What the governments couldn't achieve for years, a people-to-people contact delivered just that in a span of four days that the Chinese were here: warmth and better appreciation of things that are Indian.
Zhang Mingfeng has been longing to visit India. As president and senior engineer of a Chinese infrastructure company, Zhang has been working in Africa for over two decades and had heard a lot about India from Indians in Africa. "We love Indian films. We grew up listening to Raj Kapoor's Awara Hoon," said Zhang.
Though business was in the back of their mind, most Chinese businessmen (who were in Mumbai to attend a business meet) were consumed by the occasion—of seeing India in person for the first time. Many of them were busy clicking pictures to take home as memoirs. "It's part of our culture. Wherever we go, we take pictures," added Zhang, who speaks fluent English.
But unlike him, a majority of the 100-member Chinese delegation many of who came from the Sichuan province, home to Chinese pandas, don't speak English. This proved to be a big barrier.
While the Chinese companies were keen to discuss business with their Indian counterparts who had turned up in large numbers, there were just not enough interpreters available to help the two sides talk.
"Many big companies were here but they can't speak English. They should have arranged for sufficient interpreters," said a Chinese businessman. "The Chinese were supposed to bring the interpreters, we were just supposed to provide the physical support. We got simultaneous interpretation machines from Delhi," said an official of the Confederation of Indian Industry, which organised the business meet with the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT).
The Chinese are keen to strike joint ventures with Indian companies in the field of information technology, chemicals and pharmaceuticals industry. In IT, China has the hardware prowess while India is good in software. "India has so many good engineers. There's great potential if we can work together. We should do R&D together," said CCPIT chairman Wan Jifei.
Indian companies are also eager to strike alliances. "I was here to see if there are any Chinese companies with the capability to build long-span cable stay bridges," said Simplex Infrastructure vice president Subrata Ray.
Firms like Shanghai Engineering and China Harbour have this expertise. With many long-span cable stay bridges being built in India, Simplex is keen to tie up with one such company.
Email Ranju Sarkar: email@example.com