India, China strategic cooperation must for changing world

It is self-defeating and futile to put China always in a framework of a foe. If we want China to change for India, we too must change our perspective and de-Americanise our outlook regarding the largest neighbour, often seen as the biggest challenge too.

An ignorant India can't face China nor earn its respect and friendship. The Chinese would cooperate and respect in a calmer way a strong, steel-willed India.

India, although welcomes China to be its largest trade partner, must also be the largely ignorant country about its immediate neighbour. Looking at it from a "Haqeeqat" viewpoint - aggressor, intruder, mystically unreliable and an enemy, who has helped Pakistan and claims Arunachal Pradesh - is a viewpoint of the weak and not going to help walk the talk, neither build a confidence that both the countries need.

We will have to weave a China policy that looks at it as a strategic partner too important to be ignored for the peace and prosperity of the region as well as the new, changing world that is increasingly looking up to the east turning its economic and defence focus from the America-dominated west.

China needs to be engaged and trusted, without showing a weakness to build up our own sinews.

The irony is that even after fighting four full-scale wars and continuously being irritated by its terrorist activities, India remains committed to boosting trade, talks and confidence-building measures with Pakistan.

But, strangely, even after not firing a single shot on the borders after 1962 - the only war we fought with China in the last 1,000 years - India remains warped in defensive postures and hesitant to open up to the new Chinese realities.

None speaks warmly to increase people-to-people contact with China, no plans to build up more confidence measures, no enthusiasm to understand, befriend and know Chinese culture, youth, societal dynamics and their rural strains, the literature they are creating and the movies and paintings Chinese artists experiment with.

It's a wrong approach of the ignorant.

The best way to keep the fires cooler on the Himalayan border for us is to pursue a policy of 'vigil and visit'. Go China is the mantra for a confident and courageous India. Be cautious at the same time UC, VC, LC, i.e., 'Understand China, Visit China, Learn Chinese'.

An ignorant nation can be street-smart rhetorical but not prudently strong and mature in its defences.

We must look from this viewpoint at the China visit of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. It's India that is talking to China and not any individual. And it is in the interest of the changing world that India and China write a success story on strategic relations.

During the visit, one may expect both sides to enhance people-to-people contact, usher in an era of increased tourist traffic, liberal visa policy, and student exchanges.

India and China have to play a bigger role that will determine the future course of power balance in the region. Cooperation and not conflict is the key to a war-free future.

India-China dialogue can architect a new era of peaceful economic prosperity and strategic cooperation, vital not only for both but for the world. We should work to ensure corrections in trade and hope cooperation will get a boost and more importantly trust will be restored in defence ties, bringing tranquillity on the borders.

I am working on a plan to develop Chinese learning centres in India. Contrary to popular perception, I have experienced that the Chinese people are friendly to India. Our relations should go beyond the political fault lines and we must get to know about each other's society, literature, movies, and language. The mission began from my home: my daughter has joined formal school to learn Chinese language.

One must not ignore the fact that the progress recent border talks made in Beijing show a mature approach by both sides.

Relations with China are a matter of political consensus in India and the incidents of border incursions and unfortunate denial of a proper visa to Indian sportspersons need to be addressed and avoided in future for a trusted path way of cooperation and friendship.

(Tarun Vijay, MP, is a member, parliamentary consultative committee on the ministry of external affairs. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at tarun.vijay@sansad.nic.in)