Opening a new chapter
India and China took a step forward in their bilateral dealings with the External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi attending the 2nd meeting of the India-China High Level Mechanism on Cultural and People-to-People Exchanges in Beijing. S Jaishankar is the first Indian minister to tour China after the Modi government began its second term. Strengthening the ties between the two ancient civilisations, four agreements were signed at this event on Monday. In the three-day visit to China, Jaishankar called on Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan and held talks with Wang Yi. An official statement informs that agreements were formalised on cultural exchanges, healthcare, sports, and cooperation in museum management between India and China. Understanding the necessity of cultural heritage, the two neighbours have now decided to come together to promote cultural exchanges for preservation of intangible cultural heritage, organisation of cultural activities, and management of archaeological heritage sites. This fresh dimension in India-China bilateral exchanges adds qualitatively to the existing association which is primarily centred on the economy and economic affairs. Seconding the importance to enhance cooperation in the field of traditional medicine, it must be asserted that the traditional systems of healing are better designed for locally developed human systems and are more specific in its method of treatment compared to modern medicine, particularly the popular allopathic treatments. Both India and China have vast accumulation from over centuries of rich knowledge about medicine and healing. Coming together to promote and develop traditional medicines and healthcare practices will serve to be beneficial in aspects beyond healthcare. This can very well serve as a much-needed impetus for education and research in a certain direction along with basic lifestyle practices. The two leaders agreed to promote exchanges between China's National Sports Associations, sportspersons, and youth for strengthening cooperation on international sports events. Recognising sports as an entity of cultural and national significance augers particularly well for India where sports is steadily coming up and India is visibly making a mark in this field globally. Certain regions in particular such as the Northeast, Jammu and Kashmir, and Haryana are popular for producing athletes which take India and their respective states to various stages. The agreement to cooperate in museum management for promoting collaboration between Hubei Provincial Museum, Wuhan and the National Museum, New Delhi in the field of exhibitions, protection, and restoration of collections and archaeological excavations for museums is an initiative to promote exchanges between the countries beyond commerce and economy. The Hubei Provincial Museum is one of the best-known museums in China and has a large amount of state-level historic and cultural relics. The National Museum in New Delhi is one of the largest museums in India; established in 1949, it holds a variety of articles ranging from pre-historic era to modern works of art. The Indian and Chinese leaders got together to agree on a Plan of Action for bilateral engagements for the year 2020.
While all is hunky-dory in the novel dimension connecting India and China, on the economic front, Jaishankar flagged the increasing trade deficit 'as a matter of some concern'. The two countries apparently prevented Kashmir from making its way in their talks. With this gesture, it goes out clearly that Pakistan's efforts to internationalise Kashmir and drag in its all-weather friend China in what India has reiterated time and again is an internal matter. Notwithstanding the fact that China has been allowed to exercise control over the Trans-Karakoram Tract of the disputed PoK region after Pakistan ceded the territory to it, China refrained from asserting its role as a 'stakeholder' in the matter. However, the recent tensions between India and Pakistan following revocation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 did figure in the talks between the Indian foreign minister and his Chinese counterpart. Wang's measured remarks go as such: "On the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence, we [India and China] can have mutually beneficial cooperation. This is in the fundamental and long-term interest of our two peoples and also contribute to world peace and human progress... At the same time, China and India, as two big nations, also have important responsibilities for upholding regional peace and stability." He went on to say that "When it comes to the recent tensions between India and Pakistan and the possible ramifications, we follow these developments very closely. We hope that India would also play a constructive role for regional peace and stability". Jaishankar clarified to Wang that the "legislative measures were aimed at promoting better governance and socio-economic development. There was no implication for either the external boundaries of India or the Line of Actual Control with China. India was not raising any additional territorial claims". Before Jaishankar paid a visit, Pakistan's foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had just concluded his visit to Beijing to discuss India's move to integrate Kashmir more closely with India. Jaishankar added that the Indian move did not impact the de facto line of control and that where India-Pakistan relations are concerned, the Chinese side should base its assessment on realities. Although China objected to India according Union Territory status to Ladakh, it seems to acknowledge that the (now erstwhile) state of Jammu and Kashmir and all its matters is India's domestic affair. This acknowledgement was further enforced by UNSC when it bluntly announced that India and Pakistan should resolve this issue bilaterally after Pakistan approached it with its grievance. As the Indian foreign minister expressed, "The future of the India-China relationship will obviously depend on mutual sensitivity to each other's core concerns...It is natural, both as neighbours and large developing economies, that there would be issues in our ties. Properly managing differences is therefore vital". For now, with the new agreements inked between the two countries, it is going to be interesting how things pan out in this three-point axis of India, China, and Pakistan.