Two millennia strong

To focus on the 1962 conflict is to miss the larger picture of China-India relations
Deng Xijun

The brief border conflict between China and India, which happened 50 years ago in October 1962, seems to be a hot topic again these days in some media of the two countries. It is a better idea to review the history of China-India relations in a broader perspective. If we only focus on the conflict of 1962, the whole picture of China-India relations will be neglected. That is missing the woods for the trees.

Relations between China and India date back to over two thousand years ago. It is a long and complicated relationship. But, in four sentences we can capture the headlines: the two great civilisations interacted frequently in ancient times; they supported each other in modern times; their relations experienced ups and downs in the contemporary era; and they are strategic and cooperative partners in the 21st century.

As two great, ancient civilisations, China and India communicated with and learned from each other throughout history. Economic and cultural exchanges between the two peoples can be traced back to the Qin (221-206BC) and Han (202BC-220AD) dynasties. The famous Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabharata contain numerous references to China. Buddhism acted as an important bridge for ancient China-India contact. More than 1,000 years ago, eminent Chinese monks Xuan Zang (Hsuan Tsang) and Fa Xian (Fa Hsien) travelled to India for Buddhist scriptures, while renowned Indian monks Kumarajiva and Bodhidharma spread Buddhist teachings in China. They greatly promoted cultural exchange and integration.

China and India supported and sympathised with each other in the fight against colonial rule and the struggle for national independence and liberation. In 1937, the Indian National Congress issued a statement condemning the Japanese invasion of China. Doctor Dwarkanath Kotnis travelled all the way to China as a member of an Indian medical aid team and devoted his life to the cause of the liberation of the Chinese people. India was the first non-socialist country to establish diplomatic relations with New China. In the 1950s, China-India relations developed smoothly and "Hindi-Chini bhai bhai" became a popular saying at that time. The two countries co-initiated the famous Panchsheel, the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence, which are still recognised as the basic principles of international relations.

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