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Sino-Indo Relationship: ‘Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai’ And Beyond

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By Sakshi Abrol:

This year saw India and China celebrating the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations which has seen and is seeing both highs and lows. India became the 16th nation to develop diplomatic relations with The Republic of China on 1st April, 1950, opening up a saga complete in itself, a chronicle chequered yet at times mismanaged.

Any critical assessment of the so far held obscure interpretation of over-generalisation of the relationship would demand a quick recap of the historical roots of the present day tree. The trade engagement between the present day second largest and the third largest growing economy in the world, respectively, dates back to the ancient days and were carried out through the silk route. After India’s Independence and the victory of People’s Liberation Army to form a People’s Republic of China, both countries prioritised internal development over foreign policy. However, when foreign policy was the front-runner, concentration was on the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the alliance systems which were dominated by the two superpowers.

In fact, until 1959, the situation remained peaceful with our Prime Minister, Mr. Nehru staunchly following the principles of peaceful coexistence or the Panchsheela, as was the name coined. This bonding of tranquility veiling the hitherto suppressed feelings of hatred between the two countries over border disputes was only short-lived. The border disputes triggered by a conflict of interest in Tibet, with Dalai Lama absconding to Himachal Pradesh soon came to the fore and transcended into the Sino-Indo war of 1962.

The naïve assessment of a dangerously pesky neighbor and a detrimentally inept military force exposed Nehru to scathing criticism. The situation was further exacerbated when China sided with Pakistan in the 1971 war. India and the PRC renewed efforts to improve relations after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December 1979 but this again couldn’t be nurtured to be able to see the light of the day when a 1962 like situation roused in 1984 when the squads of Indian soldiers began actively patrolling the Sumdorong Chu Valley in Arunachal Pradesh on the orders of Mrs. Indira Gandhi. Calendars rolled by and the bitter feelings remained undiluted. It was only her son Rajiv Gandhi’s visit to China in 1988 that a warming trend in relationship was facilitated. Since then, it has been growing on the positive scale, though the growth was somewhat slow in the 90’s.

This should not however, make the readers deduce that there has been no divergence or lacunae but a dogmatic view that India and China are rivals is an ‘over-generalization and over-simplification’ of a complex relationship that has evolved over generations. As our foreign secretary puts it, ‘I believe the proposition of rivalry should not be exaggerated in a manner that it over-shadows our genuine attempts to manage and transact a rationally determined relationship.’ The leaders of both the countries have time and again re-iterated that there is enough space in this world for both the countries to grow together, which is completely true. Also, with both the countries being super-powers both from the traditional geo-political point of view and the more recent geo-economic point of view, nobody has a luxury of seeing each other in antagonistic terms.

Though we have a disputed border carrying a load of complex historical legacy on its shoulders, ours has been one of the most peaceful of all borders, barring a few incidents of dispute. There is enough maturity on both sides vis-à-vis the border issue which can also be attributed to the various confidence building measures. Another issue of concern is trans-border rivers. Many rivers irrigating and enhancing the fertility of areas in the North-East India arise in the highlands of Tibetan Autonomous Region and there has been some apprehension regarding the kind of hegemony that China can practice given the cards in their hands but China has been sincere enough to assure that it will take no such action so as to negatively affect the flow of rivers in India.

Then there is the issue of China-Pakistan relationship. Not that India is against Pakistan’s good relationships with other countries but then the presence of Chinese troops in the P-o-K is certainly a cause of worry for us. But our leaders have been tactically quick and correct to compare J&K in India to Tibet in China to prove its point of mutual sensitivity to each other’s concern. The issue of giving stapled visas to the J&K residents arises in a similar context and our leaders have been vociferous enough to express their discontentment with China’s actions. This should indeed serve as a clarion call to make them realize that their approach to the issue needs modifications.

On the positive front, our trade with China is growing faster than that with any other country and China is our largest trading partner in goods with trade likely to exceed US$ 60 billion this year. India is no doubt seen as a potential market and has become the hub of foreign investments. Both the countries also partnered well in BASIC for climate change negotiations and also in the BRIC grouping.

Also vis-à-vis, the issue of legally binding emission cuts (REDD+) surfaced in Cancum, both the countries see eye to eye. Over 7000 Indian students study in China, there are a slew of technical scholarships available to Indian students to study in China and CBSE is all set to introduce Chinese language in the curriculum of schools from the next academic session. With the festival of China in India still going on, a paradigm shift in our thinking is required. Everybody knows that the real rule of Realpolitik clearly states that there are no friends or foes; self-interest is the only driving force. As long as both the countries attach paramount important to their interests, they will yearn for a peaceful territory and as our interests get progressively more rigorous and intertwined, a withdrawal from it becomes more difficult.

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You must be to comment.
  1. Aditi

    Very nicely summarised,the whole situation.And the irony of our need for each other as well as threat from each other.It can culminate into either,depending on what steps we take,hopefully Wen Jiabo’s visit will put things into perspective.Its a classic case of neither can live while the other survives,where survive and live are two different things.

  2. Shraddha Sankhe via Facebook

    The author has touched every relevant point. Good job.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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