India and China need to complement each other in various aspects to improve relationships, failing which summits like the one to be held between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese president Xi Jinping in Mahabalipuram, would be futile, an expert has opined.
Dr Joe Thomas Karackattu, assistant professor, IIT Madras, who studies about the relationship between India and China, says that the two countries have a long history and are very old civilizations that had “roughly 50 per cent of the world’s GDP till 15th century”.
“From the 12th century till mid 15th century, both the countries had a healthy engagement through maritime relations. The Coromandel Coast, what we call now as East Coast, had flourished the trade. It was after the industrial revolution that the economic muscle shifted to North America,” he says, adding that by the 21st century, people were showing interest to invest in Asian countries like India and China.
However, there have been several misconceptions between the two sides after the 1962 Sino-Indian war. But Dr Karackattu notes that except that war, historically, there has been no animosity between the two countries.
Following the 1962 war, the nations had stopped border trade for three decades. It was revived after former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi’s visit to China and subsequent visits made by Chinese leaders. Though trade happens between the two now, some tariff/non-tariff barriers exist, Dr Karackattu points out.
Modi and Jinping are set to meet each other at an informal summit at the Unesco heritage sites at Mahabalipuram and discuss a host of bilateral issues, including trade and security.
Economy and population are two key aspects that come to the fore when there is a discussion about the two countries. Dr Karackattu says the two factors have innate advantages and disadvantages, which most of us overlook.
Historically, in most of the indices like health, education, we are equal with China, he says, adding, only in terms of economy, China may be a forerunner, but the quality of growth is fairly resilient in both the countries, in reference to the 2008 financial crisis.
Calling for complementing of elements, Dr Karackattu said unless the “transactional relationship” improves between the two countries, these kind of summits will be futile.
Explaining further, he says India has the best medical tourism in the world. “The quality of hip replacements, knee replacements is good here. But still the number of Chinese coming to India is very low. They are moving to countries like Japan and US for their major medical needs. Only recently, some of the pharma countries from India managed to provide their service in China.”
“China is still a net importer of services. India is still a net exporter of services. We have young population. They have an aging population. They are stronger in manufacturing sector. They have surplus. We are in demand of employment for our youths. If these elements could be complemented and if we are able to find ways for co-existence, it can benefit mutually,” he stressed.