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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

'India, China relations getting better and better'

January 14, 2008

Sheela Bhatt, Rediff News
January 11, 2008

When Chinese leaders want expert opinion on India, Professor Ma Jiali 
is the most reliable source for them in Beijing [Images]. Ma is among 
a rare breed of Chinese scholars with a deep understanding of India. 
He is a veteran South Asia expert at the China Institute of 
Contemporary International Relations and has written extensively on 

In 1991-92 he stayed at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi 
to learn more about India's foreign policy and relations between 
India and China, how to promote bilateral trade and also to learn 
about India's education system.

Later he wrote books on the education system in India and on the rise 
of India.

Sometime back, Ma was involved in a controversy regarding Sino-India 
border dispute. Ma had allegedly suggested India should give away 
Tawang area and retain remaining parts of Arunachal Pradesh. The 
suggestion differed from official Chinese policy and was obviously 
opposed by the Chinese establishment.

In the well-guarded establishment of the CICIR in Beijing, Ma spoke 
exclusively to Managing Editor Sheela Bhatt.

On Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's [Images] visit

We are looking forward to Dr Singh's visit. We hope it will be 

We hope that both governments will reach better understanding on 
trade, economic co-operation, investment, cultural exchanges and 
people-to-people contacts.

On the civil nuclear issue, I think full-size efforts are required 
from both sides. I think they will talk about it. I am not sure if it 
can reach the level of an agreement. During the last visit of 
President Hu Jintao to India both countries had agreed that they 
should co-operate in the nuclear field. But it could mean many things.

On Sino-Indian relations

I think more and more Indians are changing their view on China. 
Indians are ready to take accept China -- if not as a friend, at 
least as a partner. When (former defence minister) George Fernandes 
[Images] met me in New Delhi, I told him that you should go to China 
to see what China is thinking, what the Chinese people are doing, how 
the Chinese are building their nation.

The Chinese are thinking of how to make money and not about 
threatening another country. China has already said we should work 
towards strategic partnership for peace and stability. I see a 
political change between the two countries.

Once there are high level meetings, some co-operation in 
international affairs will be seen. Bilateral trade is increasing and 
is hovering near $35 billion (about Rs 140,000 crore). We have a very 
bright future. However, 20 years back you could not have imagined 
this relationship. It is getting better and better.

China's India Policy

Even if China becomes a bigger economic force than now, its foreign 
policy cannot change.

We are looking for good neighbourly relations. It is well-known that 
our policy rests on four pillars. Even if China becomes the world's 
number one economy, it has many issues to tackle. Like population, 
like peoples' living standards. It is a huge burden.

The average Chinese does not have enough information about India. But 
now more and more people like India because they see it as an IT 
giant, they see India as a stable and friendly country towards China. 
India is seen as a big market.

The border issue

I would like to tell the Indian people that both sides are talking on 
the border issue and we should wait. Both sides have decided the 
political principle for a border settlement. It means China's 
position is very clear. In Arunchal Pradesh, Tawang is the disputed 
area. You should know the history. Tawang's position changed only 
after India's Independence.

The China side did not consent. In Tawang, there is a Tibetan 
Buddhist monastery. It is the sixth Dalai Lama's birthplace. It is 
very complicated. We should find a solution to that.

China's policy is that both sides should make substantial 
adjustments. Of course, it is not easy for both countries. The border 
issue is an important factor in the relationship and it cannot be 

During 1993, India and China signed agreements. I don't see the 
possibility of conflict. Both sides should ensure that calm prevails. 
On the border, soldiers may create trouble on either side but I don't 
see it turning into conflict. Both China and India do not want to see 
this (border) conflict happen. Both sides have suffered in conflict 
so both do not want it.

I do understand Indian people's feeling about the 1962 war. The 
Chinese people have their own national feeling. For the Chinese, the 
MacMohan line illegal.

On China-Pakistan relations

China and Pakistan's relations are not recent, it's going on since 
the Cold War days. You must not forget that. China's policy is to 
have good relations with all neighbours. During the Kargil conflict 
China's position was clear. We persuaded Pakistan to sit down and 
talk to reduce tension. We built the Gwadar port but it is now 
managed by a Singapore company. It is not used for military purposes. 
The argument of 'encirclement' of India is not correct. Even you have 
friendly relations with our neighbour Japan [Images]. Myanmar is our 
close neighbour. We should develop our ocean interests in the area. 
It's important for the ocean security of China. Even in case of 
possible India and Pakistan conflict, China can do something to 
persuade both sides to have a dialogue.

On China and democracy

China cannot raise democracy in the short term but it can move toward 

President Hu Jintao has said that democracy is a good thing. It 
depends on the historic condition. In rural areas, the cadre are 
directly elected. The Communist Party of China is the biggest party 
of China but it is not the only one.

There are ten other parties and they have a voice too. No one doubts 
that India is a democracy but in China too we have many parties. They 
have differences but they don't fight!

They have votes in the Upper House. In the world, there are many 
political systems and China has its own political system. Our system 
has provided stability needed for development. China attracted 
million of dollars investments from abroad and from overseas Chinese. 
China's economic policy is to open up to the world. India has been 
late by a few years. When such huge economic development efforts are 
going on, political stability is important. One major factor in 
China's growth is its stable political leadership.

Recently, there was a military exercise of five navies of 
'democratic' countries. Some of the countries in these exercise 
clearly said that it is the alignment of democracy.

Official documents of the Americans show that they want to contain 
China. Fortunately, Australia and India have not shown such interest. 
The region should not be divided on the issue of democracy.

On growing Indo-US relations

I think US-China relations are complicated and competitive. However, 
I do not think India will ever become a playing field for the US and 
China because India has its own national interest. India cannot 
become a collateral for American interests. Even if the Indo-US 
nuclear deal goes through, India will remain independent. About the 
nuclear deal I think India surely needs energy security and technology.

India is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. 
China's concern is that if these conditions are relaxed, then how to 
deal with other nuclear countries like North Korea and Iran. This is 
an international concern and China thinks that India should accept 
non-proliferation safeguards. Many Indians do not know that China 
gave India nuclear material in the past. India's strategists never 
mention that India wants to save their nuclear material for military 

I can't say what China will do at the Nuclear Suppliers Group as this 
issue is complicated. I don't know the official line but the issue is 
not about China and India. It is between China and the international 

Things to learn from India

I wrote an article once that all Chinese should learn something from 
India's cultural confidence. As China opened up, Chinese have changed 
their dress code. I am not worried about the cultural changes in 
China. The preference for clothes is one thing and preference for a 
political system is another thing.

On India's Tibet policy

India's Tibet policy is very clear. India recognises Tibet's status 
with China.

But, unfortunately, Tibetans are still living in India. The Indian 
government policy is very clear, that it will not allow any 
independent movement from India. I hope India strictly follows its 
official policy. Tibetans want independence and this is a big 
challenge for China and its national security. Chinese people take 
Tibet as a part of China. In Tibet, you can ask many people this 
question. They don't want independent Tibet. You will find great 
changes in Tibet -- like railways and new buildings. The local and 
central government respects Tibetan culture. It is interesting to see 
that on one hand people want development and they also want to 
preserve their cultural heritage.

On the Taiwan issue

The Taiwan issue is China's core interest and important for national 
security. It is a sensitive issue. China is strongly against an 
independent Taiwan. India and Taiwan have trade relations and it 
won't be questioned. But we don't want to see India having political 
relations with Taiwan. I don't think India is trying to get closer to 
Taiwan. I think it is very clear that India has a 'One China' policy. 
I think India cannot damage Chinese interest.
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