Report on the XIIth Conference of
Indian Congress of Asian & Pacific Studies (ICAPS)
in collaboration with Association of Asia Scholars (AAS),
Institute of Chinese Studies and Doon University (Dehradun, Uttrakhand),
to be held at Doon University, Saturday-Sunday, 13-14 January 2012 on
“China-India Historical Linkages and Future Partnerships:
Implications for Cooperation between South and Southeast Asia”
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The 12th Conference of Indian Congress of Asian & Pacific Studies (ICAPS) was held on 13th and 14th January 2012, in Dehradun, the Capital city of Uttarakhand, in collaboration with Association of Asia Scholars (AAS), Institute of Chinese Studies, New Delhi and Doon University, Dehradun. This time the eminent scholars from various institutes and universities from the region assembled here to exchange their intellectual quest over the topic “China-India Historical Linkages and Future Partnerships: Implications for cooperation between South and Southeast Asia”. It was two days conference where invited scholars presented their papers in six sessions conducted under different themes.
The conference began with the welcome address on the behalf of Doon University by Dr. Minni Sawhney, Dean of School of Languages of Doon University. Prof Girijesh Pant, Vice Chancellor of Doon University was the chair the inaugural session. Prof Pant in his welcome address underlined the critical role of civil society reflected through conferences like ICAPS which give alternative perspectives on the issue of international relationships. Prof. Patricia Uberoi, Chairperson of ICAPS in her welcome remarks said that the ICAPS provides platform for multi-lateral forum to discuss the various issues pertaining to relationships across Asia-pacific where China-India relationship remains of particular interest. She specified like Ladakh and Shipki la border trade points between China and India and said that studies should also be carried out on the eastern sector of Himalaya in opening trade and pilgrimage route between India and China.
This session also witnessed the change of guard in presidency of ICAPS with Prof. Mahaveer Singh, Dean, Academic Affair of the Gautam Buddha University, Noida, Uttar Pradesh, being unanimously elected as a new president on ICAPS 2012-2013. After the election Prof. Mahavir Singh proposed to host the next conference at his university. He suggested that the days of this annual conference should be fixed for 11-12 January each year. This is to put it just after the Pravasi Bhartiya Divas observed on 7th to 9th January every year. His proposal was accepted and consequently the 11th and 12th of January were fixed as the dates for next year’s ICAPS annual conference. The inaugural session of the conference observed one minute silence over the death of Zhang Jun, a famous personality from China who tried to bridge cultural link between India and China through her learning of Bharatnatyam and Kathak and propagating these in China. During this session the book “A Planning Framework for the Mountain States of India”, written by R.S. Tolia, was released by Prof. Uberoi. The inaugural session ended with Vote of Thanks by Prof. Swaran Singh, Jawaharlal Nehru University, General Secretary of ICAPS and President of AAS.
The second session, themed on “Exploring Linkages in China India Frontiers”, was chaired by Prof Patricia Uberoi. In this session Dr. Bharti Puri of Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi presented her paper on the Ghummakad Shastra written by Rahul Sankrityan in his travel to Tibet through the western Himalaya. Such literature records perceptual change about the life and culture of the mountain people he had encountered, against the elitist projection of British historian and anthropologists. His seminal book titled as ‘Meri Kinnaur Yatra’ has led to the theorising of travelogue which he had called ‘Ghummakar Shastra’. Ms. Sunita Dwivedi, travelogue writer, in her paper tried to retrace the ancient trade route through this Himalayan region. She highlighted the various passes from eastern and western Himalaya that were in use for trade purposes in ancient period due to huge potential of trade complimentarity of the regions that these routes connected. These routes are now closed or in limited use due to change in political circumstances, which need to be revived as happened through Nathu la pass in 2006. Mr. R.S. Rawal, Senior Scientist of GB Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development was more focused in developing trans-boundary framework for conservation and sustainable development of the ecologically fragile Himalayan region in his presentation on the Kailash Sacred Land (KSL) Conservation Project. It is trilateral project of China, India and Nepal to develop this KSL region in sustainable manner covering thirty thousand square kilometres. Although developing separately by all the three countries, this project promises to minimise outmigration, provide livelihood and infrastructure support in this region. Being a scientist his point of attention was to understand the peculiar nature of landscape before planning over the any developmental project in this Himalayan region.
Prof M.P. Joshi was uncomfortable with the concept of borderland mark, sketching evolutionary nature of humankind in Himalayan region by applying the true knowledge of archaeology. Evidences found in this area shows that Indian artefacts are much older than that of Tibetan and Chinese. Mettle technology diffused from Uttarkahnd area to the northern Tibetan region was due the abundance of copper and borax in this region and subsequently development of Copper technology in this area. Through argument he emphasised that the Tibet was more close to India than China through its functional linkages of trade and commerce.
During discussion hour Prof Sangeeta Thapliyal of Jawaharlal Nehru University was interested to know as to whether any political framework was available in KSL conservation project, to which Mr R.K. Rawal responded that the project was being implemented at sectoral level with little interaction with scientific and political bodies across the countries. Mr. Sher Singh a native of Uttrakhand, who worked extensively on the economy of mountain people of Uttarkhand, explained as to how the war between two countries severely affected the livelihood of the mountain people which was dependent over the trade with Tibet. Prof. Patricia Uberoi in her concluding remark said that trade in banned items between India and China should also be studied.
The theme of the third session was “China-India Border Trade & Tourism” that was chaired by Prof. B.R.Deepak of Jawaharlal Nehru University. In his paper, Col.Virendra Verma, Consultant, Institute of Chinese Studies, New Delhi shared his experience of the expedition he had in the eastern and western Himalaya. He mentioned many paintings and monasteries that had been made by the many local ruling dynasties and diffusion of Buddhism across the Himalayas through stages. He mentioned many trade routes of western Himalaya through which Buddhism reached to the Tibet and become the cultural identity. He also highlighted the fact as to how political change led to the change of cultural landscape of the region, when he presented the fact that Cultural Revolution in China had led to demolition of many monasteries in the Tibet, but was rebuilt in later period in Chinese style, not the earlier Tibetan way as used to be.
Speaking on “Concept of Nirvana in Buddhism of Champa (Vietnam)”, Dr. Bachchan Kumar, Senior Fellow, Indira Gandhi National Centre for Art, New Delhi stated that Buddhism in Champa flourished in 3rd-4th centuries A.D. All components of Buddhism culminated into a vibrant Buddhist culture in Champa. Spelling out diverse meaning of Niravana, he stated that Nirvana in Buddhism meant dying out, salvation or end of suffering. Nirvana also meant highest bliss or the supreme bliss. The concept of Nirvana was known to people of Champa and they believed that Buddha alone can lead to salvation.
Mr. Bhim Subba, researcher in Institute of Chinese Studies, New Delhi made a presentation on “Border Trade and People’s Livelihood: A Review of the Opening of the Nathu la Pass”. He seemed to be very critical over the new trade route opened in 2006. He made a point that out of 29 article permitted for trade only one item i.e. liquor is being produced in Sikkim. That is, new trade failed to provide new avenue of occupation to the local people. The route has now become the conduit of smuggling of electronic gadget and endangered species. Whatever profit is being made through this rout has not been invested locally to build infrastructure.
Mr Mirza Zulfikar Rahman, a research scholar from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi in his presentation highlighted the dichotomy between policy formulation and practice. Though tourism and pilgrimage developed in Arunachal Pradesh and adjacent Northeastern states, rampant corruption is also witnessed at governmental level which has hampered the growth of infrastructural project. This has led to the feeling of alienation and misunderstanding between people and government in north eastern states. Pilgrimage has been endorsed by the government has also the potential of generating clashes among people. For the development of this region more cooperation is required from India, Bhutan and Myanmar. During the discussion hour Mr R. S. Tolia pointed out that the north-eastern states had very less interaction at the government level. Mr Tolia also said that this region also provide rich documentation about people and culture across the border which could be helpful in improving ties with Bhutan and Myanmar.
The distinguished scholars continued to met on the second day over fourth session of the conference that was themed as “China and India in Asia Pacific”. This session was chaired by Prof. Sangeeta Thapliyal of Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Dr. Sharad Soni presented his paper as to how Buddhism spread from Tibet to Mongolia in ancient time through the expansion of Mongol dynasty during Genghis Khan and Kublai Khan. The people of Mongolia accepted the Buddhism through own way and quit often resisted the missionary sent by Tibetan Monasteries for the fear of being Tibetisation of Mongolia. During the reign of Khorloogiin Choibalsan “the reign of terror” had fallen onto the Buddhists. Monks were killed, monasteries had been destroyed and cultural linkages were uprooted from Tibet. Later on with the setting up democratic institution in Mongolia the political ties was established through the revival of Tibetan form of Buddhism, building of new monasteries and teaching. The point he wanted to make is that religion play important role in international relation and linkages between Tibet and Mongolia is very much based on it, right from the ancient period.
Dr. Sanjay Bhardwaj of Jawaharlal Nehru University tried to explore the special geo-strategic location of Bangladesh and Myanmar . The countries can bridge the link between South and South East Asia. In spite of being neighbour and member of many common forums and having great potential in trade complimentarity , these countries were never been closer. In this case he pointed out that these countries will come closer due to growing interest of China and India in these two countries, where they would find commonality in dealing with these great powers with common interests. Increasing cooperation will then turn negative connotation of “land lock” into positive one.
Speaking on Bangladesh’s foreign policy, Mr. Govind Chakravarti of Dhaka University said that Bangladesh had now become the battleground between India and China and the foreign policy of Bangladesh shows the dichotomy of hostile and cordial relationship with India with every change of regime. He also said that Bangladesh’s foreign policy is difficult to fit into any of the popular International Relations theories like offensive and defensive realism because it reacts to India and Pakistan’s pressure. He pointed out that it is not because of domestic pressure but of systemic pressure from India and Pakistan (which operates through China) that affect the foreign policy of Bangladesh.
Dr. Umesh Rai, Assistant Professor, Government College, Rajasthan said that the role played by Buddhism in the socio cultural linkages between South and South East Asia has largely been ignored. Buddhism is still alive in South Asia and South East Asia, but vanished from India because of its degradation into the form of Tantrism. He said that Bhakti movement is basic in Indian Subcontinent because of its great quality to assimilate all the religions in one simple stream of devotion and eradication of orthodoxy and fundamentalism. He cited the example of Sufism, which emerged against the conservative nature of Islam, which also used the stories in Hindu mythology to explain the path of salvation.
During discussion hour the question had been raised as to whether the cultural linkages should be tool of foreign policy and how much effective can it become. Dr Sharad Soni responded that by invocation of the historical Buddhist religion link, Mongolia has consented to supply Uranium which justifies that historical cultural and religious link play role in foreign policy.
Chaired by Prof. Swaran Singh, the scholars assembled for fifth session on the theme of “India-China Border Management”. Prof. B.R. Deepak of Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi in his presentation pointed out towards border mismanagement between India and China. He said that the posture of China in resolving border dispute with India should be understood from the psychological point of view because China always feel itself to be a victim of British India aggression in drawing the international boundary. China claimed that Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru always wanted to make Tibet a buffer state and due to that reason he accepted the sovereignty of it. India has always shown tough posture over the talk related to border issue. The border mismanagement is largely due to misunderstanding between two countries on the counter offers of each other. He also underlined the fact that Indian media had played negative role in resolving the issue by projecting tough stance of Indian establishment to which the Chinese press has also reacted negatively.
In her presentation on “China-India Border Dispute in the Western Sector” Prof. Sangeeta Thapliyal of JNU, New Delhi said that negotiation in western sector has become difficult because of strategic importance and so many stakes involved on both sides, in spite of economic cooperation and cultural linkages. Under this circumstance she conducted an interview in Ladakh region as to gauge the changes occurred after the 1962 war. As a result of which she placed an impression that like the eastern sector, western sector should also be opened for trade. Border dispute affected the people of Ladakh badly; they lost their livelihood that was based on the trade with Tibet. They also complained that Government of India failed to provide them alternative source of income; the area is in dire need for the infrastructure that create alternative resource and development for the region. Whatever tourism infrastructure developed over there had little trickledown effect because most of tourism industry is largely run by Nepali people and not the locals. In this context she recommended that the major areas where work is necessary to be done are: (i) try to develop cultural linkage between two countries; (ii) develop border area; and (iii) connect people from either side of border.
Dr. Anish Gupta, Assistant Professor, Bhim Rao Ambedkar College , New Delhi in his paper “ Comparative Economic Performance of India and China” made an attention that both neighbour countries has some commonality in colonial legacy , population concentration , resource base and time of economic development. Yet China fared well in every sector and moved far away from India in prosperity. It was so because of the success of Chinese model of economic growth that was based on high international export, low domestic consumption, more focus on manufacturing industry, huge capital base, cheap labour and easy access of technology from Chinese diaspora. Unfortunately, all these elements were missing from Indian economy.
The two day conference ended with the concluding remarks by Prof. Patricia Uberoi. In her remarks she pointed out the success and drawback of the conference. She said that the role of pilgrim tourism is an active ingredient in improving cross border ties. She also mentioned that the community engaged in cross border activity, in the past and the present may not be the locals but the traders. Trade has not produced a trickledown effect in the borderland region. She questioned the logic of restricting trans-border trade and at the same time suggested that trade in the border regions should be increased, for which necessary infrastructure should be developed. She also suggested that credible and transparent accounting of the fragile eco-system of the border area should be done to counter environment degradation. She however lamented to the fact that insights on trade on banned items did not come up in the conference. At last she thanked all the speakers and the people participating in the two day conference. She made special mention of the local scholars who enriched the conference by their participation. She also thanked Prof. Girjesh Pant and young faculties of Doon University for hosting and providing logistic support for the conference.
Mr. Ramanuj Kaushik,
Mr. Surae Soren,
Ms. Harinder Kaur