Modi can truly make it the Visit In­dia Year

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE -

friend of his who was vis­it­ing Bei­jing; andmy sis­ter in Namibia called to say hello to her In­dian neigh­bors who had come to Foshan, Guang­dong prov­ince, to visit their son.

But inmy of­fice, full of highly ed­u­cated and well­trav­eled peo­ple, I have not found a sin­gle per­son who has gone to In­dia for any­thing apart from busi­ness.

So why the (mainly) oneway traf­fic?

It’s not de­lib­er­ate. The av­er­age mid­dle-class In­dian who started trav­el­ing abroad at the turn of the cen­tury typ­i­cally chose Southeast Asian coun­tries for their first ven­tures abroad, fol­lowed by Europe and oth­erWestern des­ti­na­tions. (The US is an­other mat­ter, for there are so many In­di­ans living there it was more of a fam­ily re­u­nion. Ditto the Chi­nese.)

In more than a decade of living in China, I have no­ticed a sim­i­lar tra­jec­tory.

The first ma­jor des­ti­na­tions for Chi­nese main­lan­ders wereHong Kong and Ma­cao. This was fol­lowed by Southeast Asia, Europe and Australia.

But then their paths di­verged. In­dian tourists dis­cov­ered China, an “ex­otic” place with stunning scenery and breath­tak­ing his­tor­i­cal sites – far bet­ter pre­served than in their home­land. Ergo, a Chi­nese im­mi­gra­tion stamp has be­come nec­es­sary as part of travel brag­ging rights.

The Chi­nese were no dif­fer­ent but they found In­dia “too ex­otic” and “dif­fi­cult” – the for­mer code for poor tourist in­fra­struc­ture and safety and the lat­ter the sim­ple task of ob­tain­ing a visa.

In­dia has a tourism brand am­bas­sador in the form of PrimeMin­is­ter Naren­dra Modi, who be­gins his three­day visit to China in the an­cient city of Xi’an on Thurs­day, and can ad­dress both the con­cerns.

He made a good start by open­ing a Si­naWeibo (the Chi­nese equiv­a­lent of Twit­ter) ac­count to greet the Chi­nese.

He can prom­ise bet­ter tourist fa­cil­i­ties and safety for women (as more than one weibo user de­manded).

Bet­ter still, he can prom­ise that the Chi­nese will be el­i­gi­ble for the equiv­a­lent of visas on ar­rival, mak­ing it much eas­ier to visit his coun­try.

Af­ter all, he starts his visit to a place from where the fa­mous Tang Dy­nasty (AD 618-907) monk Xuan­zang be­gan his epic and ar­du­ous jour­ney to In­dia that framed a civ­i­liza­tional ex­change.

Surely, it should be eas­ier to­day. Con­tact the writer at ravi@chi­

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