Public Diplomacy

Address by External Affairs Minister and Chinese Minister of the State Council Information Office during inauguration of India-China Media Forum (September 16, 2013)

September 16, 2013

Official Spokesperson (Shri Syed Akbaruddin): Ladies and gentlemen, Hon. Minister, Delegates from the media in India, and our Chinese friends who have traveled a long way to be with us here:

I would like to welcome you to this first effort of ours at an India-China Media Forum.

For those of you who are perhaps not aware of the background, let me try and summarise this. This is an effort that has been in the making for some time but it gathered momentum when External Affairs Minister Shri Salman Khurshid had discussions with his Chinese counterpart earlier this year. The idea was to provide a platform of the media so that they can interact directly between themselves. So, what we have done is to provide that platform. The rest is for the representatives of the Indian and the Chinese media to take this further.

As a Chinese saying goes, of a good beginning cometh a good end. So, as a good beginning when the Chinese Delegation arrived here, we decided we start with the best that India can offer, and that is a visit to the Taj Mahal. We hope that with that good beginning we provided a platform for all of you to interact; and we look forward to this evening for the end product.

I am particularly grateful to our Chinese colleagues who have been able to get together a team of media representatives which represents virtually every section of the Chinese media. For our part it was a difficult choice. We have more than 90,000 Indian publications, almost 800 Indian TV channels, and social media is as vigorous as that in China. So, it was a difficult decision, but we did manage to bring a representative group of Indian media representatives here.

I do not want to take much of your time but only to set the ball rolling I will request the External Affairs Minister Shri Salman Khurshid to deliver his Inaugural Address because he was somebody who started this process. I am grateful for him for being here today and kicking off, so to say, this process in its actuality. External Affairs Minister!

External Affairs Minister (Shri Salman Khurshid): 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.

Minister of the State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China (Mr. Cai Mingzhao)

Distinguished Minister Khurshid,
Friends from Chinese and Indian media,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am very glad to come to the beautiful city of New Delhi, to attend the First China-India Media Forum. First, I would like to extend my warm congratulations on the convening of this forum on behalf of the State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China! I would like to sincerely thank Chinese and Indian journalists, experts and scholars present at the forum!

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang paid an official visit to India during May 19-22 this year. India was the first country that he visited after assuming the post of Chinese Premier. This suggests that China’s new government attaches great importance to China-India relations.

During the visit, the two sides signed a number of cooperative agreements, including documents on economic and trade cooperation. They also issued a joint statement, which charted the future development direction of our bilateral relations. Both Chinese and Indian media covered Premier Li’s visit with great attention and enthusiasm. Premier Li asked me to convey his thanks to Chinese and Indian journalists.

This China-India Media Forum is a specific measure to carry out the decisions made during Premier Li’s visit and to enhance cultural exchanges between the Chinese and the Indian people. I believe that this forum will further deepen understanding between media of the two countries, expand their areas of cooperation and push media exchanges and cooperation to a higher level.

Just like you, I’m also a media professional. I worked for long time with Xinhua News Agency and People’s Daily, the two most famous media in China, for more than twenty years. I fully understand that the nature of journalism is to pursue new development and changes and report progresses of the times. There are no two other countries like China and India, each with a population of more than 1 billion, which have achieved rapid growth in the past few decades. This is an unprecedented historic event both Chinese and India media people should cover with great enthusiasm.

The fact that China and India are developing simultaneously illustrates that the world is big enough for us to develop at the same time. It suggests that we have each found a development path that suits our respective national conditions. We should walk hand in hand to continue along the paths that suit our own national conditions.

Since China and India established diplomatic ties more than 60 years ago, the relations between the two countries have been growing soundly and comprehensively. Our mutual strategic trust has been gradually enhanced. Our bilateral ties have become more resilient to disturbances. Our two countries’ interests have become more intertwined. The strategic economic dialogue and other mechanisms have become more well-established. The areas of pragmatic cooperation continue to expand. Cultural exchanges keep growing. Friendship between the two peoples has deepened. The two countries have often worked together in international and regional affairs to safeguard common interests.

Looking to the future, China-India relations have great potential for growth. As close neighbors and partners, friendly and pragmatic cooperation between China and India is in the fundamental interests of both nations, as well as a blessing for Asia and the world.

Ladies and gentleman,

Relations between nations lie in amity between the people, while amity between the people lies in mutual understanding. Exchanges between people constitute an important cornerstone of friendly relations between nations.

From past to present, there are many examples about the exchanges between the Chinese and the Indian people. Tagore is a household name in China and India. One of his students, Wei Fengjiang, came from China.

Eighty years ago, in 1933, the 22-year-old Wei arrived in India, becoming the first modern Chinese scholar to study Indian history and literature in India. After returning to China in 1939, Wei authored and translated many books to introduce the Indian culture and history to the Chinese people.

After Wei passed away, a statute of him was built in Zhejiang Yuexiu Foreign Languages Institute in Shaoxing City, where he once worked, to commemorate his important contribution to China-India cultural exchanges.

Since the 1920s, a large number of famous Chinese scholars, such as Liang Qichao, Cai Yuanpei, Zheng Zhenduo, Xu Beihong, Ji Xianlin, Tan Yunshan and Tan Zhong, have actively contributed to friendly exchanges between the Chinese and the Indian people.

Meanwhile many famous Indian scholars have studied China and promoted bilateral exchanges. These scholars include Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo,Radhakrishnan,Manik,Arttatrana Nayak, and Kamal Sheel. The seeds of friendship they sowed have now grown into exuberant tall trees.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Media is an important tool to disseminate information, transmit culture and bridge different civilizations. They serve as a bridge to enhance understanding between the people and to foster friendship.

In recent years, Chinese and Indian media have played unique and positive role in maintaining and consolidating strategic cooperative partnership between the two countries. Exchanges and cooperation between media in the two countries are progressing comprehensively. Exchanges between executives of mainstream media are more frequent and so are those between media professionals. Forums, seminars and dialogues have promoted communication between Chinese and India media, significantly contributed to the development of bilateral relations, and enriched the comprehensive bilateral cooperation.

Nonetheless, for some reasons, Chinese and Indian media still do not have sufficient understanding of each other’s country, still cannot fully reflect the current status of the friendly bilateral relations, and still cannot meet the two peoples’ demand for information about the other country.

To promote media exchanges, I would like to make the following proposals:

First, build this forum into a long-term and institutionalized platform for media exchanges. The forum could be held every year, in turn in India and China. Press officials of the two governments and executives of major media institutions will be invited. Participants will have extensive and in-depth discussions on issues of common concerns.

It is necessary for Chinese and Indian media to engage in long-term and frequent dialogues and communication, pushing us to see each other rationally and objectively and presenting a real China and a real India to domestic audience, so as to promote the healthy development of bilateral relations and deepen understanding and friendship between our two peoples.

Second, strengthen pragmatic media cooperation between our two countries. Currently, China and India have altogether about 20 reporters stationed in the other country, which is inadequate given the two countries’ population size and the importance of the two countries’ relations. Obviously, these reporters are not enough to meet the two peoples’ demand for information about each other.

I suggest that media of both countries carry out extensive cooperation in mutual visits, article exchanges and joint interviews. I hope that they could gradually station more reporters in each other’s country, or send more reporters to each other’s country to conduct interviews, meet local residents, and gather real, fresh and first-hand information.

Third, media of both countries should help maintain our bilateral relations. Chinese and Indian media have different cultural backgrounds, perspectives and reporting methods, which is understandable. All media should report truthfully, objectively and fairly. Media should report more on the two countries’ efforts to enhance communication and mutual trust, on the efforts to push forward pragmatic cooperation, on the efforts to expand cultural exchanges and deepen mutual understanding and trust, on the efforts to care about each other’s concerns and properly handle complicated issues. Media should instill more positive energy into the healthy development of bilateral relations.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In the world, there are no two other countries that are like China and India, which have made unique contributions to the mankind with their great civilizations that have lasted thousands of years. China and India are connected by common mountains and rivers, and have engaged in exchanges in various fields for more than two millenniums. As early as in the Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD) and the Tang Dynasty (618-907), the Silk Road on the land and sea connected China and India. As two pearls in Asia, the Chinese civilization and the Indian civilization are different from each other. Yet, they also share many similarities and have illuminated each other in history. Together, they have contributed to splendid Asian civilizations.

Over the past century, the destiny of the two nations has been linked ever closer. The Chinese and Indian peoples understood and supported each other in their respective pursuit of national independence and liberation, with many touching stories. Our two countries jointly advocated the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence which have become important guidance for new type of international relations.

Mahatma Gandhi once said that China and India are fellow travelers sharing weal and woe in a common journey. As fellow travelers, Chinese and India media have more reasons to engage in frequent exchanges to deepen the friendship between our two peoples and to jointly push ahead the strategic partnership between the two countries for the common interests of our two peoples. Let us work together for this great goal!

I wish this forum a great success!

Thank you!


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