What do India’s restrictions on Confucius Institutes show?

By Liu Zongyi Source: Global Times Published: 2020/8/4 22:33:40

Illustration: GT

After the Galwan Valley clash on June 15, the slide in China-India relations has not been eased despite rounds of talks and consultations through diplomatic and military channels. Instead, China-India relations are even deteriorating.

During the Galwan Valley clash, it was India that violated the China-India bilateral agreement on the Line of Actual Control. However, China does not want the accidental clash to affect the stability and development of bilateral relations. Therefore, after the clash, China has kept a relatively low profile on a series of issues involving China-India relations, and Chinese media has not reported much on the clash. This is mainly because China wants to save some face for India, and to maintain the overall stability of bilateral relations.

But as the perpetrator, India not only is unrepentant, but also continues to create problems and escalate tensions in bilateral relations. India has taken measures to ban Chinese apps, extending bilateral disputes from border issues and politics to economic and trade areas. 

Now, India is targeting the Confucius Institutes. According to a report by the Hindustan Times on Sunday, India's education ministry has decided to review in the coming week Confucius Institutes and "Confucius classrooms" in association with seven local colleges and universities. Relevant parties in India are deliberately extending bilateral disputes further into the field of people-to-people exchanges, which may completely destroy the foundation of China-India relations.

For decades, visionary people from China and India have taken huge efforts to maintain the stability and development of bilateral relations. Scholars and officials on both sides once proposed vigorously promoting economic cooperation and cultural exchanges while shelving the boundary dispute, hoping to seek a consensus and create common interests through the incremental development in these two areas, and make up for the trust deficit in the political and strategic fields. The leaders of the two countries have had in-depth exchanges on the great changes in the world and how to realize the rejuvenation of the two ancient Asian civilizations. 

But India's recent policies toward China suggest that all these efforts may be wasted. Judging by India's policies toward Chinese apps, Chinese companies and Chinese investments in India, the idea of economic cooperation as a stabilizer in China-India relations has failed. Now, India is targeting people-to-people exchanges.

The deterioration of China-India relations reflects two trends. 

First, India's policy toward China has been completely shadowed by conservative nationalist sentiment, and Indian officials who make policies toward China have almost lost their rationality. The Indian government had hoped to use the COVID-19 and the huge international pressure from the US to press China to accept India's proposal on the border issue. But India has failed to do so, suffering from huge losses in the Galwan Valley. 

Constrained by party struggles and nationalist sentiment, Modi has been caught in the dilemma - He cannot fight a war with China, neither can he make peace with China. But he still fantasizes about using the US to force China to yield. But India's policies toward China are limited, and many of its economic measures are self-destructive. The large-scale spread of COVID-19 has done great harm to India's economic and social development.

India's restrictions on cultural exchanges are purely out of a narrow mentality that harms both sides. The Confucius Institute is just a Chinese language education institution, and Indian students who are proficient in Chinese may have an extra path to employment. India's suppression of the Confucius Institutes reflects cultural superiority of Hindu nationalism, which is out of a sense of exclusivity. It is exactly the same as the Indian government's suppression of Muslims and Islam. This indicates that Indian society has lost its openness and pluralism.

Second, India's restrictions on the Confucius Institutes are exactly the same as those imposed by the US. This shows that the Indian government is indeed coordinating with the US in terms of its China policy. The hawks in the US government, represented by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, hope to completely decouple China and the US, "de-Sinicize" their economy, and even stir up a new cold war, so as to extend the conflicts between China and the US to the field of values and ideology. 

India closely follows the US in its China policy, and has even surpassed the US in some areas. India has taken the initiative to stand at the forefront of the so-called international anti-China campaign to contain and challenge China. China should not only pay close attention to such a tendency, but also resolutely counter it.

The author is secretary-general of the Research Center for China-South Asia Cooperation at Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, a visiting fellow of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China and a distinguished fellow of the China (Kunming) South Asia & Southeast Asia Institute. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn


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