Beyond Hindi Chini Buy Buy

Nehru, Tagore, Tan

Beyond Hindi-Chini buy buy

By Roopen Roy Dec 28 2010

Tags: Op-ed

China is no doubt one of India’s top two trading partners along with the US. In 2010, it is expected that the two-way trade volumes will exceed $60 billion. During his visit to India earlier this month, Chinese premier Wen Jiabao announced in Delhi that the collective target was to surpass the $100-billion watermark of bilateral trade by 2015.

During the first 10 months of 2010, China exported goods worth $32.87 billion and imported $17 billion. Chinese exports are almost twice that of imports, creating some concerns of a trade imbalance. China exports to India power plant machinery, commodities and telecom equipment. Many of these exports are backed by soft-financing from Chinese banks. India has an enormous appetite for power and infrastructure. India, on the other hand, is seeking greater access to Chinese markets for pharmaceutical, agricultural products and IT services.

The pattern of trade is mutually beneficial. But as the Chinese premier observed during his visit, “Our ties have gone beyond bilateral scope and assumed global responsibility. When China and India have a heart-to-heart conversation, the whole world will listen, and we have reason to be proud of that.”

The Indian knowledge industry is now aiming to diversify its markets and reduce its present overdependence on North America and Europe. It cannot grow at the present pace simply by adding people in an offshore delivery mode. Non-linear growth models, new geographies such as China and Japan, innovation and co-creation of IP and products are the several things that will help sustain India’s leadership in this space. Some of the new Apples, Microsofts, Googles and Oracles may emerge from India and China.

The prowess of China in mass-scale manufacturing of electronic hardware and mobile devices is well known. The capability of India in design and development of software is also globally acknowledged. If these two strengths can be creatively harnessed in collaborative constructs, ma­ny of the future innovation hubs may come up in both India and China. According to an European Union (EU) st­udy titled “The World in 2025” — China and India will be global powers in research and development (R&D), accounting for around 20 per cent of the world’s research investment — more than doubling their present share. Ev­en more startling, Asian eco­nomies could overtake Europe and the US to become world leaders in research, according to the EU taskforce.

Collaborative R&D is happening already. Take the case of the Chinese telecom equipment manufacturer Huawei Telecommunications. It has announced that it will make an investment of $2 billion in India over the next five years. The investments will be made to establish a new R&D campus in Bangalore and an equipment manufacturing facility near Chennai. These initiatives are expected to generate employment for 4,000-5,000 people over the next five years.

In order to penetrate the Chinese market with knowledge-based services, it is important that our IT professionals begin to learn Mandarin. The 2011 school syllabus of the Central Board of Secondary Education in India has introduced Mandarin for students from class six onwards. I was told by a Chinese businessman recently that the Indian government is not issuing visas to Chinese teachers and hence there is not a single Chinese Mandarin teacher in India.

I have not been able to verify this statement but we sh­ould do exactly the opposite. We should invite China to open as many Confucius Institutes teaching Mandarin as possible. As of July 2010, there were 316 Confucius Institutes in 94 countries.

If we are able to create mutual trust and resolve border disputes, re-establishment of trade routes from Calcutta and Dhaka to Lhasa would also revitalise the northeast and the entire Himalayan region. Th­ese are natural building blocks for a vibrant bilateral and regional exchange. But the collaboration must aim to go beyond trade. We must attempt to rekindle the cultural and intellectual links between the two rising powers in Asia. If we look back in history, Buddhist universities like Nalanda created a forum for exchange between the Chinese and Indians in such diverse subjects as astronomy, music, mathematics, me­dicine and language.

Rabindranath Tagore had a deep understanding of the importance of exchange bet­we­en the two ancient civilisations and cultures. When he established Visva-Bharati Un­i­­versity, he set up a department of Sino-Indian studies and na­med it Cheena Bhavana in 1937. The first director was Tan-Yun-Shan, a Hunanese like Mao, who was attracted by Tagore to come, live and teach in Shantiniketan.

While inaugurating Che­ena Bhavana, Tagore said, “The most memorable fact of hu­man history is that of a path-opening, not for the clearing of a passage for machines or machine guns, but for helping the realisation by races of their affinity of minds, their mutual obligation of a common humanity. The two leading races of that age met, not as rivals on the battlefield, each claiming the right to be the sole tyrant on earth, but as noble friends, glorying in their exchange of gifts. Then came a slow relapse into isolation, covering up the path with its accumulated dust of indifference. Today, our old friends have beckoned to us again, generously helping us to retrace that ancient path obliterated by the inertia of forgetful centuries, and we rejoice.” Governments will change, policies will alter but the bond between people will be long-lasting.