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'India, China need to understand each other better'

By K J M Varma
March 31, 2010 14:48 IST
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China's all-weather ties with Pakistan and its reservations in backing India's aspirations to become a permanent UN Security Council member dominated the proceedings of the first-ever public get together of Indian and Chinese media professionals in Beijing.

The one-day event organised on Tuesday by the 2010 India-China Development Forum, which was set up with backing of China's top media houses and the Indian Embassy in Beijing, has displayed a heated debate, something that the Chinese media professionals have rarely seen and appeared to have thoroughly enjoyed.

The spark was ignited by Karan Thapar, noted Indian television interviewer and President of Infotainment Television, who stated that despite the shared history and cultural ties with bourgeoning trade, China was viewed with suspicion in India for its close military and strategic ties with Pakistan, which continues to be an impeding factor for a vibrant Sino-Indian relationship.

He also pointed out Beijing's reservations in extending full support to India's aspirations to become permanent member of the UNSC has also cast shadow on the relations between the two countries.

Perhaps China too entertained similar apprehensions about India-US relations.

These "suspicions" gets reflected in media and picked by audiences, becoming a part of their mental outlook, he said.

Chinese Minister of the State Council Information Office Wang Chen, who attended the inaugural session of the meeting, met Thapar after the session and appreciated the candidness with which the issues were discussed.

Some of the Chinese Journalists and academicians including, Zhou Minwei, President of China International Publishing group and Ma Jiali, Research Professor of China Institute of Contemporary International Relations in their speeches took pains to explain that China's policy to Pakistan has changed in the last ten years and Beijing viewed its relationship with New Delhi and Islamabad with more sense of equanimity.

As Sino-India relations developed with burgeoning trade, China looks to develop its relations with India without brining Pakistan factor into it.

They also said that Beijing has been conveying to India that it was not opposed to India becoming permanent member of UNSC.

At the same time China also wanted reform of the UN system.

Zhou said China followed a pragmatic policy of having normal relations with US despites Washington's backing Taiwan and the proactive policy pursued by US on Tibet.

The meeting addressed by Indian journalists Kanchan Gupta, Associate Editor of Pioneer newspaper, Suhasini Haider, Deputy Foreign Editor of CNN-IBN and Bhupesh Bhadari, Senior Associate Editor of Business Standard created a buzz in the Chinese media as it is first such get together involving the journalists of two countries.

As the media professionals from both sides interacted, officials of the two sides also displayed eagerness to set aside strains created by last year's adverse reports on border incursions as well as suggestion by a Chinese Think Tank to balkanise India.

"The attitude of the media in both countries to the relationship was a subject of debate, particularly last year. Some of the media portrayal in India got our Chinese friends a little excited. I must add that there were Chinese media commentaries as well that did not help. There is little point in getting into a blame game," Indian Ambassador S Jaishankar said, setting the tone for a lively debate that followed.

"We need to understand each other better. Chinese must appreciate that Indian society verbalises its thought processes. They should, therefore, not get fixated with the debate but assess the outcome. No doubt, China too has its own debates," he said.

"Image and reality are connected to a great degree. The more energetic we are in advancing the relationship, the better media coverage we are going to get. Certainly, the process can be assisted by more effective explanations," he said.

Calling for more interaction between Indian and Chinese media to sort out misunderstandings, Wang said the media should push forward mutual understanding and friendship between the two countries through objective and thorough reporting.

The two countries had close cultural and historical ties and if Chinese and Indian media can enhance the exchange and continue the relations at present, it will have significant meaning to both the countries, he said.

Wang also said both China and India are important and large emerging economies, and the growing understanding between the two countries will bring great benefit to themselves, Asia and the world.

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K J M Varma in Beijing
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