BEIJING: Petite Chinese girls dressed in colourful saris, samosas and chicken tikkas, strains of classical Indian music floating in the winter air…Incredible India is set to cast its spell on Chinese tourists, whetting their appetite to experience a neighbouring country that continues to be shrouded in clichés, old and new.
In the minus zero temperature in the Chinese capital, the ministers of India and China launched the ‘Visit India Year,’ with a warming video-taped message from India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, goading Chinese tourists to pack their bags and find every delight the world has to offer in his country.
In his address, Mr Modi used a sprinkling of Mandarin and invoked ancient links between his hometown Vadnagar in Gujarat and Guangdong province in China, the sister provinces and hubs of economic vitality and dynamism in two of Asia’s biggest economies.
Around 110,000 Chinese tourists visited India last year, a miniscule percentage of around 110 million who scour near and distant corners of the world from mainland China every year.
Kicking off the ‘Visit India Year’ at the elite Beijing Raffles Hotel, India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj conjured up myriad charms of India and underlined that Chinese tourists would be more than welcome in her country.
“So many languages, different places will have different languages, so many outfits, a variety of food will be available yet what will remain consistent is ‘One India’, India which is one From Kashmir to Kanya Kumari,” said Swaraj. “You will witness unity in diversity like never before. The zeal and the warmth of the people of India, the mantra of Athithi Devo Bhava i.e Guests are God are sure to captivate your hearts.”
The two sides set the target of multiplying the tourists’ inflow from China to India 10 times to 1 million by 2016. 2016 will be ‘Visit China Year’ for Indians.
Increasing tourists’ traffic from China is part of a multi-pronged strategy to increase people-to-people contacts between the two countries whose relationship has been marred by distrust and limited exposure to each other’s society and culture. Increased tourism could also prove to be a useful instrument to bridge India’s ballooning trade deficit, which is estimated to be around $40 billion.
The focus on enhancing tourism could be reflected in the sealing of a liberalised visa regime during Prime Minister Modi’s maiden visit to China in April/May this year.
- Manish Chand is Founder-CEO and Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org) and India and World, a pioneering magazine focused on international affairs. He is CEO/Director of TGII Media Private Limited, an India-based media, publishing, research and consultancy company.
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