The 21st round of talks between Chinese and Indian special representatives on boundary issues was held in Chengdu, capital of southwest China’s Sichuan Province on Saturday. The press release stated that the meeting reached an important consensus, “the tone of which is positive, constructive and forward-looking.”Public opinion has noticed that compared with previous announcements, which were mostly diplomatic rhetoric, the content of this communiqué is relatively comprehensive and new.
Obviously, the meeting atmosphere was friendly and led to fruitful results.
The Meeting on China-India Boundary Issue was launched in 2003 and has been going on for 15 years, but its overall progress has not been impressive. However, the meeting is of great practical and symbolic significance as it has been aiming to address the most complicated and sensitive border disputes in China-India relations.
With such a working mechanism, soldiers stationed on the China-India border line would exercise self-restraint when dealing with differences on the frontlines, so as to possibly avoid conflicts, which was absolutely a matter of great importance for two neighboring countries.
The Chengdu meeting was the first China-India boundary negotiations after the border stand-off between the two neighbors and also the first negotiation held after leaders of the two sides met in Wuhan, capital of central China's Hubei Province.
During the tense confrontation of troops in the Dong Lang area, both Indian and Chinese public opinions have voiced radically. Imagine what kind of situation would China-India relations be like today if the two sides really came into fighting? It has been proven that the decision makers in both China and India are strategically calm, which is good for the two countries and the overall region.
The interdependence of China and India in areas of economic and trade is not heavy. Culturally, there are existent barriers between the two sides, while they harbor historical animosity against each other. Besides, in reality, they have border disputes. Mutual trust between the two sides is weak, and there are many external forces hoping for China-India conflicts out of various psychological needs. It is conceivable that in this case, China and India are prone to being at logger heads with each other, and their peaceful co-existence in absolute terms is not easy.
Given the present situation, it is vital for China and India to remain calm and rational. The Indian public opinion has always been more prone to being irritable, which in turn stimulates Chinese public opinion and creates a harmful, negative atmosphere for interactions, inevitably increasing the pressure and cost of rational decision-making by both sides.
It’s not only a matter of whether Chinese and Indian policymakers can remain calm in the face of their direct differences, but also whether these differences can be alleviated among both countries’ soldiers on the border, journalistic circles, and everyone involved in China-India relations.
Secondly, China and India always need to insist on independent judgment. This is particularly true in the current external environment of China-India relations, characterized by extreme complication, and due to the subtle influence of both Europe and the United States on China-India relations.
Both China and India are not only big countries, but also developing countries, which are late comers in the current round of modernization. The basic structure of the global discourse power features a “weak East” and a “strong West.” Therefore, Western public opinion is willing and has the ability to shape social cognition of non-Western countries in a subtle way.
For example, the so-called theory of “The Chinese Dragon vs. the Indian Elephant,” which was a hot topic in the past few years, was clearly made up by the West. China and India must maintain a high degree of vigilance, abstain from provocations and avoid falling into traps set by others for China and India.
Thirdly, China and India must have the patience and wisdom to deal with thorny issues. Just like boundary negotiations, China and India have met and talked 21 times in the past 15 years. China and India today have reached an important consensus, but this is merely a preliminary result. Such agreement is still far from realizing the real settlement of their border disputes. There is no urgency of accomplishing the whole work all in one try.
To look at China-India relations requires a strategic vision and a future perspective. China and India will achieve mutual benefits and win-win results in all fields, just like seeds invigorated by sunlight and rain and growing rapidly, only if both sides could properly control their direct disputes, strengthen the building of confidence measures, and work to develop bilateral relations at the political level. In such case, we can absolutely expect a future scenario of “the Indian Elephant dancing with the Chinese Dragon.”
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