Mr. Ashok K. Kantha, former Ambassador of India to China; Honorary Fellow & former Director, Institute of Chinese Studies, New Delhi.
It was a productive period for China under the leadership of Jiang Zemin (1989-2002) when the country came out of its relative isolation after Tiananmen protests and crackdown, mended relations with the US-led West, developed its linkages with the rest of the world, integrated with the global economy, joined the World Trade Organisation, completed the handover of Hong Kong, readied for its role as a major power, and put in place building blocks for the subsequent aggressive pursuit of its ‘core interests’ and power in the region and beyond. The rise of China became possible with the multi-fold expansion of its GDP and its progressive emergence as a leading trading nation and manufacturing hub, following up on the earlier policy of reform and opening up with some major initiatives like restructuring of the State-Owned Enterprises, dismantling of the welfare state, monetisation of land and co-option of the burgeoning class of private entrepreneurs in the ranks of the Communist Party of China. These policies also generated new challenges like endemic corruption and growing iniquities in the economy and society. It was also a period of expansion of ‘normal’ relations between India and China, building on the basic paradigm for the management of the relationship put in place in 1988, though there was a sharp but relatively short downturn in ties after India’s nuclear tests in 1998. Jiang Zemin visited India and major agreements were signed in 1993 and 1996 to ensure peace and tranquility in border areas. However, the search for a boundary settlement remained elusive and some of the underlying problems in the relationship, including China-Pakistan strategic linkages, deepened.
Mr. Santosh Pai, Honorary Fellow & Treasurer, Institute of Chinese Studies; Partner, Link Legal, New Delhi.
China’s pace of globalization grew rapidly under Jiang Zemin. Its share of global exports doubled within a decade as it became the world’s fourth largest trading country. FDI stock grew from US$ 60 billion to over US$ 500 billion. The foundation for expansion of China’s economic ties with India was also laid during this period. Origin of several asymmetries integral to India-China economic ties today such as India’s outsized trade deficit, disproportionate exports of low-value commodities from India and reliance on imports of higher value-added products from China can also be traced back to this period. The widening gap between economic indicators of the two countries despite simultaneous implementation of reforms highlight their respective comparative advantages. This period also holds lessons for India’s post-pandemic journey towards prominence in Global Value Chains.
About the Panelists
Mr. Ashok K. Kantha is an Honorary Fellow and former Director (2017-22) of the Institute of Chinese Studies, New Delhi; a Distinguished Fellow at Vivekananda International Foundation, New Delhi; and Chair of the Core Group on China of the Confederation of Indian Industry. A career diplomat, Kantha was Ambassador of India to China until January 2016. Prior to this, he was Secretary (East) at Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi with responsibility for about 65 countries in India’s extended neighbourhood. His previous assignments include High Commissioner of India to Sri Lanka and Malaysia, Consul General in Hong Kong, and Deputy Chief of Mission in Kathmandu (Nepal). Earlier, Kantha served in different capacities at Indian Missions in Singapore, China and the USA, and at headquarters in New Delhi. In his diplomatic career spanning over 38 years, Kantha specialized in India’s neighbourhood and Asian affairs, with a particular focus on China. Apart from three assignments in China, he served as Joint Secretary (East Asia) and Director (China) at Ministry of External Affairs for periods of four years each. He has an advanced certificate in Chinese language from National University of Singapore.
Mr. Santosh Pai is a partner at Link Legal, an Indian law firm. He has been offering legal services to clients in the India-China corridor since 2010. His areas of interest include Chinese investments in India, India-China comparative law and policy, cross-cultural negotiations and board governance. He holds a B.A., LL.B. (Hons.) degree from NLSIU, Bangalore, LL.M. (Chinese law) from Tsinghua University, Beijing and an MBA from Vlerick University, Belgium (Peking University campus). His manuscript, Practical Guide on Investing in India for Chinese Investors has been translated into Chinese and published by China Law Press. Mr. SantoshPai is also a member of CII’s Core Group on China, teaches two courses on India-China business at IIM Shillong and volunteers at NGOs in his free time.
About the Chair
Prof. Alka Acharya is Honorary Director of the ICS and Professor at the Centre for East Asian Studies, SIS, Jawaharlal Nehru University. She has been teaching courses on Chinese Foreign Policy and Political Economy to the Masters and M.Phil students and guiding doctoral research since 1993. She is the joint editor of the book Crossing a Bridge of Dreams: 50 years of India-China and has contributed chapters to many books and journals. She has authored a book China & India: Politics of Incremental Engagement, published in 2008 and most recently edited a volume titled Boundaries and Borderlands: A Century after the 1914 Simla Convention (Routledge, New York 2023). She was nominated by the Indian government as a member of the India-China Eminent Persons Group (2006-2008) and member of the National Security Advisory Board of the Government of India for two terms (2006-2008) and (2011-2012).
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