India and China: Look at each Other

“Sino-Indian Studies” is a focal point in IGNCA’s East Asian Programme which was earlier known as the “Cell of Sino-Indian Studies”. Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan, once observed while discussing collaboration programmes with Prof. Duan Wenjie, Director of Dunhuang Academy, at Dunhuang, in August 1990,”India and China have looked at each other through the prisms of western hemisphere for too long. We would like to know from each other directly now”. It was with this in view that we have started this dialogue called “India and China: Look at Each Other”. We wish to organize a series of discussions to unfold the understanding and misunderstanding which have existed between the two great civilizational states of modern times – India and China – and to seek an improvement and strengthening of Sino-Indian understanding.

We made the first attempt in organizing this dialogue on February 16 1995, in the form of an in-house Seminar in IGNCA. We invited three young Indian scholars who had studied in and/or visited China and were engaged in research and teaching on China in Jawaharlal Nehru University to talk about their understanding of China. They were, Dr. (Ms.) Alka Acharya, Ms. Sabaree Mitra, and Mr. Hemant Adlakha. We also invited three Chinese scholars who had come to study in various programs in JNU as visiting scholars under the India-China Cultural Exchange Programme to talk about their understanding of India. They were Mr. Mao Siwei, Ms. Liu Hui and Mr. Ji Ping. I monitored the discussion.

During the discussion, the three Indian scholars revealed their personal processes of gradual transformation from simple admiration of China into an increased understanding of the complexity of China’s politico-socio-economic problems. They presented a mixed vision of both expectation and disillusionment. This, to my mind, is an important insight into the Sino-Indian mutual understanding.

The three Chinese speakers also presented a mixed image about India, showing both appreciation and disapproval. They highlighted India’s strong traditional cultural, religious devotion, respect for seniors and teachers and Indian womens’ subordination to household chores. Mr. Ji Ping expressed his personal shock from want of information about China among his JNU classmates and other Indian youths he had interacted with Ms. Liu Hui who had studied in India 14 years ago, and was here for the second time, made a vivid comparison between India then and now.

During the discussion, it was felt that the civilizational aspect was not given proper attention, particularly among the Indian presentations. Someone in the audience expressed the necessity go get direct information from each other’s country instead of being informed by western news media which often failed to present the truth – an echo of Dr. Vatsyayan’s observation. The audience was enormously impressed by Ms. Liu’s fluent Hindi. All those who had participated felt that such a dialogue was important, and should be followed up with more in-depth discussions.

After this initial experience we plan to organize more seminars of this kind, and also invite experts to give lectures on the subject. We hope all these activities would enable us to bring out a good monograph on “India and China: Look at Each Other” in future.

Tan Chung


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