With just a day left of his bridge-building visit to China, President Pranab Mukherjee, exhorted both the countries to improve contacts between people’s representatives from both sides. “More regular contacts between our people’s representatives on all levels-official and unofficial‑is the need of the hour,” the President said at his policy speech at Peking University.
That was part of his eight steps to improve partnership between both the countries. He wanted the young to be involved in the partnership building exercise. Their potential should be tapped by creating more educational opportunities, youth festivals, sports exchanges, youth-oriented tourism and social media linkages. A big step in this direction was taken on Wednesday when six top Indian educational institutions signed 10 memorandums of understanding with 10 Chinese universities. The areas of cooperation include educational and academic exchanges, research, urban planning, ecology, climate change, training and other scholarly activities. The six Indian institutions include: IIT, Delhi, IIM, Calcutta, Central University of Gujarat, Nalanda University, Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology, Nagpur and IIT, Bhubaneshwar.
Academic cooperation was at the heart of the President’s visit to China and in all his interactions he has been stressing about India’s shared history with China and how that could be leveraged for a shared future. At Peking University, he wanted both the countries to use the power of films and visual images to bring the people closer. Cultural and intellectual exchanges, he felt, would augment the spirit of cooperation, along with travel and tourism.
Collaboration of civil societies of both the countries in addressing challenges like urbanisations and using forums such as the BRICS to create awareness of a shared future and enhanced trade and commerce are the other key ingredients for peaceful and sustained growth of the two countries.
The President also reminded China about India’s public support of that country’s admission into the UN and the restitution of its permenant membership of the UN security council, possibly reminding China to reciprocate the gesture.
Speaking at the Peking University, President Mukherjee admitted that there were problems in Sino India relationship and added that “we should not be passing on the problems to the future generation”.
“We seek to engage China with a spirit of equality and friendship,” he said.
In the afternoon, at the Great Hall of the People, President Xi Jinping accorded President Mukherjee a ceremonial welcome. The president had three key meetings in the afternoon, with President Xi, Premier Li and National People’s Congress (Parliament Speaker) Zhang Dejiang.
Indian Foreign Secretary Dr S. Jaishankar said that all the meetings were fruitful and that there was a deep appreciation of the President’s visit. While President Mukherjee fondly recalled his visits to China, the leaders talked about their visits to India.
“All of them made it a point to mention President Mukherjee’s role as an elder statesman in building relationship with China,” said Jaishankar.
“The Chinese felt that it was uncertain times globally, and there is greater responsibility on India and China.”
Imbalance in trade formed a significant part of the discussion, and it was general felt that encouraging more investments was the way forward to address the issue. India has been taking significant steps in the direction.
The Chinese were also interested in India’s flagship programmes like Make in India, Smart Cities and Digital India. Railways, new energy, IT and space are the areas in which India and China are likely to indulge in “practical cooperation”.
On the political front, it was agreed to build a strong foundation based on mutual trust. The key here, it was felt, to manage the differences on both sides. There was no point, the leaders agreed, in getting bogged down on specific issues. Maintaining peace and tranquility on the border would be given top priority.
Terrorism was also deeply discussed, especially India’s concern in its east and west. The Chinese broadly accepted India’s concerns and said they would strive for greater cooperation. Cross border terrorism was specifically mentioned , and it was agreed that a closer cooperation in the United Nations was that answer for the menace.
Another key decision taken was to relax the strict Chinese visa regime to encourage more pilgrims to Kailas-Mansarovar to take the relatively easier Nathu La pass route.
President Mukherjee put across India’s concerns about having a predictable environment for nuclear energy production as the country is suffering from energy shortage. He requested President Xi to give it his personal consideration.
Whether that would translate into India’s entry into the NSG is something that would be decided by the success of continued discussion with the Chinese.
President Mukherjee invited President Xi to India, and Xi said the momentum of high level visits should be maintained.
The four-day state visit will end on Friday with a visit to the historic Forbidden City.