CPPR- CSS was proud to be host a high profile visit on May 4th evening. A Chinese delegation comprising of Mr. Cheng Guangzhong, Minister Counsellor; Ms. Xie Liyan, Press Counsellor; Mr. Xu Xiaorong, Attache Press Section ;and Ms. Shao Wu, Attache Political Section from Chinese Embassy at New Delhi visited the CPPR office for an informal discussion. The visit was a part of the larger initiative by Chinese Government in reaching out to India given the recent developments and visit by PM Narendra Modi in China.
CPPR-CSS team comprising of D. Dhanuraj (Chairman), Anthony Dawson D’silva (Academic coordinator), along with the Non-Resident fellows of CPPR- Mr K.V Thomas, Dr. Dimpi Divakaran, Dr. C.R Pramod, and Research Assistant Ms Vinny Davis met with the visiting Chinese Delegation.
The discussion centered on how India ought to take leverage in its engagements with China for reaping mutual benefits. Macro –linkages in terms of foreign policy was emphasized by the CPPR fellows in the deliberations.
CPPR fellows suggested linking of the Maritime Silk Route of China and Mausam project of India with the Kerala maritime coastline to boost trade linkages. Currently Kolkata is the only Indian city included in the Maritime Silk Route. Proposals for a tri-lateral cooperation was mooted by the Research team of Centre for Strategic Studies in CPPR. This would include connecting the Gulf coast via Kerala coastline (GCC) and the Chinese coastline was put forth in the deliberations. The benefits of GCC and Kerala as safer avenues for investments would provide food for thought to the Chinese to re-orient its resolve for an infrastructural connectivity.
Kerala has always been receptive to Chinese goods and fishing nets (reportedly built on wood produced in China). There is a good ground for reviving these common interests that would go a long way in fostering ties grass root level between Kerala and China. Attention was also paid to garnering the benefits of expatriate population in the Gulf region. This would enable employing the social capital as a soft power for successful engagements with China.
The need to cooperate in healthcare and education sectors was another point of emphasis. Kerala could harness the profits from its indigenous medicinal system- ayurveda. Thus pushing forth the soft power would enable the state of Kerala to gain foothold internationally.
Thus South India provides avenues for large scale cooperation wherein a consortium of Chinese infrastructural companies could exploit the potentials of labour force to the fullest potential for mutual benefit of the countries. Chinese should not look forward to replicate the African model in Asia. This would only raise a sense of apprehension owing to the Chinese presence. Nevertheless it must uphold an “Asianness” if China is looking for an economic and political integration with the region. Else its efforts would be misinterpreted for regional hegemony claims, and not of enabling mutual benefit in the region.
The cynicisms towards the AIIB (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank) abound in the region. Though India is a signatory along with other Asian countries the anonymity over power sharing mechanism in the infrastructural pursuits would place China in a perilous position. Unless China takes steps to bridge this trust deficit, it would be difficult to break the “monopoly of triad” (U.S, Japan, and Western Europe) in the international monetary institutions
India as an emerging market for the Chinese investments would ensure stronger levels of integration between the countries. The scope for Chinese investments in hydro-electric power projects and India serving as a promising market for Chinese telecom companies was stressed upon. In India, the safer side of investing in the Southern parts of the country was discussed. The significance of the Kerala coast looms large in this domain.
Initiating the Mausam project and utilizing it as a substitute for Maritime Silk Route for mutual benefit will be a promising endeavor for both the countries. In India, Kochi could be identified as the fulcrum for linking the Mausam project with Maritime Silk Route via the Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean. Thus a comprehensive integration with the West Asian coast and Chinese coast through India could be accomplished.
However this would require identifying more coastal cities from the Southern part of the country when engaging with China. The excavation at the Pattanam city in Kochi has revealed the glory of erstwhile trade links of the region with wider Asian neighbourhood. Utilizing the port cities of Andhra Pradesh(Vishakapattanam) and Tamil Nadu would be prudential in this regard to further the scope of trade linkages .
Alibaba Group Holding Limited -the Chinese e-commerce company that provides consumer-to-consumer, business-to-consumer and business-to-business sales services via web portals has also shown special interest in India. This is reflective of the importance given to India as an emerging market for China.
The Chinese delegation dwelled upon how India must come forward to engage itself in the AIIB, so as to gain from the infrastructural developments in the region. China would remain as the principal stakeholder in it. However obscurity remains over major stakeholders of the bank in terms of devolution of powers.
The delegation also stressed upon the need for India to utilize the connectivity potentials from the One Belt, One Road policy. The delegation expressed its optimism over reinstating the traditional relationships with Kerala. Cooperation with different provinces of China with Kerala would also be helpful. They however felt that, India must put aside its political differences in terms of awarding contracts or granting permission to the Chinese companies. Concerns were raised over how central government raises security concerns for such issues. The trade deficit with China is not a promising sign indeed. Thus the countries ought to strategize its economic engagements for the national interests.
The delay in political clearances to Chinese firms who wish to pursue its endeavours in the country was also jointly articulated by the CPPR fellows and the Chinese delegation. People to people contacts must be improved from the higher levels itself for stronger integration of the countries. Only with enhanced cultural and educational exchange programmes can the Indian cynicism over Chinese be removed at the grass root levels.
Suggestions over reviving the Spice Route from Kerala were also received optimistically by the delegation. Chinese do not want India and its neighborhood to get bowled over by the propaganda of U.S who vehemently opposes the AIIB and its pursuits in the region. The quality of the Chinese exports to the country was highlighted, and the delegation vouched its support for improving the quality of goods exported to the country.
The delegation also was supportive of more exchanges between the think-tanks of both the countries. The embassy assistance to Think-Tanks was also suggestive of its acknowledgements for its role in boosting strategic trust between the countries was pivotal. CPPR-CSS welcomed such initiatives and expressed its gratitude to the Chinese delegation, and reiterated that it would be looking forward to similar such interactions in the future as well.