|HOME | NEWS | THE PRESIDENT IN CHINA | REPORT|
June 2, 2000
Sino-Indian ties have reached 'criticality': Prez
Nikhil Lakshman in Kunming, southwest China
In his final public address in China on Friday evening, President K R Narayanan told a gathering of Chinese scholars that relations between India and China had reached a stage of "criticality."
"From now on, this co-operation is going to increase in intensity and speed," the President said in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province. Academicians from Kunming, along with like-minded scholars and former diplomats from Bangladesh India and Myanmar conceived the Kunming Initiative, a proposal to further economic relations between China and these three countries.
The President called Friday's encounter between him, the Indian delegation and the Chinese scholars as "a meeting of intimate minds which had taken place between India and China after so many years."
"I am happy to be present at the beginning of a very important process, the Kunming process," he said in an extempore speech. "The quadrilateral proposal depends crucially on bilateral relations. Eventually, these proposals have to be dovetailed with our bilateral relations."
The President, who will conclude his seven-day visit to China on Saturday evening, felt, "We are at a new stage of destiny where we have all the materials for co-operation. China and India have embarked on development. In this new historical and objective situation, we have a very good opportunity for exchange of goods and ideas. We have real opportunity to put technical content in our ancient cultural friendship."
"The Kunming proposal must have the support of both our central and provincial governments. In the greater interest of China-India relations, it becomes very important. It will help China and India understand each other better," Narayanan said in a brief address.
Earlier, Zhu Zhengming, deputy director, Institute for Southeast Asian Studies, Kunming Academy of Social Studies, revealed that they had sought permission from the Chinese aviation authorities for permission to commence flights from Kunming to Calcutta and Delhi. "This proposal has been initially approved," he said. In his remarks, the President mentioned how the then Chinese and Indian premiers Zhou En Lai and Jawaharlal Nehru had discussed the establishment of flights between Lhasa and New Delhi as also a road between Tibet and India at their first meeting in the early 1950s.
In the late eighties, the southwest Chinese province of Yunnan began to explore ways and means to become a trading post with South and South East Asia. Its academic community began researching the subject in great detail. Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences researchers fanned out to various regions -- Bangladesh, India, Myanmar -- to obtain information on how to translate the vision into reality. The association with South East Asia has been easier to come about - not so, a trade treaty with Bangladesh, Myanmar, and, of course, India.
Even though the Chinese are in the process of negotiating an agreement on a highway and a waterway transport system, the xenophobic government in Yangoon are still wavering on acting on the Kunming proposal. For one, the military regime does not control some of the areas the proposed highway will pass through, which is in the hands of the rebel Karen army.
For another, the ruling State Peace and Development Council is worried that the porous border between Myanmar and Yunnan may result in an undetected migration of illegal Chinese immigrants. The SPDC -- formerly the State Law and Order Restoration Council -- would clearly like India to be a counterpoint to China before it goes along with the Kunming Initiative in whatever form.
Friday marked the Indian government's involvement in the Kunming Initiative for the first time. Until now, Indian participation has been limited to the non-governmental level. In August 1999, a 25-member non-government group from India attended a seminar on regional co-operation and development organised by the Yunnan provincial government. The team was led by C V Ranganathan, former Indian ambassador to China and president of the Institute of India-China Studies, New Delhi, and B George Verghese, the former newspaper editor and member of the Kargil Committee.
The President's appearance at the seminar indicates that the Indians are now willing to consider the Kunming Proposal on merit. There is a school of thought in Indian diplomacy that India's relations with China could improve further if it was given economic moorings. Of course, there is the security angle to consider. The Kunming Initiative will closely involve India's northeast, a region where the Chinese have been accused of sponsoring many insurgencies.
After dinner with the scholars later tonight, the President will visit the Yunnan village of ethnic minorities on Saturday morning. He leaves for New Delhi later that evening, ending what is the most successful visit to China by an Indian leader since Rajiv Gandhi's ground breaking journey of 1988.
SINGLES | NEWSLINKS | BOOK SHOP | MUSIC SHOP | GIFT SHOP | HOTEL BOOKINGS
AIR/RAIL | WEATHER | MILLENNIUM | BROADBAND | E-CARDS | EDUCATION
HOMEPAGES | FREE EMAIL | CONTESTS | FEEDBACK