Cultural and Economic Relations between India and China

India and China are two big countries not only of Asia but also of the world. They are two neighbouring counties and both have also preserved their five thousand years old cultures. They are agricultural countries and a great majority of population is rural. The lacks of villages spread all over the country and the rural population have been the main resources of the cultural expansion as well as of the economic growth of their respective countries.

The authentic details of India’s cultural evolution are found in Indus Valley Civilization [2500-2000 B.C.]. Then comes the Vedic period [2000-1500 B. C.] when we have the glimpses of intermittent details of the cultural development. The first detailed and historical phase of China’s cultural evolution was Shang Yin era [1765-1122 B.C.] and during the period of Chou [1122-756 B. C.] Chin [246-210 B.C.] and Han [206-220 A.D.] the Chinese Culture touched some great heights of attainments. This period of Chinese cultural evolution saw the development of the great philosophies of Confucius and Tao and marks the beginning of coordination between these philosophies and the Buddhist values. This kind of coordination found a parallel in India where the two great cultures Dravid-Aryan coordinated well with each other about 2000 B.C. and later the other cultures that reached India from time to time harmonized with Indian Culture so well that they became one with it.

The characteristic of harmony that Indian and Chinese Cultures achieved thousand of years ago made a great impact on the other countries of the world. As China and India are neighbouring nations, the quality of harmonization had a particular influence on the masses of the two countries. It can be noticed in the lives of the people living in the North-Western regions of India and of those living in the border areas of China.

The Indo-Chinese relationship was established long ago in the ancient times, on the basis of the quality of harmony present in both the cultures. It will require writing a big book to tell in detail about the long-standing cultural ties. However, I would like to mention in brief that it was in consequence of the profoundness of these cultural ties that hundred of Chinese scholars were the student of the famous Nalanda University much before the advent of Christ. The Chinese scholars participated in Buddhist Congregations [Sangeetis] ahead of others. They were the centre of attraction in the forth congregation [Sangeeti] held in Kashmir during the reign of Emperor Kanishka in the first century A.D.

From the time onwards and up to the 19th century, the scholars of the two counties visited each other and strengthened the cultural relationship. In ancient times, if the Indian scholars like Dharmaratha, Kumarajiva, Buddhajiva, Dharmakshema and Sanghabhuti visited China, the Chinese scholars Fa-hein, Sung-Yun, It-Sing and Huentsang came to India. Among them Huentsang was the Chairman of a Buddhist conference sponsored by the Indian Emperor Harshavardhana. It is not all. The way Huentsang and Fah-Yan enriched the Indian history by their writings, they became inseparable part of it. In other words, the Indian history is incomplete without a mention of them. I am, therefore, in a position to say that the Indo-Chinese cultural relationship is not a past event of history but a reality even now.

India and China are prosperous countries in many areas and the economic ties between them were established long ago along with their cultural relationship which afterwards became firm. In this regard, the first evidence can be traced to Magadh-Maurya era [5th and 6th centuries B.C.] in India. The Gupta period [5th century A.D.] shows further improvement. We all know about the economic and trade relationship that existed between the two countries since then to the first half of the 20eth century. It will not be of much relevance to discuss them here in detail.

After the Second World War the economic order of the world underwent a great change. Especially in the new economic situation India and China emerged as two great powers. It was a period of transition and it was extremely necessary to open a new chapter, but unfortunately there developed an atmosphere of bitterness. Why? It is not relevant to discuss the reason here, but I would like to add that in spite of this bitterness the two countries should not ignore the long and firmly established ties between them, nor can they afford to do so.

The Sino-Indian economic relationship improved again towards the ninth decade of the last century. The Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1988, the President K. R. Narayanan in May 2000, and the Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee went to China on official visit in June 2003, and Mr. Li Peng and the Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rong came to India in June 2001 and January 2002 respectively. These visits gave new dimensions to the improvement of relationship between the two countries and the trade relationship is improving day by day. The exchange of trade which amounted to 3 billions dollars per annum five years ago has now gone up to 10 billion dollars per annum. This is good indication but it should be raised further. There is every possibility for it; especially in the development of infrastructure for the increase of trade between the North-Eastern regions of India and Western China. The under developed regions of Burma can also be included in it. In this direction, the topic of opening of Nathula trade-root has come up. It is a very important issue that would prove an early solution and beneficial also. It is the demand of time that the two governments should sit together and think of some more measures as this and the participation of non-government agencies should also be encouraged.

Chinese economy is considered to be an advanced one in the world. It has maintained the growth rate of 7-8 per cent for the last 7 years. India’s economy is also fast-moving. It has also the growth rate of 7-8 per cent per annum. But there is still a big challenge for both the countries to bring the rural population economically at par with the others. Both the countries can cooperate with each other to a solution of this problem.

The Sino-Indian economic cooperation is now indispensable and their cultural ties can be the basis of a firm foundation for it. The liberal Chinese Government at present is well aware of the importance and cooperation of India. Therefore, the steps they have taken to have good relations with India on the basis of mutual accommodation are praiseworthy. India also recognizes the importance of China in the economic order of the world. They also have a keen desire to solve all problems by mutual discussion and create an environment for long lasting cooperation between the two countries.

The untoward happenings in 1962 created an atmosphere of mistrust in India for their neighbouring country which more or less still persists. It is essential to transform this mistrust to trust. If it is achieved, relations between the two countries would strengthen and would prove to be beneficial to both of them.

Dr. Ravindra Kumar

Dr. Ravindra Kumar is an eminent writer, Indologist, political scientist and a former vice chancellor of Meerut University, India, who authored and edited over 100 works on great personalities like Mahatma Gandhi and on various social-cultural issues.