Tagore legacy fuels China-India cultural ties

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

It was barely my second month in China. Everything was new, and I was still trying to grasp the rhythms and nuances of this unfamiliar country. Over the weekend, a colleague invited me to a cafe to join a group of Chinese university freshmen for an informal English corner. The idea was simple yet intriguing: to have casual conversations that would help the students practice their spoken English while allowing expats like me to socialize and make new friends.

As we began with the usual round of introductions, one student, upon learning that I was originally from India, exclaimed with excitement, “It’s so cool to know you are from India. I love ‘tiger.’ Do you also love his work?” Fresh to the country and the culture, I was puzzled by his reference to “tiger.” It was only when he showed me a photo that I realized he was talking about Rabindranath Tagore, the great literary polymath. Due to the Chinese pinyin
Taige’er, he had pronounced Tagore as “tiger.”

After residing in China for over eight years now, a place that has truly become my second home, I’ve grown to understand the profound reverence for Tagore here and his enduring relevance to India-China cultural exchanges.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Tagore’s first visit to China, and his teachings and relationship with the country have only grown more significant. In today’s world, marked by deep divides, polarization and geopolitical challenges, Tagore’s legacy serves as a bridge, fostering understanding and mutual respect between India and China.

Already a Nobel laureate by the time he visited China in 1924, Tagore embarked on a journey that would lay the foundation for a rich cultural exchange between two ancient civilizations. His visit came at a time when China was undergoing significant political and social transformation. Amidst this backdrop, Tagore’s message of universal humanism, spiritual unity, and cultural synthesis resonated deeply with the Chinese intellectuals and artists of the era. 

During his lectures and interactions, Tagore emphasized the importance of cultural dialogue and mutual respect. He saw the rich cultural heritage of both India and China as pivotal in fostering global peace and understanding. Tagore’s poetry, philosophy, and ideals were embraced by Chinese scholars, and his works were translated into Chinese, further cementing his influence.

Fast forward to the present day, the dynamic between India and China is intricate, characterized by a mix of cooperation and contention. Geopolitical tensions, border disputes and economic rivalries frequently grab headlines. Nevertheless, cultural diplomacy stands out as a potent means to bridge divides and nurture mutual understanding among nations, with Tagore’s legacy serving as a testament to the lasting influence of cultural ties. 

In contemporary times, Tagore’s philosophy of mutual respect and cultural exchange is more relevant than ever. His belief in the intrinsic value of different cultures and his efforts to promote dialogue can help navigate the intricacies of modern India-China relations. By revisiting Tagore’s contributions, both nations can find common ground in their shared cultural heritage.

Tagore’s influence in China extends beyond literature, penetrating the realm of philosophy and education. Xu Zhimo, a renowned poet, translated many of Tagore’s works and actively promoted his ideas. This intellectual exchange enriched Chinese literature and opened new avenues for philosophical discourse.

Besides this, Tagore’s holistic approach to education, which integrates arts, humanities and sciences, resonates with contemporary educational reforms aiming to produce well-rounded global citizens. In today’s globalized world, where divisive politics and cultural misunderstandings often overshadow dialogue, Tagore’s vision offers a beacon of hope. His advocacy for cultural understanding and cooperation is a reminder of the potential for harmony between India and China.

This 100th anniversary of Tagore’s visit to China can be deemed a poignant reaffirmation of the enduring principles he championed. It offers an opportunity to revisit his teachings and apply them to contemporary issues. Academic exchanges, cultural festivals, and joint literary initiatives inspired by Tagore’s legacy can serve as platforms for deeper engagement between the two nations.

Engaging the youth in both countries is crucial for sustaining Tagore’s legacy. Educational programs that promote the study of Tagore’s works can help cultivate a new generation of thinkers who appreciate the shared cultural heritage of India and China. Universities and cultural institutions can also play a crucial role in keeping the spirit of Tagore’s vision alive, thus, laying the groundwork for future collaborations.

Tagore’s legacy is a powerful reminder of the potential for cultural diplomacy to bridge divides and foster mutual respect. His teachings continue to inspire and offer valuable lessons for navigating the complexities of modern bilateral relations.

In an era rife with geopolitical tensions, Tagore’s vision of universal humanism and cultural synthesis shines as a guiding beacon. By embracing his legacy, India and China can certainly strengthen their ties and pave the way for a more harmonious tomorrow, thereby building a community with a shared future for all of humanity.

Looking back on Tagore’s journey, let us also look ahead, drawing inspiration from his ideals, toward a world where cultural exchange and mutual respect underpin international relations.

The author is a media professional based in Beijing. [email protected]

Requesting India’s troop withdrawal in line with Maldives’ national security: expert

Aerial photo taken on Sept 1, 2019 shows the panoramic view of Male, capital of Maldives. Photo: Xinhua

Aerial photo taken on September 1, 2019 shows the panoramic view of Male, capital of Maldives. File Photo: Xinhua

India completed its troop withdrawal from the Maldives on Thursday, a move that experts said aligns with international law and norms. The call for India to withdraw its troops reflects the sentiment of the Maldivian people and fulfills the country’s need for national security and dignity, according to experts.

They also refuted the hype that associates the withdrawal with the Maldivian President’s “pro-China” policy, attributing such hype to a perception of the country as not being an independent sovereign nation, but rather as being part of India’s sphere of influence.

India’s Ministry of External Affairs on Thursday confirmed the withdrawal of Indian military personnel from the Maldives and the “deputation of competent persons” to the archipelago nation, Indian news outlet NDTV reported.

The completion came after Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu’s request that all Indian military personnel in the country be withdrawn from the Maldives by May 10, honoring a promise he made in his presidential campaign.

“The Maldives is a sovereign nation, and in accordance with international law and established norms, India should withdraw its troops,” Long Xingchun, a professor at the School of International Relations at Sichuan International Studies University, told the Global Times on Friday.

The Maldives’ call for India to remove its troops is viewed as a crucial step for safeguarding national security and upholding national pride, and the request was not solely the president’s policy, but rather a reflection of the collective will of the Maldivian people, Long said.

The expert added that for India, failing to withdraw its troops will result in tarnishing its international reputation, as such actions would be perceived as aggressive. “Therefore, it is imperative for India to promptly withdraw its troops to avoid further damage to its national image,” he said.

However, despite India’s withdrawal of troops from the Maldives being an act in compliance with international law, many Indian and Western media outlets still associate it with Muizzu’s so-called pro-China policy, ignoring the fact that the president himself has repeatedly stated that he is not “pro-China,” but “pro-Maldives,” and that Maldives is willing to cooperate with all countries, including India and China.

Long noted that the such hype stems from the fact that the Maldives is still seen as being within India’s sphere of influence, which limits the country to only maintaining good relations and cooperating with India, rather than being recognized as an independent sovereign nation deserving of equal treatment.

“This perspective is fundamentally wrong, violates the UN charter and international law, and must be corrected,” Long said, noting that as an independent sovereign state, Maldives has the right and the need to develop ties with other countries in the world, including China.

According to AP, a day ahead of India’s troop withdrawal deadline, the foreign ministers of India and Maldives met in New Delhi, where Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar told his Maldives counterpart, Moosa Zameer, that India has been a key provider of development assistance, including infrastructure projects, medical care and health facilities.

Jaishankar also highlighted the close partnerships with neighbors as the world is today “passing through a volatile and uncertain period,” Nikkei Asia reported.

Analysts noted that India has been a source of assistance and support for the Maldives, strengthening the bond between the two nations. However, they warned that it is important for India to recognize the importance of maintaining the relationship based on mutual respect and equality. “It is crucial for India to prioritize treating others with fairness and respect, rather than striving for a relationship of superiority over the Maldives,” Long said.