The Indian general election wrapped up with Prime Minister NarendraModi being reelected. What challenges are ahead for him? How should China and India avoid conflicts like the Doklam border standoff in 2017? Global Times (GT) reporter Wang Wenwen interviewed Satyendra Upadhyay (Upadhyay), director of International Relations at Mumbai-based SomaiyaVidyavihar. Upadhyay was in Beijing to attend the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations from May 15-17.
GT: What is your understanding of the Conference of Dialogue on Asian Civilizations?
Upadhyay: We don’t need to say the strong historical links between India and China, for instance Buddhism and the Silk Road. We have to make sure that we do not politicize this platform. It is a scholars’ platform. If that objective is maintained, it will set up a new milestone for Asian civilizations.
When people talk about a clash of civilizations, I would say it is diversity of civilizations. Suppose two civilizations come together with different approaches and do not agree at a certain point, you can call it a clash, but we will call it diversity. We have to respect tolerance of civilizations.
GT: Does Modi’s victory mean that the Indian public is satisfied with his performance in the last five years?
Upadhyay: We cannot generalize satisfaction so simply because if expectations are high, satisfaction is difficult to achieve. You can be satisfied with something, not everything.
Modi has raised some visionary concepts like “Make in India.” Everybody likes this policy because India has to be a sustainable economy and manufacturing is one sector that can create a lot of employment. He has also touched on some social issues such as his “Clean India” policy. These are positive things.
There are things that are not so positive. There is unemployment and taxation. Not everybody will like it, but it is a process of development. Challenges are there, but definitely a stable government is very important and the government has to be more sensitive about what’s going on.
GT: What challenges are there for Modi as he starts the second term?
Upadhyay: Nationalism and stable leadership have played a significant role in Modi’s victory. In his new term, the biggest challenge to the Modi government is to generate the huge number of employment opportunities, increase momentum of growth in the agriculture sector, eradicate poverty and make them part of the country’s economic growth. We can expect some reform in policy to achieve an economic growth rate of nine to 10 percent to ensure the fastest growing economy on planet.
GT: How do you evaluate Modi’s China policy in his first term? And what’s your expectation of his future policy toward China?
Upadhyay:Modi’s approach to India’s foreign policy is cooperative and collaborative, engaging in dialogue with neighboring countries. Everybody knows that China and India have a long history and a lot of cooperation. After Modi was sworn in as prime minister in 2014, he invited President Xi Jinping to his home state, Gujarat. The next year, at the invitation of Xi, Modi visited Xi’s hometown Xi’an. He knew that a lot of things needed to be done. That was the step to relations in the future.
In terms of business, after Modi came to power, bilateral trade increased from $60 billion to $90 billion, which has improved in the past five years. As for the Paris environmental cooperation, India and China came together to support it.
When Atal Vajpayee, who also came from the BharatiyaJanata Party, was in power, there was a lot of cooperation between China and India. Modi took his policies forward and developed relations with China more at the grass-roots level. During Modi’s China visit in 2015, 24 agreements were signed between the two countries. That is the good part of bilateral relations.
India and China have been neighbors since ancient civilization. I believe visionary leadership of both modern India and China understands each other’s strength and role in international relations and the world economy and is capable enough of resolving any conflict.
Both governments also need to be equally prepared for cooperation in conflicts. Multilateral level dialogue and transparent communication need to be continued, which may avoid all conflicts, as similarities between two countries are more common than differences. I feel India-China youth should work together to make socio-economic relations more promising and sustainable.
GT: The Doklam standoff in 2017 steered bilateral relations downward. How should the two countries prevent such incidents from happening again?
Upadhyay: Bilateral relations have ups and downs. For China and India, border disputes, trade imbalance and investment concerns are always there. But they have been talking in all areas. Border disputes have been discussed all the time. In India, intellectual people were a little bit critical about that. But the best part of that was even people in the government said we are talking with the Chinese government and military. The dialogue was not off. Although there was critical situation, it was not critical. People knew it would be resolved. In the past 30 to 40 years, no bullets were fired on the border and the Chinese and Indian military were in good dialogue.
The Doklam issue is testing China-India relations in the new times. Of course we should solve it as soon as possible. We should not have extended it for one month.
The border issue is very difficult to clarify. This also gives a reason for China and India to come together and resolve the issue. Both countries are mature enough today. If they can solve the border issue, it will give message to the rest of the world how the two countries reach peace and that they are concerned of the common people. When we have so many issues around such as the Belt and Road Initiative and the trade war between China and the US, the border issue is not that big. We should not keep the issue on hold for a long time.