The round table in a private chamber of a Beijing hotel was crowded with elegantly presented vegetarian dishes. Around it was a delegation of surprised Indian scholars, enjoying exotic mushrooms and unfamiliar greens, in animated conversation with senior scholars of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS). Encouraged by the bonhomie, an Indian delegate raised the issue of the border dispute with China — thereby tilting the conversation over a chasm of pain and mistrust, from which both hosts and guests pulled back not so much by instinct as by design.
The Indian scholars were on a mission to explore the full extent of dialogue and cooperation possible with their Chinese counterparts. Likewise the Chinese commitment to expanding common ground was expressed evocatively by a senior scholar: “For many decades it has been Hindi-Chini bye-bye; it is time that we were again Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai.”