Thoughts on Strengthening Sino-Indian Relations: The Raisina Dialogues 2017

January 25, 2017

Anurag Chandran (Class of 2017) recently participated in the the 2017 Raisina Dialogues, India’s premier geopolitical conference in New Delhi. He shares his thoughts here:  

Thoughts on Strengthening Sino-Indian Relations: The Raisina Dialogues 2017

After an intensely rewarding (yet tiring) 2 Modules at Schwarzman College, I was gearing up to enjoy some sun and laze around the beaches of southern Thailand over my Chinese New Year break. However, when the opportunity to participate in the second edition of the Raisina Dialogues presented itself, I grabbed the invitation and immediately flew down to Delhi, India. Organized by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), the Raisina Dialogues is India’s premier geopolitical and geoeconomic conference that aims to host the world’s leading thinkers and policy-makers in discussions on emerging global issues shaping the world order in this century. Hosted between January 17th and 19th, the theme this year was very pertinent to the happenings around the world—“The New Normal: Multilateralism with Multipolarity.” Being the perpetual policy wonk that I am, I couldn’t be more excited.

Having spent the last 5 months observing, learning and analyzing China’s policies from within, it was a unique experience returning to India with the perspectives I had acquired over my time here. Naturally, I drifted towards the conversations that involved Sino-Indian relations, and over time, acquired the “China guy” title, which I was only too proud to wear. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the conference, welcoming a multipolar Asia and urging for more sensitivity and understanding in Sino-India relations. The conference addressed several areas of global affairs including connectivity, globalization, international security, climate, technology, digitization and human rights. Featuring a star-studded line-up of speakers including former Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and several other national and international leaders and experts, the 2017 Raisina Dialogues laid the framework for honest discourse on the happenings around the world.

Apart from the opportunity to rub shoulders with these leaders and experts, I found myself engaging in many a debate on the nature of Sino-Indian ties. Political rhetoric, as it turns out, can sometimes be incredibly frustrating. I learned, over the course of my conversations, that there still exists a great deal of skepticism between both sides. For instance, certain Indian ministers, when pressed on the possibility of adopting China’s methods on development and digitization, expressed their concerns about democracy in the country. In a similar vein, when Chinese delegates were pushed on the possibilities of India’s rise, expressed their disappointment in the slow transformation occurring within the country due to its political and bureaucratic red tape.  However, both sides agreed on one thing—India and China both have the potential to become important poles in our impending multipolar world.

This is where the importance of programs like Schwarzman Scholars comes in. A large reason for the lack of sensitivity and understanding between China and India can be attested to the lack of awareness. Until I moved to China and started experiencing the “Middle Kingdom” first hand, I was in the same category of individuals expressing skepticism of India’s northern neighbor. I wouldn’t have known about the incredible technological boom and China’s movement towards a cash-less society. I wouldn’t have experienced the incredible warmth of the Chinese people, and their interest in introducing me to the culture, values and traditions of this nation. Similarly, unless the Chinese policy-makers and the general public visit India and immerse themselves, there will continue to be misconceptions of development in the country. Besides, how do you experience the world-famous Indian hospitality, unless you visit my country? In short, I am indebted to the Schwarzman Scholars Program for the opportunity to truly understand China and immerse myself here. We proudly carry the responsibility of building bridges between our nations and China, and I am so glad that I got a glimpse of what a future career in Sino-Indian ties might look like. If the 21st century is to indeed become the “Asian century,” we have to ensure that China and India cooperate, and learn from each other to ensure a peaceful, mutual rise. I return to China with a strengthened purpose—to make even greater use of my remaining time in Beijing. Where else, but at Schwarzman College would I get unabridged access to some of China’s top experts, business leaders and policymakers?