Insights into Editorial: In search of the Wuhan spirit
The coastal town of Mamallapuram (aka Mahabalipuram) has pipped the sacred city of Varanasi to host the historic informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The historical Buddhism connection is being capitalised well with statutes of Buddha seen at various vantage points in Mamallapuram, which is getting a major facelift with hundreds of workers toiling round-the-clock to ensure that the town is ready for the historic meeting between October 11 and 13.
Why Mamallapuram is chosen for second Informal Summit between India and China:
If Wuhan was picked by President Xi Jinping as the venue last year to demonstrate China’s economic resilience and might, Mamallapuram is symbolic of India’s ‘soft power’.
Mamallapuram, an important town of the erstwhile Pallava dynasty that ruled this part of south India from 275 CE to 897 CE, is renowned for its architecture, widely admired across the world.
Historical connect between Mamallapuram with China:
Historians said that the ancient port town of Mamallapuram was used effectively by the Pallavas to trade with China.
More importantly, Buddhist monk Bodhidharma, who was an icon in China, was the third prince of a Pallava king who travelled to China from Kancheepuram via Mamallapuram in 527AD.
He went on to become the 28th patriarch of Buddhism succeeding Prajnatara.
Mamallapuram and the Pallava dynasty are also historically relevant, for the earliest recorded security pact between China and India (in the early 8th century) involved a Pallava king (Rajasimhan, or Narasimha Varma II), from whom the Chinese sought help to counter Tibet, which had by then emerged as a strong power posing a threat to China.
Significance of these informal summits:
Informal meet at Wuhan resulted in invoking of Wuhan Spirit, which sought to reset ties between India and China.
Wuhan Spirit is in line with the five principles of peaceful coexistence (Panchsheel) jointly advocated by China and India in the 1950s. Under Wuhan Spirt:
Both countries agreed that they form the “backbone” of economic globalisation, and they should jointly make positive contributions to global peace and development.
The two nations have agreed to cooperate, for the first time ever, on a joint project in Afghanistan.
China has indicated that India’s refusal to join the Belt and Road Initiative will not come in the way of economic cooperation.
Changing relations: Treading with caution:
- India also has other reasons to be more optimistic than a year ago because India’s relations with the U.S. have attained a new high.
- The Quad (the U.S., India, Japan and Australia) has gained a new lease of life.
- China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has also come under increasing attack, due to debt trap diplomacy (China taking the lease of Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port for 99 years).
- India’s relations with Russia have acquired a fresh dimension, incorporating economics alongside a longstanding military relationship.
- India’s line of credit to develop Russia’s Far East has fundamentally changed the nature of India-Russia relations.
- Due to Trade war, relations between China and the U.S. have sharply deteriorated.
- Also, a new triangular relationship of Russia, India and Japan, appears to be altering equations in the East Asian region.
- China’s willingness to block any concrete action against Pakistan, its “all-weather friend”, for supporting terrorism has constituted one of the most pressing obstacles in having smooth relations between New Delhi and Beijing.
- China believes that India poses one of the few potential challenges to its ambitions of Asian dominance.
- Therefore, the primary motivation behind China’s strategic cultivation of Pakistan has been a long-held strategy of entangling India in the subcontinental rivalry.
- Beijing has been quite successful in that India-Pakistan hostility has prevented New Delhi’s power and influence spreading beyond its immediate neighbourhood.
- Pakistan has fully embraced China as the most important strategic balancer against India.
- Pakistan’s historically close relationship with China has deepened in recent years, particularly after the inauguration of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is an important component of China’s geo-economic and geopolitical Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
The meeting is also likely to help Mamallapuram become a must visit place for Chinese tourists, who mostly visit Bodhgaya.
Informal summits have their use as trust-building exercises.
Doklam and the disputed border between the two countries remains an issue of concern.
The geo-political dynamics have changed in the recent past.
It has been said that this century is Asia’s century, so in the light of this perception, both countries need to focus their energies more on domestic socio-economic development rather than frittering it away militarily.
Hopes raised at the Wuhan Summit that the two countries would jointly work together on an economic project in Afghanistan have proved to be evanescent.
With preparations and proper handling, the forthcoming meet could, on the other hand, provide India’s leaders with a realistic estimate as to where India-China relations are headed.