India and China: Neighbours, Global economic powerhouses...but are they really friends with each other?
It goes without saying that most Indian and Chinese people would not even explore the idea of integrating with each other’s cultures. It’s a historical thing, one which goes back to the early 19th century. Subhas Chandra Bose (1897-1945), an Indian nationalist leader, formed alliances with the Japanese during the second world war against the British and other oppressors of India, and even in Hong Kong, the Sikhs (who traditionally have been recruited into the Hong Kong Police or the armed forces) joined in with the Japanese forces. This alliance which the Indians (most of whom were Sikhs in Hong Kong and Shanghai at that time) made with the Japanese angered the local Cantonese people so much that since then there has always been a certain amount of sentiment between the Indian and Chinese communities in Hong Kong (and the rest of China for that matter)
One may question that these old thoughts may have been forgotten by the modern generation of Hong Kong people, however, according to Roger Houghton, a former Hong Kong police officer and British writer who has resided in the former British Colony for over 35 years says that these old sentiments get passed on from one generation to another. Even to the extent that sometimes Chinese elders discourage their grandchildren to make friends with Indian people. This may be a contributing factor, however, another factor is skin colour, and it is a well known fact that some Chinese people openly discriminate people of Indian origin (this is certainly true for some Cantonese people), and that includes every dark skinned person from the Middle East down to Burma, simply because these people have brown skin and smell of strong spices (of course, not everyone). There is reluctance amongst Hong Kong property owners to rent to Indians but that is more commercial than racial. Indian cuisine tends to penetrate the wallpaper and rugs and imbue the apartment with a spicy smell. When the Indian family leaves the residence, all these fittings have to be replaced. I believe it does not go any further than that. Nevertheless, Mr. Houghton explains that this attitude towards skin and smell were initially apparent in the first opium war. Also in Hong Kong, the sad fact is that the majority of Indians, Pakistanis and Nepalis do labor jobs, such as being doorman to hotels, or even the exceedingly annoying touting that goes around Tsim Sha Tsui doesn't really assist in improving their image much among Cantonese people.
On the whole things are gradually changing for good, however say, even five years ago it would have been common practice on a Hong Kong MTR train that if the only empty seat on the train were next to a seated Indian person, then no Chinese person would dare sit on that seat, no matter how tired they may be. It’s an extreme example, but one that is based on facts (and from what I have seen with my own eyes). India and China were also at a brief war in 1962, and one of my late grandfathers’, who was a Commander in the Indian Army, fought against the Chinese in that war. I doubt history will repeat itself for both China and India cannot afford to make enemies with anyone in the current global economic and political climate. I still treasure a black & white photo of him standing along side a Chinese Army Captain on the Ladakh border station in the snowy terrain holding the Indian flag; likewise his counterpart is holding the Chinese flag. I am not sure what his thoughts would be now, if he knew that his grandson is actually encouraging foreigners to visit China for business and tourism! Indeed India and China, who share the world’s largest border (from Bhutan to the northern part of Kashmir), have been scratching each other’s backs for centuries over the border dispute. I remember my late grandfather used to tell me that since times in memorial, India has always been a close friend with Japan and Russia. I realized this as I grew up. But we must all accept that times are changing. Since 2005, India and China have held a number of joint Navy, Air Force and Army military exercises to boost friendship.
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