Wrapping up his three day visit to India, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao urged the media to play a bigger role in promoting friendship between the two countries. “Take the boundary question”, he told a gathering of Indian and Chinese scholars, cultural personalities and editors on Friday morning. “In recent years, never was a single shot fired. But the boundary question has been repeatedly sensationalized by the media, which makes the leaders feel compelled to come out and do something to repair the harm. So I hope the media will play a more positive role to work with two governments to improve the relationship”.
The interaction, which lasted two hours, was unscripted and not without its lighter moments. A visibly relaxed Wen smiled broadly when the noted Chinese writer, Wang Anyi, spoke about Arvind Adiga's novel, ‘White Tiger', whose protagonist pens a series of letters to the Chinese premier.
Mr. Wen said he agreed with Professor Wang Bangwei's remark at the interaction that the ‘dragon' and ‘elephant' should not compete but dance with each other. “The elephant and dragon should learn to tango, and we should start with the children, the younger generation.” He said it is undeniable that in the long annals of history, there was a short page of unpleasantness between India and China. “But we need to turn over the page and move on … I believe cultural exchanges serve as a great bridge of our two countries”.
The Chinese premier said India and China had surmounted many odds throughout history, always striving for self-improvement in spite of adversity. And since both countries have a rich diversity of ethnic groups and languages, “both have to be open and inclusive to be strong and prosperous”. He said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had an open and inclusive mind and that he was gratified the University of Cambridge had published a speech of the Indian leader alongside one of his own, on the subject of inclusiveness in a single monograph.
Premier Wen said that in history, Chinese travellers came to India through three major routes – the Silk Route, the road through Yunnan province via Myanmar, and by the sea. The Chinese and Indians shared new products and technologies, truth and knowledge, with each other. China has decided to donate one million dollars for the revival of Nalanda University “to show our respect for the oriental culture and civilisation”.
Reacting to a suggestion by Professor Manoranjan Mohanty that the two governments create ‘Panchasheel Centres' for India-China initiatives, Premier Wen said he attached great importance to the proposal and would instruct the relevant Chinese departments to examine it. Prof. Mohanty's proposal involves major universities in the two countries establishing Panchasheel Centres with a core faculty for the teaching of languages, arts and culture, trade, investment and technology and international studies.
Zhao Bin from the Sociology Department of Peking University said that scholars in China had paid too much attention to the West and had neglected their Indian neighbour. The people of China have valued peace and harmony since ancient times while cultural diversity has enabled the Indian people to be peaceful and tolerant, she said. “This oriental spirit is different from the jungle rule which supports survival of the fittest in the West. So we should abandon the ‘either/or' binary thinking and carry forward the harmony and inclusiveness without uniformity in our own culture”.
It is often said that one can choose friends but not neighbours, Mr. Wen responded. “But it is truly a blessing to have a good neighbour”.
Indian filmmaker Gautam Ghosh spoke of growing up in a Calcutta that had a thriving community of Chinese citizens. “Once I wanted to make a film about how the Chinese invented gunpowder for fireworks but the rest of the world used it for killing people”, he said, adding that both governments should consider film production under their bilateral agreement.
Mr. Wen replied that Hindi songs and films were once very popular in China. “But I must admit in recent years there have not been many film exchanges. I hope this changes. So I echo what you have said”.