Taiwan should adopt a “pivot to India” strategy to take advantage of the South Asian country’s market potential and decrease its economic dependence on China, former representative to India Philip Ong (翁文祺) said yesterday.
“I would say that for all the strategies about Malaysia, Vietnam and other countries being planned by government agencies, such as the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs [MOFA], Taiwan would be better off adopting an ‘India strategy’ because it is be our best option,” Ong said on the sidelines of the inaugural ceremony of an India-Taiwan parliamentary friendship group.
Ong, who served as Taiwan’s representative to India between 2008 and 2012 and is now chairman of Chunghwa Post, said that time is not on the nation’s side, as South Korea — Taiwan’s primary trade competitor — has signed a free-trade agreement (FTA) with India.
As the feasibility study for a Taiwan-India FTA was completed last year, Taipei should step up efforts to pursue closer economic ties with the South Asian economic powerhouse, which “could be ‘the next China’ for Taiwan, and take advantage of its market potential, technology and human resources,” Ong said.
The value of Taiwan-India trade has risen from US$1.11 billion in 2001, to US$6.17 billion now, according to Shambhu Hakki, deputy director of the India-Taipei Association, New Delhi’s official representative office in Taiwan.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chen Chieh-ju (陳節如), chairman of the bipartisan friendship group of 25 lawmakers, and Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) said there are more than 400 Indian students in master’s and doctoral programs in Taiwan, as well as thousands of Indian engineers working in local companies.
There is room for improvement in bilateral relations, as Taiwan’s investment in India amounts to a little more than US$1 billion, with fewer than 60,000 Taiwanese tourists visiting there each year, said Benjamin Ho (何登煌), director-general of the MOFA’s Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.