With strong will from India’s government and inter-party effort in Taiwan, the two countries could sign a free-trade agreement (FTA) by next year, an Indian academic wrote in a column published on Saturday.
Madhav Das Nalapat, director of Manipal University’s Department of Geopolitics and the UNESCO Peace Chair holder, made the comment in a newspaper column titled “Tsai visit boosts India-Taiwan ties,” in which he addressed the 10-day visit to the south Asian country by former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文). The piece was published on the Web site of the English-language Pakistan Observer newspaper.
“By 2013, it is expected that an India-Taiwan Free Trade Agreement will [be] signed, complementing the free trade agreement that Taipei signed with Beijing in 2008,” Nalapat wrote.
In the column, the academic expressed regrets over the Indian government’s lukewarm reception of Tsai, who had been the leader of Taiwan’s main opposition, but recognized efforts made by Taiwan’s main political parties to pursue closer ties with India.
“The long-delayed visit of the charismatic Tsai to India is evidence of the close ties between India and Taiwan,” Nalapat said, adding that Tsai is likely to contest the Taiwanese presidency in 2016 and could be “successful.”
Nalapat wrote that India had “spurned” the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government led by then-president Chiang Kai-chek (蔣介石), who supported Indian independence during World War II and which had infuriated then-British prime minister Winston Churchill, by becoming one of the first three countries to recognize the People’s Republic of China regime in 1949.
Between 2000 and 2008, the DPP administration had given the “first … boost to ‘IT’ (India-Taiwan relations)” before President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and his KMT administration carried forward the momentum, he wrote.
The Taiwan-India Cooperation Council was established in 2006 during the DPP administration and the council attached major significance to India ties as part of its foreign policy and sought to promote bilateral cooperation in various areas. In particular, the council fostered informational technology sectors — areas of industry for which Taiwan is known for its manufacture of hardware while India has become known for software development.
The DPP administration as well as the KMT regime that followed were both keen to explore the Indian market which was why the governments of Taiwan and India had authorized the Chung-hua Institution for Economic Research and Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations to conduct a two-year feasibility study into an FTA last year.
Bilateral trade between India and Taiwan last year was worth US$7.6 billion, a 17.1 percent growth from 2010, with both sides seeing double-digit growth in exports — Indian exports to Taiwan increased by 10.7 percent while Taiwan’s exports to India grew by 22 percent, according to statistics from the India-Taipei Association — Indian’s representative office in Taiwan.
India’s active pursuit of better bilateral relations with Taiwan means that it stands out among those countries in cooperation talks with the country, a staffer from Tsai’s delegation said.