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China worried as US-Taiwan ties strengthen, keeps eye on India

China’s concerns are spiraling as Taiwan draws major international players including India and the United States as its economic and strategic partners. In a significant development which marks a shift in the global geopolitical order, the US-Taiwan Economic Prosperity Partnership Dialogue is expected to kick off. This could open up a channel for other countries to follow suit.

As part of the process, the US and Taiwan signed a five-year agreement. The dialogue will be held annually. At present there is no official trade agreement between the US and Taiwan but the latter announced easing of import restrictions on American beef and pork. The dialogue process is expected to further ease trade barriers for US businesses.

India, in the wake of rising anti-China sentiment and Beijing’s military aggression in Ladakh, has already indicated that it is keen to hold trade talks with Taiwan, a key player in the global supply chains network and a hub of high-tech manufacturing. China has been fuming as Taiwan is showing visible intent toward independence. In that Taipei is crossing a red line as Beijing parades the "One China' principle as sacrosanct. The Chinese have repeatedly stated their unbending intent to unify Taiwan with the mainland.

Indian traders, who have been sourcing their goods primarily from China until the Covid 19 pandemic outbreak, initiated talks with Taiwanese suppliers and exporters. Goods made in Taiwan are not only competitively priced but are also of superior quality compared to Chinese goods.

“Given the oscillations in India’s relationship with mainland China (due to border disputes and other geopolitical issues), it would be prudent for India to shift toward a greater emphasis on soft balancing by cultivating a more normal, pragmatic relationship with Taiwan,” the New-Delhi based Carnegie India had said earlier.

<strong>Is India ready to strike closer ties with Taiwan?</strong>

At present, there are no formal diplomatic ties between India and Taiwan. However, both countries have set up representative offices which act as de-facto embassies. “India until now has been restricted by certain geopolitical considerations but now the situation has changed and those considerations do not hold anymore. India will not
be driven by other countries’ political outlook and interests. We will take decisions based on our own judgement and interest,” Gopal Krishna Agarwal, BJP’s national spokesperson told Indianarrative.com.

“Taiwan is a matured and technologically advanced economy and it is beneficial to both countries (India and Taiwan) to increase mutual cooperation economically and even diplomatically,” Agarwal said, adding that the Nehruvian doctrine has by and large guided New Delhi’s China policy so far.

Among others, political and social observer Ramachandra Guha in his research paper – ‘Jawaharlal Nehru and China: A Study in Failure’ as part of Harvard-Yenching Institute Working Paper Series noted that the country’s first prime minister was an ardent admirer of China and even favoured the dragon in comparison to Japan.

“Good relations with the Indo-Pacific countries including Japan and Australia besides Taiwan will help India and that is our prime focus,” Agarwal said.

Shakti Sinha, former bureaucrat and director at Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Policy Research and International Studies echoed the same sentiment and noted that India must deepen ties with Taiwan to strengthen its own economy back home.

“We must establish greater relations with Taiwan for our own mutual benefit and not as a policy of one-upmanship with China. Taiwan is a strong economy with great technological know-how, India can benefit from this, besides we must look at investments and a lot of it can come from Taipei,” Sinha said.

<strong>China uncomfortable</strong>

A worried China has called for adhering to the ‘One-China’ policy and refrain from holding bilateral talks with Taipei. “China regards Taipei as a ‘breakaway province’ and has said that it wouldn’t mind using force to claim it,” ANI reported.

As the US and Taiwan initiated talks for greater economic co-operation, Beijing has asked Washington to stop bilateral dialogues with Taiwan. China's foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Webin asked the US to "prudently and properly handle Taiwan-related issues."

The minister said that US should refrain from sending "misleading signals to the Taiwan separatist forces," to avoid "serious damage to China-US relations, peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait." Earlier, Beijing had issued a letter to Indian media-persons asking them not to observe Taiwan National Day. “All countries that have diplomatic relations with China should firmly honor their commitment to the One-China policy, which is also the long-standing official position of the Indian government,” the letter said.

Brahma Chellany, geostrategist and author, in a tweet last month said, “China said India must ‘remain committed to one-China principle and approach Taiwan-related issues prudently and properly.’ In the absence of China’s commitment to one-India principle, why should India stick to a one-China policy? Taiwan is to India what Pakistan is to China..