It is not surprising that China’s economic growth and its new leadership in research, science and technology have taken place together. I particularly like the old Chinese saying, “If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed; if in terms of 10 years, plant trees; if in terms of 100 years, teach the people.” In India, too, the ancient saying is “Vyaye krate vardhate eva nityam, vidhya dhanam sarva dhan pradhanam (the wealth that increases by giving, that wealth is knowledge and is supreme of all possessions)”. This is one example of how our two nations are united in their timeless wisdom.
There is much more, though, that links our two ancient civilisations. I began my journey in China in Xian. In doing so, I retraced the footsteps of the Chinese monk Xuanzang. He travelled to India from Xian in the 7th century in search of knowledge and returned to Xian as a friend and chronicler of India. The world’s first largescale educational exchange programme took place between India and China during the Tang dynasty. Records talk of about 80 Indian monks coming to China and nearly 150 Chinese monks returning after their education in India. And yes, this was in the 10th and 11th centuries. Mumbai’s rise as a port and shipbuilding centre is because of cotton trade with China. So, the centuries-old story of our relations has been of spiritualism, learning, art and trade. It is a picture of respect for each other’s civilisation and of shared prosperity. It is reflected in the human values of Dr Dwarkanath Kotnis, who treated soldiers in China…
Today, after difficult and sometimes dark passages of history, India and China stand at a rare moment of vast and multiple transitions in the world. Perhaps, the most significant change of this era is the re-emergence of China and India. The world’s two most populous nations are undergoing economic and social transformation on a scale and speed unmatched in history. China’s success over the past three decades has changed the character of the global economy. India is now the next frontier of the economic revolution. Like China, urban renewal is both a necessity and a means to add energy to our economy. In many ways, our two countries reflect the same aspirations, similar challenges and the same opportunities. We can be inspired by each other’s successes. And, in the global uncertainties of our times, we can reinforce each other’s progress.
Our changing world has created new opportunities and challenges. We both face instability in our shared neighbourhood that can threaten our security and slow down our economies. The spreading tide of extremism and terrorism is a threat we both face; for both, its source is in the same region. India and China conduct their international commerce on the same sea lanes. The security of sea lanes is vital for our two economies and our cooperation is essential to achieve it. Equally, we both seek to connect a fragmented Asia. But geography and history tell us that the dream of an interconnected Asia will be successful when India and China work together.
Today, we speak of Asia’s resurgence. But it is also an unpredictable and complex environment. We can be more certain of a peaceful and stable future for Asia if India and China cooperate closely. Asia’s voice will be stronger and our nations’ role more influential, if India and China speak in one voice — for all of us and for each other. Simply put, the prospects of the 21st century becoming the Asian century will depend in large measure on what India and China achieve individually and what we do together. The rising fortunes of 2.5 billion pairs of joined hands will be of the greatest consequence for our region and humanity. This is the vision I share with President Xi and Premier Li. This is the impulse that is driving our relationship.
If the last century was the age of alliances, this is an era of interdependence. So, talks of alliances against one another have no foundation. Neither of us can be contained or become part of anyone’s plans. Above all, as we look ahead, we must build more bridges of familiarity and comfort between our peoples. About 33 per cent of the world’s population is either Indian or Chinese. Yet, our people know very little of each other. We must seek inspiration from the pilgrims of ancient times, who braved the unknown in search of knowledge and enriched us both. So, we have decided to extend electronic tourist visas to Chinese nationals. We are celebrating the Year of India in China in 2015.
Not only are our dreams interconnected, our future is also deeply interdependent. India and China are two proud civilisations and two great nations that will fulfil their destinies. We each have the strength and will to choose our own paths to success. But we have the ancient wisdom to know that our journey will be smoother and our future brighter when we will walk together, confident of one another, and in step with each other.