Editorial Notes

[Editorial Notes] Time for India to invest in ties with Taiwan

India, in order to improve its ties with China, has been reluctant to work with Taiwan. In the view of recent developments in Galwan and the heated border issue, India needs to redefine its diplomacy and engage comprehensively with Taiwan.
By IASToppers
July 07, 2020

Contents:

  • Introduction
  • Taiwan
  • Importance of Taiwan
  • India’s engagement with Taiwan
  • Way Forward
  • Conclusion

Time for India to invest in ties with Taiwan

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Introduction:

The India-China border stand-off in the Galwan Valley, following China’s incursion into Indian territory, is a reminder of India’s perennial problems with China. The clashes have confirmed is that this is not just about differing perceptions of the boundary, but China’s blatant attempts to change the status quo. This is in clear violation of the Agreement on the Maintenance of Peace and Tranquility along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the India-China border areas signed in 1993. The present scenario sets that it is the time for India to engage Taiwan meaningfully.

Taiwan:

  • China has claimed sovereignty over Taiwan since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949, when the defeated Nationalist government fled to the island as the Communists, under Mao Zedong, swept to power.
  • Taiwan has been independent since 1950, but which China regards as a rebel region that must be reunited with the mainland – by force if necessary.
  • China insists that nations cannot have official relations with both China and Taiwan, (One China Policy) with the result that Taiwan has formal diplomatic ties with only a few countries. The US is Taiwan’s most important friend and protector.
  • Despite its diplomatic isolation, Taiwan has become one of Asia’s major economic players, and one of the world’s top producers of computer technology.
  • Tsai Ing-wen is Taiwan’s president elected in January 2016 who hails from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
  • Taiwan is the most populous country and largest economy that is not a member of the United Nations (UN).

Importance of Taiwan:

  • Taiwan is already a part of the United States’ Indo-Pacific vision.
  • It is an important geographical entity in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • India’s vision of the Indo-Pacific is inclusive and it must encourage the participation of Taiwan and other like-minded countries.
  • Under this, Taiwan aims to increase its international profile by expanding political, economic, and people-to-people linkages.
  • India is already a major focus country in Tsai Ing-wen’s New Southbound Policy, launched in 2016.
  • The New Southbound Policy is not about reducing dependence on China but reaching out to countries of importance.
  • Taiwan has officially started looking towards the six South Asian countries — Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
  • India is a steering wheel for Taiwan’s deepening engagement in the South Asian region.

India’s engagement with Taiwan:

  • India does not have formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan yet as it adheres to the One-China policy.
  • However, during the then Chinese premier Wen Jiaboa’s visit to India in December 2010, India took a bold step by not mentioning support for China’s One-China policy in the joint communique released on December 16.
  • In 2014, when Narendra Modi came to power, he invited Taiwan’s representative to India ambassador Chung-Kwang Tien, along with Lobsang Sangay, president of the Central Tibetan Administration to his 2014 swearing-in ceremony.
  • India’s China policy and its focus on stabilising relations with Beijing have led to the marginalisation of Taiwan.

Way Forward:

  • While ties with Taiwan should not be solely viewed through China’s lens, but both the countries should introspect on their policies and reach out to each other.
  • It is high time India engages Taiwan bilaterally and also positions India-Taiwan ties in the regional context. 
  • Another move lies in recognising Taiwan. Taiwan has had remarkable success in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. Yet, it was not even offered an international platform where it could share its best practices.
  • India too has not tried to engage Taiwan in dealing with the pandemic.
  • Similarly, Taiwan’s possible role in the emerging Indo-Pacific order has been under-appreciated.
  • India’s foreign policy priorities, particularly concerning the Indo-Pacific, should accommodate Taiwan.

Conclusion:

Along with military preparedness and aligning interests with key countries, Taiwan needs to be included prominently in its long-term strategy towards China. India can no longer just rely on the transactional and need-based policies of major powers, rather should explore more options. This makes sense when Taiwan is willing to strengthen ties with India and even domestic debate is tilting in favour of this. It is time for India to review its policy towards Taiwan and engage with it more comprehensively.

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