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Special> China-India Media Forum> News
UPDATED: September 17, 2013
Address by Indian External Affairs Minister during Inauguration of India-China Media Forum

Good morning to all of you. I have the great honour of the presence of His Excellency the Minister Cai Mingzhao, His Excellency the Vice Minister Zhou Mingwei, distinguished friends from the Chinese media and Indian media, and ladies and gentlemen.

I have a written speech but I thought it is important for us to say something from the heart to our Chinese friends, communicate something which we believe is extremely important for two major countries of Asia and the world.

Often we find ourselves speaking of the 21st century being the Asian century. And it is our firm belief that the Asian century dream will remain unfulfilled if India and China are unable to find congruence on important ways in which we think on global issues, and we know how to communicate effectively from the heart and the head about our dreams with you and your dreams with us.

I take it on board the Chinese saying 'we are living in interesting times' is indeed critical for our understanding of the effort that we are trying to put in towards making Asian century truly a successful century.

I have, in my few months in the External Affairs, emphasized in the formatting and formulation of foreign policy, the very important role that language plays in diplomacy. Therefore, it is important for us to work on a common language. A common language is not a hybrid of the Chinese and Indian languages, of Mandarin and of Hindi or any other Indian language, but a common language is something that even if not spoken, communicates because it is the ideas that converge. Ideas have a language of their own. And I wish and hope that our conclave here of the media on two sides will be able to provide a bond and link of ideas that would translate themselves into a common language.

We know that historically and culturally we have a very very significant link. In the Mahabharat itself, there are, I understand, at least seven references to China. I also know that in our understanding of Islamic philosophy China is seen as a destination in search of knowledge and connectivity with the world. The spread of Buddhism, we all know - and I have just traveled through parts of the neighbourhood countries of China where Buddhism retains a distant echo even after enormous changes having taken place civilisationally in those countries in Central Asia, in Southeast Asia - remains significantly important cultural and spiritual presence in China. Thirty-five thousand words of Pali and Sanskrit origin, I understand, have been found by scholars in the Mandarin language.

When we speak of historical links, travels of scholars and intellectuals, Chinese itinerant scholars like Hiuen Tsang and Fa Hien studied at the ancient Nalanda University. And the good news is that we together - China and India along with other colleagues in ASEAN - are now working on re-establishing and reviving the centuries-old university in Bodh Gaya in Nalanda.

In the 20th century, our links have inevitably been of a very significant nature. From the Indian side, Mahatma Gandhi, Gurudev Ravindranath Tagore and Jawaharlal Nehru helped create a soaring vision of India that incorporated our relationship with China.

Over the years, we sit here in a building that amplifies and symbolizes the Panch Sheel or the five principles of peaceful coexistence, which continue to be the basic framework of our relationship even as the peaceful and harmonious coexistence that we have known for over a four thousand years - but for a short interlude that both of us feel must become quickly a part of history as we look forward to significant cooperation between us.

It is a fact that we still have an undefined boundary and, therefore, differences in perception - something that appears from time to time to become an insurmountable problem. But we know, deep in our hearts we know, that not only is this not an insurmountable problem but also that both of us are completely and totally committed to eradication and removal of these irritants in a relationship that is significantly valuable to both of us and which we believe matters enormously in the years to come to the way the world will be shaped. Therefore, as I said, language becomes important to reach out to each other, clear cobwebs of misconceptions, misunderstandings of the past, the present and even of the future.

As we do this exercise, I have in mind the Chinese involvement that we encourage, that we welcome, and that we seek for working more closely in infrastructure in our country. We are looking for at the same time greater market access in China for our pharma and the IT companies to provide a more balanced trade between our two countries - a matter that was treated as of high importance between the visit of Premier Li. But we hope that even as we work on balancing of trade, investments will significantly compensate to some extent the importance of sustainable balanced trade.

All this we believe is important in the backdrop of not only our economic engagement but also our working together on many many regional and global issues and much closer cooperation and collaboration. And I do believe that this is happening in a substantive way in many areas such as global trade regimes as well as climate change.

The important thing is for us to understand what will be our relationship. Will we see ourselves only as an artificial construct of rivals and competitors? Or will we see ourselves possibly in a multidimensional role with each other, collaborating, cooperating, competing, assisting, sharing, and - if I might add an important word – caring for each other?

Our Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, as you will recall, has said on many occasions that there is enough room in the world for India and China to grow together and to flourish. This in fact I think echoes the Chinese notion of 'a harmonious world' – 'shijie datong'– a synthesis which goes well with the concept of one world enshrined in the Indian ethos of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.

Therefore, speaking of language, our connectivity, our shared goals, and our shared aspirations, it becomes important that the speaking voice of our two countries, the media that we cherish and value enormously in our country as a pillar of strength to our democracy, not always necessarily in agreement with government but that is the beauty of having a thousand voices express one strong sentiment of solidarity and patriotic zeal. But we do hope that this interaction here will help in developing constructive reporting and analysis methodology through better understanding of each other's working systems, of each other's – if I may go back again – language.

Independence of the media for us has been an extremely important dimension of Indian democracy. And independence of course comes both ways, with rights and obligations, something that applies to all citizens of our country. And what is the balance that we find within our own system is something that I am sure that you will find interesting coming directly from the very people who are the purveyors of that balance.

Having said this, I would say that there are and there will remain periodically between us - as trust and ability to understand each other better continues to deepen and widen, and the footprint of our work together grows in the world – there will be moments of hyper sensitivity, sensitivity, and moments where we need critical care in conveying what we believe is important for us respectively.

And I do urge colleagues on both sides to look at whether there is permissible, within our system, some methodology that allows for a larger national interest, and here a transnational interest, to prevail over a desire to report more aggressively and to report more extensively. But this is really not something that can be dictated, it is not something that can be normatively imposed. This is something that only can come from within our respective systems, our understanding, our cultural ethos, and of course our professional training.

Finally, I might just bring in something that I am sure is of great interest to the conventional media on our side and certainly on your side - and that is something that we are still learning about, something that we are still learning to deal with – the social media. Social media comes really in a form which is unlike anything that we have known in the past in terms of governance, in terms of decision making, in terms of influence on public policy. We are still learning, and I am sure that your experiences in social media will also be very edifying and educative for us.

If I might quote Chinese Indologist Ji Xianlin, whom India recognized by conferring the national award of Padma Bhushan, "China and India have stood simultaneously on the Asian continent. Their neighbourliness is created by heaven and constructed by earth". We do not know much about heaven, we are happy to learn from you about heaven, but being earthlings we need to talk more and know each other better to fructify the full potential of this relationship between our two countries.

I wish you all the best in your discussions and hope to hear from you at the end of the day of the ideas that you together suggest for our moving forward with greater strength, greater joy and greater creativity.

Thank you very much.

(Source: Indian Ministry of External Affairs)

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