Ideas and Action for a Better India
In October 2010, the state government of Maharashtra and the government of China’s Guangdong Province entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for cooperation and mutual development in a wide range of sectors including environment and sustainability, clean and renewable energy, science and technology, trade and commerce, tourism, arts and culture etc. As a follow-up to this significant development between one of India’s most progressive states and China’s most industrialized and prosperous province, a six-member high-level delegation from the Development Research Centre (DRC), the Guangdong-based official think tank, led by its Director-General, Mr. Xie Pengfei, visited Mumbai in the first week of June.
To engage various stakeholders in Mumbai and Maharashtra to identify opportunities for mutual cooperation with the Guangdong Province, the Observer Research Foundation Mumbai (ORF) organised a Roundtable Discussion on ‘Cementing the Bonds of Friendship for a Cleaner, Greener, Sustainable Development of Maharashtra and Guangdong’ on Friday, 3rd June 2011. The well-attended meeting, organised under the aegis of ORF’s Forum for India-China Citizens’ Dialogue was co-chaired by former Union Environment Minister Mr. Suresh Prabhu, who heads Asia Energy Forum’s ‘Council on Energy, Environment and Water’ and Mr. Xie Pengfei.
In his welcome remarks, Mr. Sudheendra Kulkarni, Chairman, ORF Mumbai, said that the world in the 21st century will be shaped by India and China, just as the western powers did so in the 19th and 20th centuries. But unlike the kind of global domination, based on colonial exploitation and wars, that the western powers exercised, India and China are required to follow new ideals and principles of development to shape themselves and the world. “We can do so by rediscovering our rich civilisational heritage,” he said.
Terming the roundtable discussion as an “important development,” he said, “In spite of the progress made by the two countries in recent decades, India and China face similar challenges. Socio-economic equality and protection of the environment are the biggest challenges we face. We have a lot to learn from each other.” He also gave an overview of the programmes undertaken by ORF under its Forum for India-China Citizens’ Dialogue in fostering closer people-to-people contacts over the past one year.
Mr. Kulkarni ended his welcome remarks by quoting Mahatma Gandhi, who, as far back as in 1942, had said: “As a friend of China, I long for the day when a free India and free China will cooperate in friendship and brotherhood for their own good and for the good of Asia and the world.” He also quoted the Chinese Prime Minister Mr. Wen Jiabao, who has said, “Friendliness accounts for 99.99 percent of the 2,200-year-old Sino-Indian exchanges, and misunderstanding merely 0.01 per cent. It’s high time we buried that 0.01 per cent and re-established the 99.99 per cent.” Mr. Kulkarni emphasized the need for the governments and peoples of the two countries to strengthen mutual trust and cooperation in a sustained manner, which can make the “remaining 0.01 percent history” and help revive the atmosphere of Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai.
Mr. Niu Qingbao, the Consul-General of China in Mumbai, praised the efforts of ORF Mumbai “to create better understanding among people of India and China about each other.” He explained the potential benefits of mutual cooperation between Maharashtra and Guangdong, as envisioned in the MoU signed between the respective governments in 2010. He said that the roundtable discussion provided a platform to stakeholders from both regions to further concretise areas of common interest. “ORF has provided a very useful platform for this purpose. Now I would like ORF to undertake specific research that will help mutual cooperation between Maharashtra and Guangdong to move forward,” he remarked.
Mr. Suresh Prabhu, who was the architect of the MoU, emphasised its importance and the significant possibilities that it has created for cooperation between Maharashtra and Guangdong. “Unlike the Sister City concept, this MoU has established the first ever Sister Province concept. As such, it has the potential to more comprehensively address issues like agriculture, public transportation, migration from rural to urban areas, issues related to sustainability, water supply etc., which would, in the long term, improve the quality of lives of the respective peoples,” he said.
“Mumbai and other cities in Maharashtra can learn from China about reengineering of entire cities in terms of improving the quality of public life. The way the city of Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong, was reengineered in the run up to the 2010 Asian Games has showed how some of the most spectacular sustainable and green urban remodeling exercises can be undertaken to directly benefit the people. In the same way, Guangdong can learn from the farm cooperative movement and other salient achievements in Maharashtra,” Mr. Prabhu said. Recalling the words of Chairman Mao, he remarked, “Let this dialogue be the small step in the long march to bring about the change in the mindsets of the governments”.
Mr. Xie Pengfie, Director-General of DRC, gave an overview of Guangdong’s rapidly growing economy and also highlighted some the key challenges that it faced. “If Guangdong was a separate country, its GDP, which is as big as Indonesia’s, would have been 22nd in the world, and its foreign trade volume would have been 11th largest globally. Its tax revenues last year were around 200 billion USD,” he said. Compared to 2009-10, the annual growth rate for 2010-11 in the cities of Guangdong was 10.4 percent, while the rural parts of the province recorded an impressive higher growth rate of 14.1 percent over the same period. “However, despite this enormous growth in the last two decades, Guangdong still has many challenges, specifically in industry and technology upgradation, regional imbalance and environmental preservation,” he said.
“Guangdong is very keen to forge better relations with Maharashtra and focus on areas of mutual cooperation for sustainable cooperation and development. Guangdong is now an investor-friendly destination with supportive policies and while we encourage entrepreneurs from Guangdong to invest in Maharashtra and India, we are also very open for Indian companies to extend their businesses in Guangdong,” he added. Replying to question, Mr. Xie said that while Guangdong-based Chinese companies needed government clearance if they planned any overseas investments, these were quite easy to obtain, as the provincial government encouraged investment abroad, especially in India.
The roundtable evoked enthusiastic participation from a plethora of dignitaries from across the spectrum of trade and industry, finance, agriculture and academics. Some of the key participants were:
1. Mrs. Bakul Patel, former Sheriff of Mumbai
2. Mr. Anand Rathi, former President, Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE)
3. Mr. Alexey M. Mzareulov, Dy. Consul-General of Russia in Mumbai
4. Mrs. Kiran Nanda, Chief of Economic Research at the Indian Merchants’ Chamber
5. Mr. Minoo Shroff, noted business economist
6. Mr. M.D. Nalapat, Director, Department of Geopolitics & UNESCO Peace Chair, Manipal University
7. Ms. Bunty Chand, Executive Director, Asia Society India Centre
8. Mr. Deepak Gupte, of Future Group
9. Mr. Satish Marathe, National President of Sahakar Bharti
10. Dr. Satyendra Upadhyaya, Consultant and China Expert
11. Mr. Madhav Berde, Renewable energy consultant
12. Dr. Rajesh Sarwadnya, public health specialist
13. Dr. Vinod Sharma, Professor at Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai
14. Mr. Debi Goenka, Environmentalist
15. Mr. Milind Kokje, Asia Media Forum
16. Mr. Vasant Palekar, former Chairman, Johnson & Johnson Ltd. India
17. Mr. Anand Rathi, Chairman of Rathi Investments and former President of BSE
18. Ms. Darshika Chandra of Firstsource Solutions
19. Dr. A.J. Tamhankar, Indian Initiative for Management of Antibiotic Resistance (IIMAR)
20. Mr. Ruchir A. Khare, Research Analyst, Kotak Securities
21. Mr. Charu Mathur, Regional Director, Confederation of Indian Industries (Western Region)
22. Dr. Soli Arcievala, Bombay First
23. Ms. Prita Acharya, India China Chamber of Commerce and Industry
The distinguished participants gave their specific ideas and suggestions on how India and China, and specifically Maharashtra and Guangdong can work closely on various sectors for clean, sustainable and green development.
Shri Deepak Gupte said that the Future Group imports a large number of consumables and food items from China, particularly from the Guangdong Province, and suggested that China should similarly tap the Indian market for its domestic consumption.
Ms. Kiran Nanda said that IMC is preparing to organise its second round of the highly successful international Rural Energy Security through Distributed Clean Generation Conference (RUDICON) in February 2012 and suggested that a city in Guangdong Province could be a good venue for the same, in collaboration with ORF and DRC.
Ms. Satish Marathe highlighted the success of Maharashtra’s cooperative sector and inquired about the cooperative sector in Guangdong. He suggested that both Maharashtra and Guangdong could benefit greatly in many areas of rural development if they studied each other’s models.
Ms. Darshika Chandra recommended that besides promoting trade and commerce, the governments of both India and China must focus on cultural exchanges and talent exchange programmes.
Dr. Satyendra Upadhyaya urged the governments in Maharashtra and Guangdong to explore areas of collaboration in city and urban management at the levels of respective municipal corporations, elucidating how large cities in China were better managed and governed. He also advocated joint education programmes. Guangdong, he said, was the R&D hub of China, and the educational models of its universities were in line with the requirements of the local industries.
Mr. Madhav Berde highlighted the tremendous potential for mutual cooperation in R&D in the solar energy sector.
In his reply to all the participants, Mr. Xei Pengfie said that Guangdong and China were very keen to partner with Indian entities in all these areas. “We would particularly like to further mutual trade in agriculture commodities, particularly ready-to-eat food items from India,” which, he said, had a vast market in China. He also expressed his keen desire to cooperate in areas of clean-green energy, water conservation and municipal water management, solid waste management and mass public transport. “We have to sensitise our respective governments to create a platform for stakeholders of both countries to easily learn about areas of mutual cooperation across all sectors of sustainable development of our economies,” he emphasised.
At the end of the roundtable, Mr. Sudheendra Kulkarni informed the gathering that Shri Prabhu had received a message from Mr. Indra Mani Pandey, Consul General of India in Guangzhou, that the Standing Committee of the Municipal Government in Guangzhou was keen to have a meeting with the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) to seek cooperation in areas of municipal administration and governance. “The Guangzhou Municipal Government is ready to send a delegation to Mumbai for this, and ORF will be pleased to offer its platform for this interaction,” Mr. Kulkarni said.
About DRC, Guangdong
Development Research Center of the State Council (DRC) is a comprehensive policy research and consulting institution directly under the State Council, the central government of the People’s Republic of China. Its key focus areas include conducting follow-up and advanced studies on strategic and long-term issues in the national socioeconomic development so as to provide policy recommendations and consulting advices to the CPC Central Committee and the Sate Council, as well as decision-making proposals for development plans and regional development policies. It studies the emerging global impact of China’s opening-up process and advices on its foreign trade policies with the objective of providing reference for China’s reform and development. Since its establishment in 1981, DRC has done a great deal of creative work in promoting the reform and openness of China. DRC has been actively involved in the policy-making processes of the central government such as the formulation of the state five-year plans for the national economic and social development and the long-term development programs as well as the research and policy-making processes on the major reform and opening-up policies in different stages.
About ORF Mumbai
Observer Research Foundation (ORF) is a leading non-partisan Indian Think Tank that seeks to influence public policy formulation. It was established in New Delhi in 1990 by the late R. K. Mishra, a widely respected public figure, who envisaged it as a broad-based intellectual platform pulsating with ideas needed for India’s nation-building. Beginning 2010, ORF Mumbai has been established to pursue the Foundation’s vision in India’s business and finance capital. It conducts research and advocacy in six broad areas: Education, Public Health, Inclusive Development, Urban Renewal, Youth Development, and Promotion of India’s Priceless Artistic and Cultural Heritage.
Forum for India-China Citizens’ Dialogue
ORF Mumbai believes that in the changing world order, friendship between India and China is not an option. It is a mutual necessity. Moreover, it is an essential factor for peace and stability in Asia and the world. Obviously, diplomatic efforts are not alone enough to restore India-China relations to the desired level of affinity. The imperative need, to create mutual understanding and cooperation between our two countries, demands closer and vastly increased people-to-people contacts. It is against this backdrop that ORF Mumbai has taken the initiative to establish the Forum for India-China Citizens’ Dialogue. This is a non-partisan, non-political and nongovernmental platform for all those who believe in, and are willing to contribute to, the cause of promoting fraternal and cooperative relations between the peoples of India and China. The Forum has organised a large number of dialogues and programmes in Mumbai covering a range of issues including political, economic and arts and culture for promoting awareness and friendship among the people of India and China since the last one year.
For further details, please contact: Dhaval D. Desai on email: email@example.com