Coming to China is like a homecoming
It is an honour for me to represent my country as Ambassador to China since January 2014. It is particularly a privilege for me as I have been associated with China since the start of my diplomatic career. I studied Chinese at Nanyang University in Singapore in 1979-81, and thereafter, I served in the Indian Embassy in Beijing from 1981 until 1985. I was also the Consul General of India in Hong Kong. I have dealt with China at our Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi in different capacities, including as the Director General dealing with East Asia. Thus, a good part of my career has been devoted to China. So, in a sense, this is a homecoming for me.
I have always thought of China as a fascinating country with many interesting facets. I am always struck by the many cultural areas we share in common as two large ancient civilizations as well as two emerging economies. I have been privileged to witness the remarkable transformation taking place in this country for over three decades now.
2013 was a very successful period in our bilateral relationship and we call it the “Year of Harvest.” When I came to China in January 2014, my job was clear-cut – to develop India-China ties into an example of neighbors in peace, emerging economies in collaboration and vibrant societies with unique civilizational ethos actively engaging and interacting with each other.
The year 2014 was the Year of Friendly Exchanges. In this year, our relationship was enriched by a series of high level visits, including that by the Vice President of India to China. The state visit of President Xi Jinping to India was a high watermark for our engagement and took our exchanges to a new trajectory of cooperation. The new Government in India, led by Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi, has also accorded the highest priority to bilateral relations. In fact, Prime Minister Modi and President Xi have already met three times in the last six months, and PM Modi has also met with Premier Li Keqiang in Myanmar. We have strengthened our relationship in all areas, including at the political, economic and cultural levels. Our two countries have added new substance to our strategic and cooperative partnership.
We are also looking at broad-basing our economic partnership and are encouraging two-way flows of investments. Several new areas of cooperation emerged during President Xi’s visit to India, including in railways and industrial parks. We have agreed on several other initiatives such as cooperation in the fields of smart cities, space, and civil nuclear energy. We have enhanced exchanges in the defence field at all levels. We have successfully concluded the “Hand-in-hand” joint counter-terrorism exercises in November.
People-to-people contacts are making notable progress. We have had vibrant cultural exchanges in this year, with the Embassy organizing the Glimpses of India Festival in 14 cities of China. Besides, India and China are also cooperating with each other in the multilateral context. One example I can give you in this regard is the decision to establish the BRICS-led New Development Bank.
When I look back at the year that has just gone by, I do feel a sense of satisfaction. I am also encouraged by these accomplishments to plan ahead for an even more successful year in 2015. We expect Prime Minister Modi to visit China this year.
My first assignment in China was in the early years of reform and opening up. Since then, I have had the opportunity to look at China in different stages of development. Today, China has grown tremendously, becoming the second largest economy in the world. We in India have tremendous admiration for the way China has developed. We are also in the process of striving for development and improving our people’s livelihood. We believe that we can draw important lessons from China’s development. China’s growth provides an opportunity for us and vice versa.
We would like to utilize the synergies that exist between our two countries. Let me illustrate this point. Chinese companies have comparative advantage in the areas of infrastructure and manufacturing. In India, the government believes that infrastructure and manufacturing have to be the major focus for the country to develop. The government led by Prime Minister Modi has launched the “Make in India” campaign to invite foreign investment. We believe that Chinese companies can make use of this opportunity and invest in India, both for our large domestic market and for exports, thus resulting in a win-win situation for both our countries.
I have had the opportunity to travel fairly extensively within China. China is a vast country with every region possessing some unique characteristics. For instance, I had the opportunity to visit Dunhuang recently. The rich heritage of cultural contacts between India and China over the past 2000 years was vividly visible in Dunhuang. I have also noticed during my travels that there is deep interest about India in China and a genuine desire to know more about my country. However, despite this, the number of Chinese traveling to India is miniscule. The number of Indians traveling to China is also not up to the potential. Recognizing this, we will be launching the Visit India Year in China and the Embassy of India in China is planning to hold a series of activities, not only in Beijing but also in different parts of China, to introduce India to our Chinese friends and promote tourism from China to India. India and China are ancient civilizations and have a long history of exchanges and interactions. Thus, one of my priorities as the Ambassador is to bring these two great civilizations closer together.