Reminisces of cultural ties to revive Sino-Indian relations

Sino-Indian relations, more often than not, are seen as a relentless tussle of border issues between the Himalayan neighbours, even when they have more in common than their shared borders. India and China share an old bond of cultural knowledge which the present Chinese authorities wish to revive.

The two Himalayan nations have a long history of bilateral exchanges in the areas of culture, economics, trade, education and literature. Xuanzang, or Hiuen Tsang, renowned for his 16-year journey to India and his career as a translator of Buddhist scriptures, is one of the most illustrious figures in the history of scholastic Chinese Buddhism. His contributions helped broaden the awareness about Indian history in the world.

The two Asian giants – India and China, in their respective contemporary paths, are taking on every opportunity of innovative technological and economic development, and an overall amelioration of their nations. These countries have similar agendas on the global platform pertaining to the empowerment of their population.

However, these populations often forget the support lent by these countries to each other while fighting against the imperialist aggression. Indian leaders such as Gandhi, Nehru, Bose, and patriotic poet Rabindranath Tagore had all along cherished deep sympathy and maximum support for China’s struggles towards an anti-imperialist national and democratic revolution.

“China and India are very old and beloved brothers,” said Tagore.

The biggest offshoot of similarity in their history is ‘oriental culture’.

Lin Yutang (1895-1976), author of ‘The Wisdom of China and India’, also gratified India’s cultural inclination towards China.

“India was China’s teacher in religion and imaginative literature, and the world’s teacher in trigonometry, quadratic equations, grammar, phonetics, Arabian Nights, animal fables, chess, as well as in philosophy. India has inspired Boccaccio, Goethe, Herder, Schopenhauer, Emerson, and, probably also, old Aesop.”

With a history so appreciative of each other and colliding on several lines, these Asian countries fighting global polarization can come together and drive their cultural connotations to develop a game which could change their relationship for the better. In an attempt to achieve the same for Sino-Indian relations, Chinese vice-president Li Yuanchao is on a visit to India.

He is expected to preside over the renewal of the 2013 MoU regarding joint water management (share hydrological data on several Himalayan rivers, assistance in emergency management– mainly flood data) with India, as it is the lower riparian state. This would impact the north-eastern states of India the most as the Brahmaputra River helps them sustain.

He will also sign an agreement on a cultural exhibition on the Gupta Dynasty era to be held in China in 2016. Li also visited the Ajanta Caves- an architectural and cultural creation of the Gupta dynasty.

This is said to be a Chinese government strategy as they look at the Gupta Empire with particular interest as it was during this period that the Nalanda University prospered which later on hosted Xuanzang during his visit to India.

Both India and China should take every step to revive this epoch’s association as it would strengthen peaceful and progressive relations between them. China favouring Pakistan, and several disputes between India and China on the border issue are naturally major concerns; but in the age of militarization and nuclear availability, war or combat is not the solution.

This alternative route of bonding over ancient cultural ties is the best solution for both countries to arrive at a position of peaceful and mutual admiration. This will help the Sino-Indian relations in the development of the two nations simultaneously without becoming a threat to each other.