New Delhi :Against the backdrop of media frenzy last year over a host of issues between India and China including the boundary, National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon Thursday warned against “misperceptions and distortions” that could cloud ties and underlined the need for vigorous public diplomacy.
“When the world is changing so rapidly, and when uncertainty in the international system is at unprecedented levels, neither India nor China can afford misperceptions or distortions of policy caused by a lack of understanding of each other’s compulsions and policy processes,” Menon said.
“It is only on the basis of informed and supportive public opinion that we would be able to grasp the opportunities and move forward on the ambitious agenda that awaits India-China relations, the pursuit of which would place India-China relations on a sound footing for the 21st century,” he said at a seminar organised by the Indian Council of World Affairs to commemorate the 60th anniversary of India-China diplomatic relations.
Alluding to “shrill and overexcitable commentary” on the relationship that has appeared in both countries in the last year, Menon stressed on the role of public diplomacy in bettering ties between the two countries.
“In a democracy like India foreign policy has a symbiotic relationship with public opinion; it is both formed and it and needs its support to be legitimate, coherent and implementable,” he said.
Menon also pointed to the emergence of “nativist” voices, and the loud expression of opinion and warned that it could introduce “volatility in perception.”
Chinese Ambassador to India Zhang Yan, too, advocated better handling of public opinion to create stronger relations between India and China.
“Public opinion is vitally important to the development of our relations. Two countries should provide correct guidance to the public opinion and avoid war of words,” he said.
Efforts should be made on both sides to create an environment that is objective, friendly and that of mutual trust, Zhang said.
“Without trust there can be no genuine relationship. Without trust, there can be no sustained and meaningful cooperation,” the Chinese envoy said, while underlining that India and China have more in common than their differences.
“There are no fundamental differences or conflict. They are no threat to each other,” he said.
“A good and conducive public environment will not only provide a necessary condition for the stable development of our relations, but also create conditions conducive to the settlement of historical issues and other differences,” Zhang said.
Indian and Chinese leaders Thursday exchanged greetings on the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties and expressed their optimism about the future development of the relationship for the sake of regional and global peace.
Last year, the Indian media, specially news channels, played up reports of Chinese incursions into the Indian territory that created a China threat perception in public mind.
The Chinese media also took a hawkish stand on issues relating to India. A Chinese website carried a commentary by an anonymous commentator that advised the Chinese leadership to divide India into 20-30 independent states, eliciting sharp reaction from India’s external affairs ministry.