The Panchsheel or “Five Principles of Peaceful Existence” was a joint statement issued during Chinese premier Zhou Enlai’s visits to India in 1954. It was the period marking end of colonialism and emergence of new nations in Asia and Africa. These five principles were as follows:
Mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Mutual non-interference in internal matters.
Equality and mutual benefit Peaceful co-existence.
Panchsheel principles resonated with India’s aspiration as India wanted to preserve her independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity. India focussed on establishing relations with other countries as equal footing and get protection from external invasions. In China, India saw an equal partner and reliable neighbour. India was one of the first countries to recognize China’s government.India not only supported the UNSC permanent seat for China but also invited China to take part in Bandung Conference.
Panchsheel is a framework of basic tenets of engagement between the two sovereign countries and withstands the test of the time. It is equally relevant for all times. So it is no surprise that first Asia-Africa conference at Bandung, Indonesia in 1955 adopted these principles.
The above principles reflected the common desires of the overall human society to seek independent survival and development since the ancient times, and were in line with the global trend of peaceful coexistence between or among nations which might have different ideological and social systems, and echoed the aspirations of the peoples across the world vis-á-vis development in a peaceful international environment while realizing prosperity via cooperation, and conformed to the common aspirations of the relevant countries to resolve the historical issues in a peaceful manner.
Meanwhile, the Five Principles were also widely acclaimed by the international community for their inclusiveness and openness, and were adopted through a series of bilateral and multilateral agreements, thus becoming the legal norms for the international community to address disputes or historical issues in a peaceful manner, and creating a legal platform for the relevant nations to develop friendly and cooperative relations.
The Five Principles were, essentially, in accordance with the spirit of the UN Charter, and stood for the interests and will of the developing countries. They were, therefore, recognised by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) soon after the three nations put forward the principles. They were further quoted and recognised by the Declaration on Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation in Accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, which was passed by the 25th UNGA in 1970, and by the Declaration on Establishing a New International Economic Order, passed by the 6th special UNGA in 1974. Meanwhile, the Five Principles were also widely accepted by the international community for their inclusiveness and openness, and were adopted by a series of bilateral and multilateral agreements.
The Five Principles have withstood the test of the changing international situation over the past 60 years, and demonstrated their vitality. During and after the Cold War, China and India, the two ancient civilisations, were both faced with some mind-boggling realities. Both had a huge population. Both needed to feed these hungry millions. Both were economically devastated through colonisation. Both had a glorious past, but a dismal present. And both wanted to revive the glorious years of the past.
The ever-changing international situation warranted the two countries to review and address our bilateral problems or disputes from the strategic perspective, and prevent them from becoming obstacles in terms of steady development of the bilateral relations. Despite the sad fact of the border conflicts in 1962, China and India reached out to each other, and addressed the disputes and differences via the diplomatic channel, and facilitated conditions for a chapter of a new kind of nation-to-nation relations.
It is based on the above strategic thinking that the two nations established the Strategic Cooperative and Partnership Relations in 2005, which were aimed at promoting the common interests and realizing the common prosperity, and opened a new chapter of our bilateral relations, with the characteristics of harmonious coexistence and common development. At the same time, China and India set up a series of bilateral dialogue mechanisms, including strategic dialogue, strategic economic dialogue, famous-person forum, and special representative dialogue for addressing the border issues, etc. All the said mechanisms were complementary to one another, and played key roles in reducing tension, addressing disputes and building mutual trust.
During the post financial crisis era, China and India are both destined to form the fate community. On the home front, China and India are both faced with the impacts resultant from the ever-changing international situation, are both faced with challenges from the on-going industrialisation and globalisation, both are under increasing pressure to maintain the momentum of economic growth, and are thus charged with the historical task of national rejuvenation.
Therefore, the above scenarios have warranted the two countries to address the historical and economic issues effectively, take stock of each other’s potential, push for closer political and economic cooperation based on the comparative advantages of each side, and realise a peaceful and cooperative development on the basis of the Panchsheel Treaty.
In the international arena, China and India, as emerging economies with ever-increasing global influence, are both destined to further join hands in terms of global governance.
Therefore, they are to jointly influence the orientation of globalization, and facilitate conditions for it to be more balanced, universally beneficial, lobby for all the countries to participate in the global governance on equal footing, call on all the counties to resolve their issues and disputes through consultations and negotiations, give full attention to the interests and aspirations of all the countries around the world, especially those of the developing counties, push forward further reforms of the current international governance institutions, expand the representation of the developing countries at the existing governance institutions accordingly.
India is engaged in nation building process, for which peaceful environment is need of the hour and Panchseel can be the instrument for that.