'Indians were very friendly towards China'

Print edition : September 12, 1998

Professor WANG DEHUA, in his 60s, is Research Professor at the Centre for South Asian Studies of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SASS). He specialises in the study of India's political economy. He has written, among other things, on Sino-Indian relations, including economic relations, India's economic liberalisation and comparative national strengths. He has closely followed South Asian nuclear policies. He spoke to me in English over a working lunch at an elegant SASS campus restaurant:

"ON our side, I think there are no obstacles. India, I hope, will maintain a peaceful and tranquil border. I wrote an article on Sino-Indian relations in the twenty-first century. In my personal opinion, we will have to solve these questions.

"First, the boundary question, left over by history, by British imperialism. China has settled boundary questions with Burma, the former Soviet Union, Kazakhstan. We are talking with Vietnam and will settle the issue in a friendly way.

Professor Wang Dehua (right) with Associate Professor Zhang Jiazhe in Shanghai.-N. RAM

"The second question, in order of importance, is the Tibet question. The Dalai Lama, we hope, during his stay in India will not conduct any activities for Tibetan 'independence', for the separation of Tibet from China. In the West, they have given him the Nobel Prize. We welcome him back as early as possible. Recently, the Dalai Lama said he was willing to talk. The Government of India should promote this kind of talks.

"Thirdly, a small group, a handful (in India), are suspicious of China. They harp on the so-called Chinese 'threat'. Deng Xiaoping said: China is not a threat to India, India is not a threat to us. He also explained what we mean by the Asia-Pacific Century (the twenty-first century). Only when India and China are highly developed can we call it the Asia-Pacific Century!

"China and India must prosper. The main thing is confidence-building. All suspicions must be removed. Our scholars should make more contributions to Sino-Indian friendship, by sponsoring joint research projects.

"Since 1978, China's focus has been on economic development. We need a peaceful environment. China acquired its nuclear weapons during the Cold War period to break nuclear blackmail. Now, in the post-Cold War period, the focus is on economic relations. The trend is towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons, not just the test ban. From the beginning, China was for No First Use.

"Targeting China as a 'threat' is ridiculous. We have been cutting back our troops. Originally, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) had a four million strength. Now it is three million and there will be a further reduction by half a million. We will maintain our PLA strength at 2.5 million.

"After my visit to India in March 1997, people here asked for my impression. I said I had formed a very good impression. Indians were very friendly to China, enthusiastic especially about developing economic relations. They said the level of trade relations between India and China was too low. Two-way trade was less than $1.5 billion at that time. I predicted $1.8 billion by the end of 1997.

"We have had these unhappy events since May but I am still confident about economic relations. I think this year two-way trade will reach $2 billion. The target for 2000 is $5 billion. Yet this represents less than 1 per cent of China's foreign trade and 2 per cent of India's foreign trade."

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