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India, Taiwan likely to bond further amid growing tensions with China

India Taiwan

India and Taiwan are set to bond further with tensions with China as the glue. Despite lack of diplomatic ties, Taiwan has nailed India as one among the 18 countries, with whom Taipei wants to forge special ties. This is under Taiwan’s freshly minted “New Southbound Policy”.

Taiwan Foreign Ministry spokesperson Joanne Ou recently described India not only as a “like minded” country but also a “living democracy”—tagging New Delhi on ideological lines as well. Facing the heat from China, Taiwan’s de facto ambassador to India Baushuan Ger has also said that it is time for the two nations to “redefine” their relationship amid rising border tension with China. Ger, who was earlier heading Taipei’s representative office in the US, took charge as the de facto ambassador in October as support for Taiwan has gained unprecedented momentum in India.

Taipei’s New Southbound Policy under Taiwanese President Tsai Ing- wen is in sync with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Act East Policy. Analysts are of the view that both countries need to expand bilateral relations “based on mutual interests.” “We should expand our ties with Taiwan irrespective of what our relations are with other countries. Taiwan is already a matured economy and a technology hub,” Shakti Sinha, former bureaucrat and director at Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Policy Research and International Studies told IndiaNarrative.com.

Taiwan is also a key player in the global supply chains network. “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. Several Indian traders, who have been sourcing their goods—especially finished items— from China, have now initiated talks with Taiwanese exporters in a bid to diversify their supply chain.

The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) said that imports of finished products from Taiwan will increase significantly in the new financial year. “It will be beneficial to both countries (India and Taiwan) to increase mutual cooperation economically and even diplomatically,” Gopal Krishna Agarwal, BJP’s national spokesperson earlier said, adding that India’s foreign policy will be driven by domestic interests.

Amid an increasing threat from China, public support for Taiwan within India has increased exponentially in the last few months, particularly after the Galwan Valley clash between Indian and Chinese soldiers across the Line of Actual Control. With ties with China going south after the Galwan incident, there has been a policy shift in New Delhi. In the past India had decoupled its economic relations with China from the border row. But official sources say that that after the Galwan incident, the relations are no longer “compartmentalised”.

Consequently, New Delhi is scanning ways to establish new supply chains that exclude China. On September 1, trade ministers of India, Japan and Australia flagged this inititative. Analysts say that Taiwan could be a key player in this endeavour on account of Taipei’s proven heft in hi-technology, high-rise construction and other fields in the digital domain. As India’s ties expand with Taiwan, China’s responses have become prickly.

In October, just ahead of the National Day of Taiwan, the Chinese embassy issued a letter to the Indian media organisations as well to honour the “One China” policy. "All countries that have diplomatic relations with China should firmly honour their commitment to the One-China policy, which is also the long-standing official position of the Indian government," the letter said.

Meanwhile, in an interview to the Guardian, Taiwan foreign minister Joseph Wu pointed out that China’s increased activities in the South China and East China seas besides the military standoff with India and its clampdown on Hong Kong reflect Beijing’s expansionist desires. He said Taiwan could be China’s next target.