- India and Taiwan are celebrating 25 years of their partnership.
- Though mutual efforts between Delhi and Taipei have enabled a range of bilateral agreements covering agriculture, investment, customs cooperation, civil aviation, industrial cooperation and other areas, the time has come to recalibrate India-Taiwan relations.
Cultivating political framework
- Creating a political framework is a prerequisite to recalibrate India-Taiwan relations.
- Both partners have deepened mutual respect, with democracy and diversity as the key principles for collective growth.
- The shared faith in freedom, human rights, justice, and rule of law continues to embolden the partnership.
Need to work on bettering of India-Taiwan relations:
- China’s hegemony:
- 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 recent violent clashes are an indication of Beijing’s hardline approach towards India.
- 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.
- Reducing dependence on China:
- Enhancing Taiwan-India relations is consistent with the Taiwanese government’s efforts to decrease economic reliance on China and with Taiwan’s New Southbound Policy (NSP), which improves upon the efforts of several of her predecessors.
- Taiwanese businesses are increasingly interested in shifting business ties from China to India and policies that facilitate such cooperation could provide mutual benefits.
- Geo- Strategic:
- The unfolding dynamic around Taiwan will have significant consequences for India’s Act East Policy and its emerging role in the Indo-Pacific Region.
- Strengthening Taiwan-India ties within the rubric of the NSP also overlaps with Taiwan’s relationships with Australia, United States, and Japan.
- Because these three countries, along with India, have formed an Indo-Pacific entente cordiale called the “Quad” to maintain a rules-based order in the region, Taiwan-India ties can benefit from the positive synergy of collaboration in areas of trade, research, and even defense.
- Moreover, India and Taiwan may see a convergence of security interests that could be further developed through interactions between the strategic communities on both sides.
- A stronger relationship between India and Taiwan could increase tourism, improve research and development, and promote educational ties, all of which are mutually beneficial.
- For the first time, 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.
- The unfolding trade war between the US and China is compelling Taiwan to accelerate its plans to move its large manufacturing bases away from China to Southeast Asia and India.
- For India to promote industrial production and create jobs, the Taiwan connection with its impressive small and medium enterprises is more than opportune.
- Taiwan’s GDP is about $600 billion and twice the size of Pakistan’s economy. And few entities in the international system are today as eager and capable of boosting India’s domestic economic agenda.
- Talent and technology:
- Taiwan has embarked on a big mission to attract skilled workers. With a declining birth rate and growing emigration, Taiwan’s industry, education, and technology development could do with Indian engineers and scientists.
- The synergy in human resources provides the basis for massive collaborations between the universities, research institutions and technology enclaves in the two countries.
- Maintaining air quality has become a mammoth challenge for the Indian government.
- Taiwan could be a valuable partner in dealing with this challenge through its bio-friendly technologies.
- Such methods are applied to convert agricultural waste into value-added and environmentally beneficial renewable energy or biochemicals.
- This will be a win-win situation as it will help in dealing with air pollution and also enhance farmers’ income.
- India and Taiwan need to deepen people-to-people connect
- Cultural exchange is the cornerstone of any civilisational exchange.
- Tourism is the key tool in this exchange. The Buddhist pilgrimage tour needs better connectivity and visibility, in addition to showcasing incredible India’s diversity.
- With the Taiwan Tourism Bureau partnering with Mumbai Metro, Taiwan is trying to raise awareness about the country and increase the inflow of Indian tourists.
Deepening economic ties
- Trade relations have grown. India’s huge market provides Taiwan with investment opportunities.
- Taiwan’s reputation as the world leader in semiconductor and electronics complements India’s leadership in ITES (Information Technology-Enabled Services).
- This convergence of interests will help create new opportunities.
- India’s strides in the ease of business ranking not only provide Taiwan with lucrative business opportunities but also help it mitigate its over-dependence on one country for investment opportunities.
- The signing of a bilateral trade agreement in 2018 was an important milestone.
Concerns in the relations:
- India does not have formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan yet as it adheres to the One-China policy.
- India’s China policy and its focus on stabilizing relations with Beijing have led to the marginalization of Taiwan.
- When China protested the visit of an all-women parliamentarians’ delegation from Taiwan to India in 2018, the momentum in India-Taiwan ties further slowed down.
- Taiwan has been an excellent example of containing the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Yet, Beijing has been unjustly blocking Taipei’s participation at the WHO. India too has not tried to engage Taiwan in dealing with the pandemic. Through its response to Covid-19, the island nation has shown that it is beneficial to engage with it.
- Taiwan’s possible role in the emerging Indo-Pacific order has been under-appreciated.
Possible measures to better India-Taiwan ties:
- Political will: The shared faith in freedom, human rights, justice, and rule of law continues to embolden their partnership. To make this relationship more meaningful, both sides can create a group of empowered persons or a task force to chart out a road map in a given time frame.
- Electronics trade: India’s huge market provides Taiwan with investment opportunities. Taiwan’s reputation as the world leader in semiconductor and electronics complements India’s leadership in ITES (Information Technology-Enabled Services). This convergence of interests will help create new opportunities. India’s recent strides in the ease of business ranking not only provide Taiwan with lucrative business opportunities but also help it mitigate its over-dependence on one country for investment opportunities.
- Reducing regulatory cholesterol: There are around 200 Taiwanese companies in the field of electronics, construction, petrochemicals, machine, Information and Communications Technology and auto parts operating in India. Despite the huge potential, Taiwan investments have been paltry in India. Taiwanese firms find the regulatory and labour regime daunting with stray incidents such as the incident in the Wistron plant last year creating confusion and mistrust.
- Boosting avenues of Traditional medicine: India and Taiwan already collaborate in the area of traditional medicine. The time is ripe to expand cooperation in the field of healthcare.
- Fighting Air pollution: Taiwan could be a valuable partner in dealing with this challenge through its bio-friendly technologies. Such methods are applied to convert agricultural waste into valueadded and environmentally beneficial renewable energy or biochemicals. This will be a win-win situation as it will help in dealing with air pollution and also enhance farmers’ income.
- Organic farming: New Delhi and Taipei can also undertake joint research and development initiatives in the field of organic farming.
- Tourism and Cultural exchange: The Buddhist pilgrimage tour needs better connectivity and visibility, in addition to showcasing incredible India’s diversity. This will accelerate the flow of Taiwanese tourists.
- It’s true that India does indeed adhere to the ‘One China’ principle. But that shouldn’t stop us from expanding appropriate relations with Taiwan which enjoys de facto sovereignty.
- India’s foreign policy priorities, particularly with regard to the Indo-Pacific, should accommodate Taiwan.
- Along with military preparedness and aligning interests with key countries, Taiwan needs to be included prominently in its long-term strategy towards China.
- Broad support from the Taiwanese public is necessary for increasing trade and people-to-people contacts, as well as for pushing Taiwan’s ruling parties to increase ties with India.
The ties with Taiwan should not be solely viewed through China’s lens, the current border clashes with China has given a chance to both India and Taiwan to introspect on their policies and reach out to each other. India can no longer just rely on the transactional and need-based policies of major powers. It has to 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 high time India engages Taiwan bilaterally and also positions India-Taiwan ties in the regional context