Public Diplomacy Public Diplomacy

Transcript of External Affairs Minister's interaction with Chinese Media

September 17, 2013

Chinese Media: I would like to thank you on behalf of the whole media delegation, Your Excellency, for taking time out of your busy schedule to accept our group interview.

My question is, what is your assessment of the current India-China relationship and what are your priorities in developing the bilateral relationship?

External Affairs Minister (Shri Salman Khurshid): As I tried to suggest this morning, I think there are very strong fundamentals that provide a base for a very sustained relationship between India and China. These fundamentals include complementarities between our two economic and social structures. They include imperatives of our working closely together in the world on many issues that are really of very important common interest. They also include I think some matters essentially pertaining to our region and also finally about our perceptions of an equitable global system. I think these fundamentals are there for everyone to be able to see.

On the foundations of these fundamentals we need to build and we have to build a superstructure. That superstructure is, shall we say, subject to the fashion of the day, the preferred designs, the prevailing political outlooks of the government during different periods in China and the government in different periods in India. I think there is an overall consensus. It is not as though we would move in this direction because my party is in power and then it will be different if there was another party. I think there is core consensus based on how it is important for us to build this infrastructure. There could be variance in pace and in terms of priority but I think that that is unlikely to be of any appreciable difference.

The critical thing I believe that matters for us between India and China is that China does not and cannot have only one neighbour and one friend. India also cannot have only one neighbour and one friend. There will be people of different priority, size in the region and in the world that we will deal with and you will deal with.

Sometimes people have suggested to us over the years a tie up between China, Iran, India. When I was Minister of State and I went to Geneva for the Human Rights Commission, there was such a proposition. Sometimes, as you are fully aware, people have suggested, last night there were some people on television suggesting US and India working together and trying to have a common position on China. And we have said, no. We have said that we do not want a tie-up with anybody. Our sovereign decision is to have a full, wholesome relationship with China and this I think has now a consensus in our country.

Having said all this, there will be periodic issues of divergence, maybe irritation, concern, some issues that have a more lasting impact of question mark or a concern. You have a very important relationship with Pakistan but your relationship with Pakistan 20 years ago and your relationship with Pakistan today does not have to be based on the similar considerations because China has gone beyond what China was 20 years ago; we have gone beyond what we were 20 years ago; and Pakistan I think has also in a sense moved on from what it was 20 years ago.

So, the kind of relationship China had with Pakistan 20 years ago need not be there today. And, therefore, it is not necessary for China to, shall we say, tie itself to policy formulations that are concentrated on Pakistan. Although you have a relationship with them, and we have no problem that you have a relationship with them, our concern in your relationship with Pakistan is only about the impact on nuclear non-proliferation. That is one concern that we have expressed to you.

And perhaps the other concern is the extent to which your collaboration and help to them is concentrated in the area that we believe they have occupied forcibly. If you were building the highway between Islamabad and Karachi, we would not even think twice. But if there is a highway that is being built in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, then we have to consider and speak to you and say, look is it necessary, is it possible that you tone down your concentration here. Now this is a very narrow area in which we need to talk from time to time.

And then finally of course there is our common endeavour and effort to moves step-by-step towards resolving our boundary issue, the Line of Actual Control. I think we can say with satisfaction that the Special Representatives and other mechanisms in place are moving steadily. And I think we have both rightly decided not to push the pace so that it gives way rather than continue to progress in the manner. And we think we have a very satisfactory progress as far as the boundary dispute is concerned.

So, if China has a greater stake in India’s economy and we have a greater participation in the Chinese economy, many of these issues will get dwarfed even further and we will be able to look at a much larger landscape of collaboration and cooperation. I look forward to the day when in the world when a decision needs to be taken, people will look at India and China and say we cannot take this decision unless both of them are on board because they think alike. So, any desire of anybody to say, ‘can we drive a wedge between India and China’ is something that we want to reject, discourage, and hopefully obliterate completely. Chinese Media (China Daily): It seems that there are different views among the Indian elite on the China-India relationship. Some think China and India as two incompatible competitors. Others hold that there is room for cooperation and both countries can benefit from that kind of cooperation. My question is, in your view, which one plays a more dominant role?

External Affairs Minister:
Your Yin-Yang circle is what we will become one day. I think that is inevitable. It is inevitable. We are destined to be the Yin Yang. That is what we are destined to be one day. I think we have it in us to at least work towards that.

People who think that the shape of Yin Yang cannot come together in India are very few. They are either ill informed or they have some other reason for taking up a position that India and China cannot be compatible as collaborators, as friends, and as partners. I think, as I said, either they are not fully informed, or they are informed by interests which are very narrow, political interests which are narrow.

But there is no political gain. Maybe somewhere near the border one or two Districts may get influenced by this kind of talk. But my understanding of Indian politics is that there is no political gain, even in the short term, to be had from this kind of political position that people take, and they will understand. Gradually they will understand this.

Of course what is important is, as I said this morning, that the reporting of our relationship must be of a positive nature, both by the Chinese press and by the Indian press, because if you are reporting not fairly and correctly, it can mislead people. I will give you an example. When I came back from China - I was very pleased with my visit and I think there is nothing wrong in saying that I was pleased with my visit - somebody asked me what do you think of Beijing. I said it is a beautiful city and I would not mind staying in Beijing when I cease to be Foreign Minister.

Now, there are some people who deliberately printed this as saying that why are you showing China to be better than India. It was not about better, it was about liking. You were very hospitable, you were very friendly. I saw outstanding institutions. I went to the National Museum. I walked in the Tiananmen Square. I saw young people; I saw spring in their step. And I think it would not be fair if I did not describe what I saw. It was good. Not to say that you do not have problems like we do not have problems, but every big country will have problems. There will be somebody in disagreement; there will be somebody out of sync, etc.

I think there is nothing wrong in our being frank and open and transparent in our praise of each other. And I think that people of your country should welcome if you say that you went to Delhi and you felt that Delhi was a homelike city, it is a city that you could make your home. I think that kind of positive spins to be given to our feelings for each other are very important. I do not know if the Chinese are emotional people, but we in India are very emotional. And it helps to touch an emotional chord with us. So, if you can touch an emotional chord with India, you will be always more welcome and more successful in dealing with our people.

Chinese Media: Your Excellency, I would like to ask you a question about India’s China policy. We know that geographically India is a country which Washington and Tokyo are trying to …(Inaudible)… What do you think …(Inaudible)… India’s China policy?

External Affairs Minister: To tell you the truth, a lot of scholars write about it and we read it in papers as well, but nobody, neither the Japanese and the Americans have not told us to participate in an encircling manoeuvre with China. They do not even flag for us their displeasure or discouragement at the collaborations that we are doing with you and military exercises we do with you. The fact that we celebrate our relationship as a strategic, comprehensive partnership, they do not say to us why are we doing this. That is because if they did, we would say well why do you deal with China?

Some of your biggest investment is coming from Japan. I guess your biggest debt to you is owed by the United States of America. So, if they are dealing with you in their best interest and their own enlightened interest, why should we not deal with you, why should we subject ourselves to someone else? Why should we become for somebody else an element by which they can drive a better bargain with China?

We will bargain with you as friends, as partners. And there is always an exchange which should be a fair and equitable exchange between partners. We would not want to be able to load our negotiations with you on behalf of anyone else. But again we also say to you that we have no self consciousness that we have a good relationship with Japan, and you can see for instance the automobile industry, how strongly we work with Japan in the automobile industry. You see the cars in the streets of Delhi. But that is not at your cost. Just as we would not be friends with you at their cost, we are not going to be friends with them at your cost.

But sometimes there will be competition, and let me tell you where. Some people think that India should also have bullet trains. We do not have a bullet train yet. The Chinese have one model of a bullet train, Japanese have one model of a bullet train, the French have another model of a bullet train. And I think there is no harm our saying, why do not you compete and give us the best at the best price. I think that is an acceptable thing to do, to say that let us get the best from the people who have spent money in research on this train till such time as we get to a level that we can research and develop our own train.

So, no question, we have never endorsed it. Nobody has ever encouraged us to do that. Whatever signals people read from elsewhere, we are not concerned. We are very clear. We have an open, honest relationship with China; and we have an open, honest relationship with the US and with Japan. There are many things that the US-India relationship cannot replicate, which is available to us in China-India relationship; and similarly with Japan.

When there are differences between you, we think and we always advice that we should not get involved. It is best if through dialogue those matters are settled, which is what you are trying to do where you have differences with Japan.

Chinese Media: Mr. Minister, It has been reported that Prime Minister Singh will visit China next month. It will be the first exchange of visit of the two Ministers in one year. In your opinion, what is the significance of this visit and will the two leaders sign any documents or agreements?

External Affairs Minister: I think yes, we are working very seriously on documents. Our Prime Minister makes it a point to tell us that before every visit, that his visit must involve concrete deliverables and not just be a visit for a formality. Therefore, my colleagues have to work very hard day and night to ensure that the documents that need to be signed are prepared well in time. Both sides have worked very hard since my visit.

When I came, we started many of the negotiations followed again and taken to a higher level. Premier Li was in India and we are very honoured and pleased that his first stop outside the country as Prime Minister was in India. And I think that is an important and significant indication of our relationship coming from your side. Then as you said, in the same year Prime Ministers of both countries going to the other country happened two decades ago. I think it happened in 1954 and we are now doing this in the year 2013. So, obviously, there is something very significant that has gone into the growth of our relationship. Our Prime Minister has made a personal investment in improving the relationship of our leadership with your leadership. I think that this in itself is the biggest takeaway that this is a crescendo of visits from both sides. We would like to see even more visits from China. As you know, I signalled this morning that we are thinking of moving forward now on twinning of cities, sister cities, between our two countries, on industrial parks, which are Chinese industrial parks.

As you will know, Chinese food is the most popular food in our country - perhaps different from your Chinese food but it is Chinese food - and I hope equally Indian food is the most popular foreign food in Beijing. So, just as I said, I think we have complementarities that we just need to work on. Fundamentals are very strong but the infrastructure and the superstructure has to be developed and it is our responsibility to do it.

Chinese Media: Mr. Minister, in the just concluded Media Forum many participants suggested that our two countries should increase mutual trust. What are the main reasons behind the trust deficit between the two countries and how can the situation be improved?

External Affairs Minister:
Trust is not something that you can switch on and switch off. Trust is something that is based on experience. It is based on exchanges between people. It is based on sharing thoughts, sentiments, on having positions that are common, facing challenges together and helping each other facing challenges. Learning more about each other, you will begin to trust. You do not trust strangers because you do not know enough about them. The more you know about each other, the more you know about responses and reactions, the more you begin to trust.

And if in critical moments when there is pressure on you and there is pressure on us, in those critical moments we are able to show - whether it is public pressure from within the country or it is pressure from outside globally, there is pressure from institutions, or pressure from other countries - and we withstand that pressure, that will be the way of advancing trust amongst ourselves.

Ultimately and finally, I think much more meeting together, the more you meet and talk, the more you are likely to find common ground. That is true at all levels, not just at the levels of government officials and Ministers and Heads of State and Heads of Government, but also amongst ordinary people. You know Chinese travel to the world in very large numbers, huge, huge numbers, as tourists, as people who go out for shopping and people who go out for various other purposes. Many more Chinese need to come to India, and many more Indians need to travel to China. I think whatever we can do to facilitate this I think is important. I am going to give your Minister some recently made films in India including "3 Idiots” and I will recommend that you see more Indian films and get more attracted towards what we are doing in our country, and I think all that will bring up trust. Chinese Media: ...(Spoke in Chinese)…

External Affairs Minister: I tell you how much I trust you, I will say yes without any interpretation. But yes, please continue.

Chinese Media:(Inaudible)… the China-India Friendship Year that will come in 2014. The year 2014 will come very soon. My question is actually something we talked about this afternoon. In the Forum we agreed that ... communication and exchanges between the two countries especially in the media sector …(Inaudible)… So, my question is, in preparation for the upcoming China-India Friendship Year, has Indian side made any preparation? Our newspaper …(Inaudible)… and we would like to know your plans on …(Inaudible)…

External Affairs Minister:(Inaudible)… The plans are still being made and they are being prepared. But the person who is hands on preparing the plans will tell you because when they take final shape is when I come into the picture. But he will share with you.

Senior MEA Official: Thank you very much, Minister. As the Minister said, the plans are still being prepared. I will be in Beijing in the last week of September to fructify and consolidate some of these plans. The India-China Cultural Exchange Programme is being finalised also. That will give us some idea about what are the activities that we will do next year. But in general I can confirm to you that there will be a lot of exchanges between our two countries not only in the sphere of performing arts but also in the areas of films, television and hopefully media.

We want to hold the second India-China Media Forum at an early date next year. I can also tell you that we have invited China to be the guest country of honour at the International Film Festival of India which will take place in Goa in November 2014. These are some of the activities that will take place. A listing is being prepared and hopefully will be ready by the time of our Prime Minister’s visit to your country.

Chinese Media: Mr. Minister, my question is that in this era of new social media, in this era of internet we have this saying in China that everything that has a microphone …(Inaudible)… And in fact because of the internet era …(Inaudible)… voice your opinion. And I want …(Inaudible)… any pressure on the creation …(Inaudible)… of the diplomatic policies and whether the Indian Government or your Ministry are doing anything to deal with such a pressure? Or, if I may put my question this way, are you actually being able to find a balance between meeting the demands of the public …(Inaudible)… creation and implementation of the government’s diplomatic policies?

External Affairs Minister: I think this is a very difficult question because we do not have answers to this right now. And I am sure you do not have answers in China to this as well. That is because the systems of governance and the systems of public engagement and involvement in policy making that we have followed traditionally, you have followed traditionally in your country and we have in our country, have been in a sense bypassed by social media.

Social media strengthening these systems is a welcome thing. In some places, this social media strengthens the existing systems by making them more affordable, making them more accessible, making them more transparent, and making them more responsive. To that extent social media has been I think a great asset. But it has also in some cases tried to bypass existing systems, which is not a good thing.

People have to understand governance and structure of government, and structure of democracy, and of policy making. That can easily be undermined by social media that has no responsibility. If we are wrong in government, and if you are wrong in government, the people tell you that you are wrong by not appreciating what you have done, or by saying that what you are doing is not acceptable. But if somebody is wrong in social media, they disappear. There is no accounting by them at all.

We have had cases where irresponsible social media comments have caused migrations of huge number of young people working in another part of India back to their own State because somebody had a message go viral which said if you do not leave, you will be attacked. Now, this is completely unacceptable. And if you try to restrict it, then people complain about censorship and they complain about lack of freedom and so on. So, we have to find a balance. Freedom comes with responsibility. Freedom is not only licence, it comes with responsibility. So, I think that both of us can share our experiences on how to deal with social media.

One thing we have accepted and we agree that if you do not give material to the social media, then it finds its own material. So, we need to populate the social media with information more easily made available by the government and by agencies of government so that there is much more information available leaving less space for irresponsible information to get in. But I think we will have to work by experience and learn how we move forward over the next few meetings of the Media Forum. You can tell us your experiences and we can tell you our experiences.

Chinese Media: Mr. Minister, I am honoured to ask the last question today.

For Chinese investors, India’s seems to be a difficult market to enter. For example, Chinese telecom companies …(Inaudible)… frustrated in their efforts to expanding to the Indian market. My question is, what is India’s policy towards investment from China? The two countries have decided to expand bilateral trade volume to 100 billion US dollars by 2015. So, how …(Inaudible)

External Affairs Minister: I think with the telecom and electronics sector which you have mentioned is special. I do not think that the concern that has been felt by Chinese industry vis-a-vis those sectors is not common across the board on other Chinese equipment and Chinese products. Of course, periodically you will have the problem of dumping and you will have the problem of WTO, etc., but that works both ways. It could happen in China for Indian goods and here. That is something that we have both agreed we have to comply with and adhere to.

Here we are ourselves concerned. I do not think that your companies need be frustrated. I have met with them. They have even been to my own constituency and they have dealt with people in my constituency giving them computers and bicycles for girls and so on. There was a concern that is partly protection of Indian manufacturers and partly an issue of the security issues involved in electronics. But I think we are resolving it. This is something which is of concern. Even within our own Government there were different views of how much concern should be followed and to what extent. So, I think this is only a learning experience because this is something relatively new to the Indian market. I do not think that this is something that really should worry your people. They are in touch with us; we are in communication with them. I think these matters that are being sorted out and will be resolved.

Chinese Media: Thank you. Thank you very much for your time.

External Affairs Minister: Thank you. I enjoyed talking to you and I hope that this is going to become a very important institution, contacts between media in our country with you. And I hope that these contacts will not be restricted only to meeting when the Forum meets. I hope that you will at your own levels remain in contact and in touch, and that we will have the advantage to reap more of your stuff published in our newspapers, and I hope that you can publish something that we give you. I will begin by writing something for one of your agencies, and you can print it and distribute it. I will do it before our Prime Minister comes to China. Thank you.

Chinese Media: Thank you once again.



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