Sino-Indian ties from a spiritual perspective

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/6/7 20:33:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT



I went through the security check along with a stream of visitors and entered the Agra Fort through a grand and shadowy entrance gateway. The gentle April morning twilight shone on the red walls, emanating a dazzling orange color. 

My journey in India this time strictly followed the golden triangle route as recommended in many tourism brochures - starting from Delhi, then to Agra and finally Jaipur.

Having visited the Red Fort when I was in Delhi, I no longer felt the novelty of the colors at the Agra Fort. But the walls of red sandstone cast in shadow appeared laden with history, every scratch saturated with meaning and related to the destiny of the Mughal Empire over 500 years ago.

It's difficult to find similar decoration and architecture that fuses Arabian, Persian, Indian and European styles anywhere else in the world. Materials used to construct the buildings were imported from almost halfway around the world. Conceivably the Mughal Empire was strong and open then.

In 1566 when Akbar the Great moved his capital from Delhi to Agra, Muslim law occupied the ruling position. In order to better govern an empire in which most of the population was non-Muslim, Akbar adopted a policy of religious tolerance. English historian Michael Wood, in his book In Search of the First Civilizations, praised Akbar for having "the capability to meet people of whatever rank or whatever religion with the same eye of favor," and said that his tolerance would be remarkable even today.

Akbar said "in our troubled world so full of contradictions, it cannot be wisdom to assert the unique truth of one faith over another." His vision was inherited in the modern era by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, only to be met with frustrations time and time again. Nowadays, Akbar's ideal has become a distant dream and Gandhi's pursuit at its revival has drifted into an elegy for opportunities missed. Gandhi called for reconciliation between Hinduism and Islam by inflicting physical harm on himself, yet his message of cooperation has long been submerged under the rising tide of Hinduism.

In 2015, the anniversary of Gandhi's murder was marred by the attempts of right-wing Hindus to build a temple to honor Nathuram Godse, a man they lauded as a hero for his assassination of Gandhi.

When conversing with Indians, Sino-Indian relations are always an inevitable topic. The China-India border war that erupted over 50 years ago dealt a heavy blow to Indians' confidence. But unexpectedly, what Indians appear most concerned about is China's relationship with Pakistan rather than the historical border issue.

The ongoing conflict between Hinduism and Islam remains an open wound for Indians, with 80.5 percent of the population being Hindu. Religious confrontation has made them particularly sensitive toward the China-Pakistan relationship, which constitutes the largest negative factor affecting Sino-Indian relations.

From our perspective, the China-proposed Belt and Road initiative can support India's development. But for Indians, the fact that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor will go through the disputed Kashmir region between India and Pakistan is unacceptable. One Indian scholar asked me, "What is our enemy's friend to us?"

According to a 2015 report by the Pew Research Center, 80 percent of Indians think religion is an important part of their lives, much higher than the 53 percent of Americans asked the same question. In China the figure drops to only 3 percent.

Indians attach great importance to spiritual matters while Chinese are more concerned about material matters. Such different worldviews are the source and explanation of all differences between China and India as well as the misunderstandings the two peoples harbor toward each other.

The author is a senior editor with People's Daily, and currently a senior fellow with the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China. dinggang@globaltimes.com.cn.

Posted in: ASIAN REVIEW

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