Alliance for a Responsible, Plural and United World
An initiative of the Alliance for a Responsible, Plural and United World

China and India: An Inter-Cultural Dialogue

This is an exciting new initiative of the Alliance for a Responsible, United and Plural World to bring two of the world’s most populous countries closer together.

China and India both have populations of over a billion each; together, they make up almost two-fifth’s of the world’s population. They are both ancient civilizations and emerging economic powers. They are both nuclear states with very large land masses. However, despite many similarities and ties extending back to two millennia, there is hardly any meaningful dialogue between these two Asian giants. The Alliance initiative assumes importance especially when we remember that at the level of civil society, there is very little interaction between China and India.

In the modern era, China and India have gone through long and often arduous processes of self-preservation and renewal, facing several social changes and developmental challenges. Influenced by each other in many ways, China and India represent two different cultures, or cultural clusters. The paths they are currently on are significantly different as well. In our thinking about the new world in the making and the solidarity of humankind in the new century, it is unavoidable that India and China deserve a lot of attention in any serious global initiative.

In May 2000, before and right after the World Summit in Versailles, Gustavo Marin suggested to Zhao Yifeng and Makarand Paranjape to organize an activity between our Chinese and Indian allies, which immediately brought Yifeng and Makarand together as a working team and as two close friends. Many discussions have been conducted via e-mail among Gustavo, Yifeng, Makarand, Siddhartha, Zhao Yi, Nacera Aknak Khan, Sarfaraz Khan, and other friends in both China and India. A detailed program was then put on the coffee table between Makarand and Yifeng when they were together on the boat from Athens to Syros.

The theme of this activity is to enhance the mutual understanding between Chinese and Indian peoples concerning their civilizations, cultures, as well as historical and social challenges. The main activities involve visiting, meetings, lecturing, individual conversations, and collective reports. Every participant will write reflections about his/her experience in participation of this program. Those reflections will be put together as a general report under the title of: China and India: An Inter-cultural Dialogue, which will be available to public later. (We hereby invite our friends who are not going to participate in this activity but would like to comment on the related issues to contribute in form of articles or reflections.)

Some of the key words in this dialogue are: traditional civilizations and modern civilizations, cultural diversity and globalization, modernization and Westernization, the roles of India and China in the 21-century, teaching China in India and teaching India in China.

The plan is that in early March, five people from China, call them the Changchun group for convenience, will arrive in Delhi to meet Makarand and his friends there. The observer of this activity, Gustavo will be with the team as well.

The Chinese team includes Zhao Yifeng (Professor, male), Zhao Yi (Vice President of Northeast Normal University, Professor, male), Zhang Jing (Director, The Women's Federation of Jilin Province, female), Lin Fengping (Senior Editor and Journalist, female), Zhou Gonggu (Professor, male). The Indian team is still to be finalized but may include, besides, Makarand Paranjape (Professor, male), four other allies.

Activities in India will last for 7 days. During these days, the Chinese team will visit a few sites of cultural representing value and talk to Indian people from different social status and professions. The plan is to visit, besides Delhi, Agra, Mathura, and Fatehpur Sikri. In Delhi, Yifeng will deliver a public speech entitled as Western Impact, globalization, and the future of Chinese culture. At a later occasion, Zhou Gonggu will talk to Indian friends about the teaching of India in Chinese universities. The two ladies of the team would like to exchange some thoughts about women and family issues during their sojourn in India. The group will then move to Bangalore, in South India, to get an idea about another area of India.

The second week’s activities of this program will move to China. Our Indian team will come to Shanghai first to get a sense of the modernization progress happening in the urban area of China. Move to Nanjing, they will be showed around to the traditional city wall, palace, tombs, and so and so forth. To Beijing, short conversations and exchanges, will occur right on the Great Wall and inside the Forbidden City. In Changchun, Makarand will deliver a public speech the same subject but from Indian angle: Western impact, Globalization, and the future of Indian culture.

Let us hope that this activity will help peoples of the present world to understand and get along better, both as groups and individuals.

The Indo-China Dialogue: A Report