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National Seminar Report: “Changing Asian Landscape: Role of India and China”

A One Day National Seminar on “Changing Asian Landscape: Role of India and China” was jointly organized by the Chennai Centre for China Studies and the Department of International Studies, Stella Maris College (Autonomous), Chennai. It was held on February 26 2016 at Stella Maris College.


Welcome Address

Dr. Sr. Jasintha Quadras fmm, Prinicipal, Stella Maris College gave the Welcome Address. She introduced the concept paper for the seminar. The 21st century is an Asian Century. It is important in the present scenario to bring India and China together through the equations of regional economic integration and via dimensions of security, stability and connectivity.  The revolutionary mega-project One Belt One Road (OBOR) is taken into account and the two countries will jostle for power and influence in Asia and the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). Despite of India–China border dispute both countries area conducting engagements in other fields and the conflict resolution has been deferred to a later stage. Maritime disputes in the region are also a relevant topic of concern. China’s actions have compelled the Southeast Asian neighbours to take reciprocating measures, such as military modernization.  China’s regional territorial disputes have become a bitter taste in the relationship of China vis-à-vis the Asian landscape. Amidst these observations, the one day national seminar aims to look at the changing landscape of Asia. This will be seen through the lens of the various initiatives being embarked upon by both India and China. The seminar seeks to engage in discussion which will throw light on the flux currents in Asia, vis-à-vis India and China. Dr. Sr. Jasintha Quadras wished success for organizing an event on a topic of great relevance.


Inaugural Address

Cmde. R. S Vasan IN (Retd.), Director, C3S, gave the inaugural speech. He introduced C3S members and the chief guests to the audience. The distinguished guests included H.E Seiji Baba, Consul-General, Consulate General of Japan in China and Mr. Charles Li, Director General, Taipei Economic and Cultural Center Chennai. He thanked Dr. Sr. Jasintha Quadras and Ms. Aarti, H.O.D, Dept. of International Studies, Stella Maris College, and the student coordinators for taking the efforts to materialize the seminar. He gave a glimpse into the seminar and its significance in the present day scenario.


Keynote Address

Shri B. S. Raghavan, Former Policy Advisor to UN (FAO), Chief Secretary, State, Governments of West Bengal and Tripura, Secretary to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, GOI, & Patron, C3S, presented the Keynote address. He noted that ‘The world moves from conflict to harmony’. He emphasized that the world is subjected to change. He looked beyond the future and illustrated that technology will change sources of energy and will overcome the current needs. He mentioned that even oil might be replaced. He added that there might be a universal cyber currency in near future through which all the business transactions might take place.  The governing relations among nations will change and there will be a greater cooperation. He mentioned that both India and China have tremendous resources and potentials they could come together to bring a change in the Asian landscape. Nevertheless the concerns regarding South China Sea, Arunachal Pradesh, territory and ideology should be addressed by India to resolve the differences between them.


Theme Address

Dr. Claude Arpi, Geopolitics Expert from Puducherry presented the theme address. He emphasized that the 21st century will be an Asian one in all dimensions. He explained that the Western world knew very less about Asia. He pinpointed that Tibet was a buffer zone between India and China and India missed a timely chance to address its stance India and China should grow together and promote to exchange culture and language for greater interaction. India-China relations were projected in a skewed manner by the media. He concluded that India and China should ensure transparency in their activities in order to resolve their differences.

Vote of Thanks

Shri D. S. Rajan, Former Director, Cabinet Secretariat, GOI, & Distinguished Fellow, C3S, gave the vote of thanks. He acknowledged Shri. B. S. Raghavan’s words by saying India and China should maintain cooperation and come together to change the Asian landscape. Shri. D. S. Rajan said that Dr. Claude Arpi indicated the need of transparency which is the notable application in the phase of relationship between India and China.  He insisted that it’s time for China to look at the fifth modernization of human rights.


Plenary Session I– Military and Strategic Dimensions

Chair- Ambassador Ganapathy, Former Secretary (West), Ministry of External Affairs, India & C3S

Ambassador Ganapathy explained that without China the momentum of International Relations cannot move forward. He gave an overview of Euro Atlantic foreign policies and explained how Asia Pacific region will emerge in the 21st century.  In order to understand China’s recent scenario one need to question (1) How does Xi Jinping look at the world and (2) How does India look at China under Xi Jinping rule?


Maritime Dimensions of Sino-Indian equations in Indian Ocean Region, Cmde. R. S. Vasan, C3S

Cmde. R. S. Vasan mentioned the navy has its own style where it will “Cut the string and the pearls will fall off”. The strategic importance of Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC) and the need of the energy security in the region were pointed out. While describing the Indian Ocean Region as an arena of competition he focused on the importance of the straits that leads to Indian Ocean Region. Piracy in the Asian region was touched upon besides China’s strategy in the Indian Ocean Region with reference to the nuclear equations.  Energy security was discussed by explaining the vulnerable choke points, maritime terrorism, asymmetric threats, SLOC safety and the Maritime Silk Route. While explaining the Chinese strategy he focused on the One Belt, One Road scheme, Chinese commercial ports, blue water capability and 9 dash line. On the other hand he described India’s strategy by explaining India’s greater cooperation with Japan, U.S.A, Australia and even with China. He also focused on securing India’s immediate neighborhood, India’s engagement with South East Asia, West Asia, Middle East and Africa. He explained how India uses IORA, IONS, MILAN, Bi/Tri and Multi lateral means to thwart Chinese influence.   This is the century of Seas and an Asian Century which has impeding challenges for both India and China particularly in the Indian Ocean. There is also a scope for cooperation for facing the challenges at sea.  India would like to pursue ‘Strategic Autonomy’ and Delhi needs to take on the role of regional leadership. It has to be assertive and display a proactive approach in the maritime arena by leveraging its soft power.

China’s Internal Dynamics, Shri D. S. Rajan, C3S  


The importance of observing  internal dynamics of China cannot be undermined. He mentioned that the stability in China is possible due to the one party rule. To understand the internal dynamics of China we have to understand the current domestic rule along with grand strategy of China.  The human rights situation in China is in great need to undergo a fifth modernization.  There is open evidence that freedom is less yet people are happy to follow Xi Jinping’s command. Xi Jinping is a conservative communist and as the core leader, he would be able to further strengthen his power in the run-up to the next 2017 CCP Congress. Xi might get elected as party chief till 2022. Speculations are rife that the leader desires to rule for longer than a decade till 2027. Thus it is more important to understand Xi Jinping’s ideas to understand the present internal dynamics. Chinese developments in Xijiang and Tibet vis-à-vis resources and trade route were expalined. Xi has called the economic situation as the ‘new normal’, saying  that the “economy is undergoing steady restructuring with emerging sectors like services sector cropping up to lend fresh steam to drive growth”. However it is well known that territorial policy is the core interest of China. In September 2015, China announced a cut by 300,000 in the strength of its military personnel which will now be two million. China is also undergoing a revolution in military budgets. These are termed as “Double century Goals” These have two objectives whereby Xi wants to bring the PLA firmly under the control of the party as well as modernize the military, especially by bringing it under a unified command system. It is clear that the concentration of power in the hands of Xi would impact on the intra-party power equations likely to emerge ahead of the CCP Congress next year. In the months to come, it would be necessary for Xi to ensure that his loyalists get elected to key positions in the Congress.

Strategic Implications of the Disneyland of Snows, Dr. Claude Arpi, Geopolitics Expert, Puducherry


President Xi Jinping expounds his strategic thought for Tibet: “To govern a country, we must govern the borders, for governing the borders, we must first make Tibet stable and [we must] work hard for Tibet’s sustained stability, long term stability and comprehensive stability.”  Events recalled included the invasion of Tibet in October 1950, ‘The First Incursions’ (1954-59), and the Dalai Lama’s escape to India during March 1959. He explained how China worked on the stability of the Plateau and explained the six work forums that took place in 1980, 1984, 1994, 2001, 2010 and in 2015. The arrival of tourists to the region has changed the traits of Tibet region. Around 20 Million tourists visit Tibet. The Chinese management of the region was questioned. The activities of China to connect Tibet were described. At the end of 2014, the total length of roads open to traffic reached 75,000 km, 8,891 km of which have sub-high-grade surfaces (12.6 %) and 65 out of the 74 counties (88 %) in Tibet had access to asphalt roads. He referred to the airports in the TAR, and the reasons for the joint management of airports for the trade between Nepal and Tibet. He questioned the Chinese agenda in developing the infrastructure in Tibet.    China’s actions near the McMahon Line besides the infrastructure developments in Tibet where PLA reforms are implemented were studied.

Meta-geopolitics of India and China, Mr. Vithiyapathy P., Research Officer, C3S


 The presentation was divided into three parts: Venn diagram of Meta-Geopolitics, Jumanji of Asia and the Grand Chess board of India and China.  He described the Venn diagram where the rings of neo-realism and constructivism merge to form meta-geopolitics and hence the structure of international system and international society integrate to form meta-geopolitics. The 7 areas of state power by which meta-geopolitics of India and China is described were explained. Regarding ‘Jumanji of Asia’, descriptions of the importance of the Asian region in terms of stable economy, GDP and the surplus natural resources were made. It was justified by facts and figures produced by Asian Development Bank. The facts produced clearly describe the importance of the Asian region and further focus on the importance of two leading powers India and China in the region. In ‘The Grand Chess board of India and China’ the activities of India and China in the Asian Landscape were explained. It was  substantiated by pinpointing Chinese moves in Asian landscape via One Belt, One Road and other diplomatic activities of China in the region. While describing India’s chess move in the region, he distinguished the foreign policy team of India and assigned the chess powers, such as Ajit Doval, National Security Advisor as Knight, followed by Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, Foreign Secretary as Rook, Sushma Swaraj, External Affairs Minister and V. K. Singh, Minister of State for External Affairs as Bishop of the Indian Chess board moves. On one hand the recent visits of Prime Minister Modi to Asia were described, while on the other light was thrown on the diplomatic visits of External Affairs Minister, Susma Swaraj.  The major roles of Mr. Subrahmanyan Jaishankar and Ajit Doval in India’s foreign policy were highlighted. The efforts of V. K. Singh in Operation Raahat and other brave attempts in securing Indian diapora in Asian landscape were explained. India’s Afghanistan project, TAPI pipeline diplomacy and need for India’s defence exports to balance China’s chess moves were emphasized. The importance of both India and China and the need for cooperation between two countries were described. Both the powers should join hands to eradicate all evils in the region. With great leading capacity in all fields India and China can join together to serve the region by eradicating poverty, unemployment and terrorism. It was concluded that with the cooperative efforts of OBOR reach of China at one end and Project Mausam of India at the other, they can come together to build Asia. Via sustained development made by India and China in the Asian landscape, Asia will become more capable to stand on its own thereby supporting the term ‘Asian Century’.


Compiled by Mr. Vithiyapathy P., Research Officer, C3S

Session-II : Economic Dimensions

Chair- Ms. Aarthi Santhanam, H.O.D, Department of International Studies, Stella Maris College


 “China’s Internal Economic Trends: An Analysis”; Mr. K. Subramanian, Former Joint Secretary (Retd.), Ministry of Finance, GOI, & Member, C3S.


The paper examined the various contemporary facets of China’s internal economy. Currently, there are two ghosts haunting many economists, journalists and analysts: the first is whether China is changing its model of development; the other is about its global implications, especially when China is slowing down. The first issue whether China is changing its model is debatable, viewed against the policies and strategies pursued by Chinese authorities dating back to Chairman Mao’s era and adapted by successive generations of leaders down to the fifth generation led by Xi Jinping. On the second issue, there is consensus that China is slowing down; however, there are serious disagreements over whether China can manage the downturn without jeopardizing the model adopted heretofore. Currently, one of Chinas major problems is that credit growth has far exceeded the growth rate and the need for leveraging the massive debt underlying the credit threatens the stability of the economy. In the World Economic Outlook update it was mentioned that risks to the global outlook remain tilted to the downside and are related to ongoing changes in the global economy, such as a general slowdown in emerging economies, Chinas rebalancing, and lower commodity process. While China has made great progress in rebalancing and there are clear signs of it, there would continue to internal tensions and the progress may not be smooth. It will be a test of the leadership and the legitimacy of the CPC.

“Is China’s Economic Decline India’s Gain?” Mr. T. V. Krishnamurthy, Management Professional, Chennai & Member, C3S.


Nonstop growth in Chinese economy benefited most nations of the world. It helped China catapult to the second largest economy in the world, probably number one in terms GDP growth on PPP terms. So when Chinese economy starts declining it is bound to affect the global economy in many ways. Directly or indirectly. As both India and China are part of this interlinked global economy we need to look at the Global impact of this slow down before analyzing the gains and losses to the Indian Economy. In order to determine who is gaining on account of the decline of China, it is very important to understand first who gained from the spectacular growth of China. The US in particular, gained the most. Several Japanese companies too gained. China itself grew to unprecedented levels. The most visible and dramatic losers are the commodities driven economies, at least two of them from the BRICS. The OPEC countries are no doubt big losers too. This is the most wishful thinking for most Indians: That the Chinese slow down should automatically benefit India. For India, the immediate gains by default are the rock bottom price of crude oil and commodities. In any case China’s economic decline is definitely not India’s gain in exports. So will the India miracle story ever happen? Possibly yes if India fast tracks like China in the next 20 years, like China did. In the end India will have to find its own growth and welfare models. Maybe small, but very robust.  Small is more beautiful sometimes than big.  It is better to stop dreaming big, from other’s misery.  Perceived or real.

 “India’s and China’s quest for Sub-regional Cooperation in South-East Asia: Another battleground for Regional Leadership?”;  Ms. Jayshree Borah, Doctoral Candidate, China Studies Centre, IIT Madras.


Since 1990 South East Asia saw the emergence of sub-regional cooperation initiatives that cut across cross-national boundaries. Subsequently, India and China being the big brothers of the region engaged themselves in the process of sub-regional cooperation within South East Asia. Under the big posture of the Mekong Ganga Cooperation (MGC) and the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), India is involving in several other infrastructures building projects within the region such as, the Trilateral Highway, Kaladan Multi Modsal Transit Transport project, re-opening of the Stilwell Route, Delhi-Hanoi Railway project etc. China, on the other hand is involved with Greater Mekong Sub-region economic cooperation Programme. Paradoxically, China is not a part of MGC or BIMSTEC. Neither is India is a part of the GMS. Recently, a clamor of public and government opposition to Chinese infrastructure projects in Myanmar is rising and Myanmar is offering India the opportunity to fill the strategic gap left by China’s waning influence in the Southeast Asian country. While Chinese projects in Myanmar are consistently falling prey to public disapproval, several infrastructure projects that will connect Myanmar to India’s northeast states appear to be making progress, even in the face of similar local opposition. The question arises whether India and China will start competing with each other at the sub-regional level as well. The presentation answered this query as it provided a comparative analysis of India’s and China’s engagement in sub-regional cooperation mainly in MGC and GSM.


Session –III:  Science, Cultural and Social Dimensions

Chair: Prof. Suryanarayan, Former Nelson Mandela Professor for Afro-Asian Studies, Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam;  Former Director, Centre for South and South East Asian Studies, University of Madras ; & President, C3S


“Changing the Asian Landscape: The Role of Sciences and Technology”; Mr. L.V. Krishnan, Former Director – Safety Research Group, Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research, Kalpakkam, & Member, C3S.


Among the options for making a positive impact in the Asian region, three favourable paths that stand out are aid, trade and political alliance. S&T activities afford good scope for the first two. In preparation for this, India and China would need to strengthen their S&T capability. China is already beginning to make an impact by liberal use of its money power for providing aid and leveraging trade. Chinese aid focuses mainly on infrastructure building in foreign countries. With far less monetary resources and more inward looking policies, India has fallen behind. India’s avowed policy is not to forge alliances. China is aiming at a Great Leap Forward in its S&T capability by inducting in its Universities foreign expertise for R&D related to several emerging fields that have great future potential. The intention is to move from Made in China to Innovated in China. China also facilitates opening of foreign invested R&D centres. India has tended to be autarkic. Assistance to the youth from Asian countries in S&T education and training is another area deserving of consideration. Prevalence of the English language as the medium of higher education provides India a significant edge over China and can be exploited to the full extent. Some Indian Universities have opened branch campuses abroad. To reap greater benefit from this option, India has to further its own strengths by enabling entry of Foreign Educational Institutions. Early decisions are needed and these must be free of undue restrictions. Social sciences cannot be ignored. An effective means of fostering closer relations with other Asian countries is to encourage wider study of their language, culture and society in many Indian Universities. In preparation for this, India and China would need to strengthen their S&T capability.

“Addressing Environmental Concerns in the Changing Asian Landscape: Role of India and China”; Ms. Raakhee Suryaprakash, Founder-Director at Sunshine Millennium, & Associate Member, C3S.


According to the World Bank there are 6 drastic environmental issues before Asia. These include: Wastes from urban excesses; deforestation and desertification; destruction of our oceans and ocean life; global Warming and climate change; air pollution and limited safe water supplies. Asia’s rapid economic and demographic growth caused environmental degradation which has serious social consequences aggravated by the Asian and World Financial Crises. We are dealing poorly with the effects of climate change in cities made less resilient by poor planning and destruction of protective natural resources. There are solutions available that must be put to work including storm water harvesting, water reuse, water conservation and seawater desalination if we are to avoid future wars over water resources. At the 21st Conference of Parties the Paris Climate Summit India and China took up the case of developing nations and asked developed nations to step up and honour their financial, technological and capacity building commitments. Chinese president Xi Jinping, Climate envoy Xie Zhenhua as well as Indian Minister of State for Environment, Forests and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar were key voices for the cause of the South at Paris. India needs a sound National Action Plan like the one in China, but it must be homegrown and not a quick fix one. It must include industry shutdown, removal of cars and polluting heavy vehicles till the air quality improves. As seen in Delhi even one such act throws up many problems if local practicalities are ignored. But India’s AQI launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the meeting of State Environment ministers in April last year is a step in the right direction and needs to be built upon. Let us be led by a dream of a future where nature is nurtured and environment degradation is no longer a concern or even a possibility.

“Sugar and Spice: India’s Soft Power- A Case Study”; Ms. Asma Masood, Research Officer, C3S.


Joseph Nye’s interpretations of the term ‘soft power’ were highlighted.  The paper studied India’s soft power projections vis-à-vis China. The power of social media cannot be underestimated, as seen by Prime Minister’s Modi’s optimum use of Weibo and Twitter during his China visit in 2015. Buddhism has also become a key bridge of India’s “Look East, Act East Policy. Yoga is another bonding factor. The proof is in the significant number of yoga studios across China. Language, like yoga can break ice in bilateral ties. Besides, think tank collaboration is gaining prominence as seen in the success of the BCIM Forum. One negative trait is the dim view of India broadcast by the Chinese media. Nevertheless Indian movies like ‘3 Idiots’ and ‘PK’ have broken the Great Wall. The power of movies cannot be underestimated, given that studies have proven that positive portrayal of African Americans in American entertainment media helped Barack Obama to win the U.S elections. Despite these positivities, India’s soft power has its limitations in China, such as yoga price factor, limit on number of Indian movies allowed to be screened and only recent success of Track II dialogue. The solution lies in various strategies such as improving public diplomacy, image-building, harnessing diaspora dividend, partnering between the MEA and private advertising agencies as well as customizing entertainment media content. It is observed that India already has all the soft power ingredients required. We must combine them, label them and promote them aggressively. This will launch not just a ‘Brand’, but a ‘Super-brand India’.


Cmde. R. S. Vasan, Director, C3S performed the summing up of the seminar. Shri. D. S. Rajan gave the vote of thanks.

Compiled by Asma Masood, Research Officer, C3S.

 Photos of the event: 

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