Building A Better Understanding

The world today is no longer what it was 50 years ago, neither India or China. It was unthinkable for the Chinese Communists to have good wishes from a right-wing Indian political party at their party congress in the sixties. But things have changed drastically over the years. They no longer distinguish between left and right. Nor are they eager to get greetings from Communist Parties only. It doesn’t matter whether the cat is black or white. On the occasion of the opening of the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), the so-called mainstream political parties of India, sent their congratulations to the CPC while expressing hope to improve bilateral relations. Besides two communist parties—CPM and CPI—Indian National Congress (INC), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Janata Dal (U) and Forward Bloc, were in line to show their love and friendship posture to the CPC as their ‘sincere’ efforts to further improve India-China relations. And BJP even excelled the Indian Communist twins in appreciating China’s global prestige and position in world affairs. In truth the warm fraternal greetings sent by the INC was a somewhat muted affair, almost in a business-as-usual tone.

In international communist culture, the days of party-to-party relationship seems to have lost relevance for all practical purposes. Even in the late sixties and early seventies, recognition by the CPC was regarded as a trade mark for the correctness of ideological and political line. It is no more. Though the CPC doesn’t believe in multi-party democracy as it is practised in most countries, they have no problem in cultivating fraternal relations with a host of communist and non-communist parties that strictly follow multi-party parliamentary democracy. The Chinese count every bit of support, no matter how small it is. They have been maintaining this tradition since their pre-liberation days. So president Sharad Yadav of JD(U) who visited China recently and was highly impressed with the Chinese miracle in ‘market socialism’, sent his warm congratulations, praising the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics. Mr Yadav’s statements sounded more like maoist as he would describe the Chinese revolution since its birth as a new light and direction to revolutionary masses of the world. But a number of maoists were put behind bars for uttering such words, not very long ago. The Yadavs never showed any revolutionary zeal to oppose the draconian detention laws of the Centre and ‘Operation Green Hunt’ in central India.

The end of party-to-party relationship is a nice development as it also signifies the end of ideological slavery for which Indian Communist Movement has been suffering since its inception. Barring a short period of the great debate the Chinese never thought of shouldering the responsibility of giving leadership to international communist movement, albeit most communist parties in third world countries, accepted them as natural vanguard. They didn’t take responsibility but intervened in a number of communist parties, engineering splits and disaster as well.

Today, the Chinese are poles apart in the field of theory and practice of Communist ideals. They have only one priority—national interests at any cost. These days they interpret everything in terms of market. Even their stance for improved bilateral relations with India revolves around market. They think, after China, only India has the biggest market for fast moving consumer goods. As per Boston Consulting Group’s latest study, by 2020, the middle class of India, having purchasing power will grow to 45 percent of its population. This is precisely the timetable for China attaining the superpower status in real sense. No doubt such a huge market potential draws Chinese ‘socialists’ to India. After the West, they are in all praise for India’s opening up of the retail sector to foreign brands. If WalMart can do, the Chinese can do it as well, maybe, in a more efficient way because retail is one area where they have perfected their expertise.

It is good to hear from the Charge d´ Affaires of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in India that the common interests between India and China far outweigh the scars left by the 1962 conflict. If that is the reality the trade volume of around $70 billion and the mutual investment of less than $1 billion between India and China could have multiplied many times. Mistrust is so deep-rooted that official friendship jargons could hardly remove those ‘scars’. The outgoing premier Wen Jiabao once went a bit philosophical as he would observe that India and China enjoyed friendly relations stretched over 2000 years, or 99.9 percent of inter-actions, and the conflict between the two countries only lasted less than 0.1 percent.

But this 0.1 percent is a stumbling block in improving bilateral relations to the desired level of satisfaction. It’s not that easy to say goodbye to the shadow of the past and look at the India-China relations in a new and comprehensive way with a light heart. Hopes are high but they get seldom translated into action. How to shed burden of the dead past while continually moving forward remains a delicate issue. India is not ready to forget its humiliation in the Himalayas in October 1962. Nor will China ever show any magnanimity by making the border question a give-and-take deal. That Indian monks Kumarajiva and Bodhidharma spread Buddhist teachings in China, may have academic interest to research scholars but in the world of real politic they do hardly matter in improving relations.

Vol. 45, No. 29, January 27- Feb 2, 2013

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