China appears keen to revive the ancient “Southern Silk Road” with South Asia for promoting trade and people-to-people exchanges with India and other South Asian countries.
Talking to a visiting group of India journalists this week, senior Chinese officials noted that Dali, as the only prefecture of Bai ethnic community in China, has had close and historical links with the people of India because of the silk route.
They said China wanted Dali to again become the “bridge head” with India and South Asia. Plans were under discussion to give a concrete shape to the proposal.
Historians say the ancient silk route, originating from China’s Chengdu city, ran through Myanmar and then extended to India, Bangladesh and even West Asia.
Talking about the tourism potential of Dali, Xi Ling, Director of Dali Tourism, said much of the economy of Dali was centred around tourism and services catered to travellers. Dali, a place of beneficial ecology, could be an attractive destination for Indian tourists, given its historical links and geographical proximity with India.
He said the local authorities were also applying to the Chinese Government for declaring the Dali Airport as an international airport.
Xi said tourists could come to Dali any time during the year because of its ‘excellent’ weather. “Dali is one place where one can see the flowers blossoming around the year,’’ he added.
He noted that the Dali University has already become famous with Indian students, particularly for higher studies in medical science.
According to Prof Li Xiaobing, Vice-President of Dali University, more than 500 Indian students were presently enrolled with the university for various courses. There were students from other countries also, including Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom and Belgium.
He said the students from other countries were living in a safe environment in Dali because of the strict laws introduced by the Chinese authorities for protecting them.
The university was also exploring the possibilities of institutional tie-ups with premier Indian educational institutions. Currently, the university has an agreement for cooperation with the Banaras Hindu University (BHU).