and the launch of e-visa for Chinese tourists are signal events in China-India relations. So far, five official batches of over 200 pilgrims have realised their dream yatra to Kailash Manasarovar. And discussion is underway to add more batches from next year. During this year’s Kumbh Mela, the holy water from Kailash Manasarovar was fetched to mingle with the holy water from the Ganga. The confluence of the two holy waters is also a symbol of the friendship between our two peoples. Speaking of e-visa, credit should be given to Prime Minister Modi for this popular move. In August alone, this first month since its implementation, the number of Chinese visitors traveling to India has doubled, and the figure may well exceed one million in the next five years. The increase of personnel exchanges is a two-way street, our embassy alone, not to mention consulates-general in other parts of India, issues nearly 2000 visas on a monthly basis, with the peak number reaching 2700 per month.

As interest in each other increases, more art exhibitions, cultural performances, book fairs and media forums are held. More Indians are taking up Chinese and using WeChat. Indian food and Bollywood films have become a hit in China. And I can’t wait to watch the three films co-produced by China and India about Kongfu Yoga, Xuanzang and a journey to India.

Next year is the “Visit China Year” in India, the rich tourism and cultural resources in our two ancient civilizations are waiting to be explored. As close neighbours that enjoy time-honoured friendship, we have every reason to reach out and visit each other more. As India hosts the BRICS Summit and China hosts the G20 Summit in 2016, there are many opportunities for our leaders to meet and talk.

Leadership-level engagement and people-to-people exchanges will reinforce each other and inject still more dynamism to our relations. Though this means a heavier workload for us at the embassy, we are just as happy and encouraged as we are busy.

Media has played an indispensable role in covering and promoting China-India relations. It has helped creating better understanding of each other, particularly at the people-to-people level. I believe that as we move ahead, the media will play an even bigger role in bringing the two neighbours closer for intense engagement.

(The author is the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to India)

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