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Chinese Consulate Kolkata Holds Think Tank Conference on Connectivity

The Consulate General of the People's Republic of China in Kolkata, in cooperation with the Indian think tank "Observer Research Foundation" (ORF) Kolkata Chapter, held a conference on "Connectivity, Trade Relations and Investment Opportunities Between China and Eastern India" at Hotel Oberoi Grand, Kolkata, India on 12 September 2018.

More than 150 people attended the conference, including Mr. Ma Zhanwu, Chinese Consul General in Kolkata; Sunjoy Joshi, Chairman of ORF; Ashok Dhar, Director of ORF Kolkata Chapter; Alexey Idamkin, Consul General of Russia in Kolkata; 16 Chinese and Indian scholars respectively from Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences (YASS), Sichuan Academy of Social Sciences (SASS), Shanghai International Studies University, Yunnan University of Finance and Economics, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), Indian Council for Social Science Research (ICSSR), Institute of Chinese Studies (ICS), Indian Institute of Management(IIM), Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER), Visva-Bharati University; and teachers and students from Jadavpur University, University of Calcutta, West Bengal University of Teachers' Training, Education Planning and Administration; and reporters from local mainstream media houses.

Mr Ma Zhanwu delivered a speech in the inaugural ceremony, starting by sharing his thoughts on the background of the seminar. He said the world is now undergoing huge and profound changes. China, India, and other developing countries, are on their way to achieve still greater economic development and national rejuvenation. In particular, China's development and foreign policy have attracted more and more attention from the international community. Using his words of clarity and simplicity, Mr. Ma explained how China follows a path of peaceful development, works to build a community with a shared future for mankind, holds high the banner of peace, development, cooperation, and mutual benefit and upholds its fundamental foreign policy goal of preserving world peace and promoting common development. He also stated that China will promote coordination and cooperation with other major countries and build a framework for major country relations featuring overall stability and balanced development, and China will deepen relations with its neighbors in accordance with the principle of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit, and inclusiveness and the policy of forging friendship and partnership with its neighbors. China will actively promote international cooperation through the Belt and Road Initiative. In doing so, it hopes to achieve policy, infrastructure, trade, financial, and people-to-people connectivity and thus build a new platform for international cooperation to create new drivers of shared development. Not long ago, President Xi Jinping again talked about the Belt and Road initiative and stressed that China should uphold dialogue and consultation, joint contribution, shared benefits, win-win cooperation, exchange and mutual learning and promote political mutual trust, economic integration, people-to-people exchanges with the Belt and Road countries. He also proposed to boost exchanges in areas of education, science, technologies, culture, sports, tourism, health and archaeology. As India is both a major country and a neighbour and lies in the regions covered by BRI, the remarks by President Xi Jinping and the background mentioned above are important guidelines for us to refer to when we study and carry out exchanges and cooperation between China and Eastern India.

Mr Ma also said that the conference was held against a favorable backdrop of the relationship between China and India, after President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Modi reached very important consensus on developing further the partnership between the two great nations in their meeting in Wuhan, China in April 2018, which has turned a new chapter in the bilateral ties. This think tank conference is a concrete measure to implement the consensus reached by the two leaders on promoting people-to-people exchanges and on strengthening connectivity.

Mr Ma stressed that the Chinese Consulate, by holding this China-India think tank conference, hopes to further promote exchanges and cooperation between China and Eastern India in economy, trade, people-to-people connectivity and other fields. Firstly, it is meant to enhance the pragmatic cooperation between China, especially Southwestern China, and Eastern India and other South Asian regions, in the fields of connectivity, trade and investment, and so on, so as to promote the construction of the BCIM Economic Corridor. Secondly, it is meant to strengthen communication and exchanges between think tanks from China and India, and come out with suggestions for regional connectivity and other exchanges and cooperation in a more pragmatic way. Thirdly, it is meant to draw greater attention from people of all walks of life in the relevant countries on regional connectivity, especially on development of the BCIM Economic Corridor, in order to accelerate the steps that need to be taken to achieve more substantive results, and bring more benefits to people from countries within the region.

Mr Ma also pointed out that a proposal of building a bullet train railway from Kunming to Kolkata via Myanmar and Bangladesh was made in 2015. If this comes true, the bullet train will greatly promote regional connectivity and become a flagship project for the four-nation cooperation. We hope this bullet train between Kunming and Kolkata will become reality as soon as possible through joint efforts of all the relevant sides, so as to bring more benefits to people in the region.

Mr Ashok Dhar and others said it is of great value to hold this seminar along with the Chinese Consulate and hoped scholars would have in-depth discussions over exchanges and cooperation between China and Eastern India in connectivity and other fields. It is also expected that this conference may further strengthen academic exchanges and promote friendship and cooperation between China and Eastern India.

Then, Chinese and Indian scholars had in-depth discussions over the following four topics: Connecting Neighbors, Trade Relations - Bridging the Gap, Investment Opportunities, Sustainability and Low Carbon Economy.

Mr C.Joshua Thomas, Deputy Director from North Eastern Regional Center of ICSSR; Ms Yue Zhaomin, Secretary General of Center for India Studies, Sichuan Academy of Social Sciences; Mr Debasish Chaudhuri, adjunct fellow from ICS; Mr Lin Yanming, Research Assistant from Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences; Mr Avijit Banerjee, Head of Cheena Bhavana, Visva-Bharati University; and Ms Anasua Basu Ray Chaudhury, Fellow of ORF, talked about connectivity between China and India, regional connectivity under the framework of Belt and Road Initiative, promoting people-to-people exchanges between Yunnan Province and Eastern India, people-to-people exchanges being the foundation for future India-China relations and comparative studies on Indian and Chinese media respectively.

Mr Nilanjan Ghosh, Senior Fellow of ORF; Mr Harsh Poddar, Executive Director of Aris Capital; Ms Parthapratim Pal, Professor of IIM; and Ms Chen Jinying, Associate Professor from Shanghai International Studies University, analyzed relations between BRI and Asia trade balance, trade relation between China and India from the global perspective, and the significance of signing FTA for China-India relations.

Ms Preeti Kapuria, Associate Fellow of ORF; Ms Saon Ray, Senior Fellow from ICRIER; Ms Yang Yishuang, Associate Professor from Yunnan University of Finance and Economics; and Mr Ashok Dhar, Director of ORF, Kolkata Chapter, elaborated on investment potentials of the five states in Eastern India, main features of India export, and potential fields of investment and cooperation between India and China.

While chairing the session on Investment Opportunities, Mr Ma Zhanwu called for more attention and support from the governments of five states in Eastern India to Chinese enterprises, especially small and medium sized ones that are willing to do business in Eastern Indian, for example, facilitating the Chinese companies in terms of the relevant policies, infrastructure, visa, etc. Equally important is the so-called success stories of Chinese businesses in this part of India.

In the closing ceremony, Mr Ma expressed his appreciation of Chinese and Indian scholars' presentations, and said the conference was of great significance to deepening research in related fields and enhancing friendly relations and pragmatic cooperation between China and Eastern India, given its rich contents, unique perspectives and thorough discussions. He said the Chinese Consulate would continue to cooperate with local think tanks to hold such conferences in the coming months. In the evening, Mr Ma had further discussions with the scholars at his residence.

More than twenty local mainstream media including PTI, UNI, Times of India, The Telegraph, The Statesman, The Indian Express, NDTV, and India Today, were present to cover the event. Mr Ma also gave interviews to reporters from the above-mentioned media.

On 13 September, the conference was covered by Indian media houses extensively with positive comments on the role that Chinese Consulate plays in promoting economic and people-to-people exchanges between China and Eastern India.


Deputy Consul General Yu Xiong, Consul Wang Mei, Vice Consul Xie Chao, Vice Consul Shi Lijun, Consular Attache Zhou Yaoyao attended the conference.

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