In its five years of existence, the New Southbound Policy — the government’s flagship foreign policy framework — has yielded results for Taiwan. One important development has been closer bonds between Indians and Taiwanese. The establishment of greater people-to-people ties is one of the policy’s major pillars.
Despite such obvious successes, the New Southbound Policy has yet to reach its potential. While the COVID-19 pandemic might have diminished the policy’s stamina, the pandemic should be used to assess it and inject it with new vigor. Inspiration could be taken from India’s Act East Policy.
A notable success of the Act East Policy has been the advancement of India’s ties with Southeast Asian countries. Over two decades, India focused on the region under the Look East Policy, before the framework was upgraded to the Act East Policy. India’s relations with Singapore have significantly improved over the past three decades and the enhancement of the policy has further enriched Singapore-India relations, especially through skills exchanges and collaboration on education and information technology, as well as facilitating closer economic and security partnerships between the two nations.
Singapore is a key country for India under the act and New Delhi has taken several steps to advance ties with the city-state. For example, bilateral trade increased from US$6.7 billion in 2004 to 2005, when the India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement was signed, to US$27.85 billion in 2018 to 2019. Singaporean investment reached 36 percent of India’s foreign direct investment receipts in 2018 to 2019.
Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University has signed six memorandums of understanding on research and partnerships in the areas of big data analytics and artificial intelligence with the Indian government’s NITI Aayog policy think tank.
India-Singapore cooperation could motivate policymakers as they plan long term regarding the New Southbound Policy, in terms of furthering connections through education, and enhancing economic cooperation with Singapore and other partner countries in the region.
Taking cues from India’s Act East Policy and Singapore-India relations, Taiwan, too, could explore ways of improving ties with Singapore and India. Given the cultural affinities between Taiwanese and Singaporeans, Taipei could benefit by reinforcing people-to-people connections through educational exchanges and attracting Singaporean talent to Taiwan.
For example, last year, only 575 degree-seeking and non-degree Singaporean students studied in Taiwan, while 13,964 Singaporean students studied in Malaysia. The Ministry of Education and Ministry of Foreign Affairs must place greater emphasis on attracting Singaporean students to pursue undergraduate and graduate courses, as well as advanced Chinese language programs, in Taiwan.
To achieve this, the government would need to raise awareness about the scholarships and fellowships available to prospective foreign students, as a lack of awareness remains an obstacle.
Similarly, greater effort should be exerted to attract Indian students, as they increasingly view Taiwan as a promising destination for higher education given that Taiwanese universities cost significantly less than universities in the West, or in Singapore.
Given its expertise in semiconductors and electronics, Taiwan could also be inspired by the extensive technological ties between India and Singapore. Over the past few years, more Singaporean firms have begun to collaborate with India in areas such as financial technology (fintech), healthcare technology, and the development and management of smart cities. This level of advancement between the two nations was made possible by the establishment of institutional mechanisms and the signing of agreements, such as Indian institutions collaborating with Nanyang Technological University on blockchain technology and a 2018 mutual recognition agreement on fintech.
Taiwan is the largest exporter of electronics and controls, with a more than 60 percent share of the global market for semiconductors used in smartphones, vehicles and closed-circuit televisions, among other products. As India seeks to facilitate domestic semiconductor manufacturing over the next few years, Taiwan could play an instrumental role in India’s ambitions by lending a helping hand and supplementing India’s expertise.
Taiwanese firms could benefit from partnering with successful Indian technology companies, as such cooperation could prevent operational hiccups. Strategic cooperation is a win-win for India and Taiwan.
The business model that Singaporean firms use in India could teach Taiwan about furthering economic collaboration, as they have been operating in India for a long time. Enterprise Singapore — with centers in New Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai — acts as an intermediary, assisting Singaporean firms build their businesses in India.
The Singapore Trade Office in Taipei could provide the government with insights on structuring the New Southbound Policy so that Taiwanese firms could navigate local laws as they set up businesses in India, especially as the laws and legal systems can vary from state to state, causing confusion. A closer partnership between countries would provide Taiwanese firms with a stronger foundation for venturing abroad and setting up businesses in India.
India’s Act East Policy has helped it to bolster its strategic partnerships in the region, while India and Singapore have held a joint naval exercise — the Singapore-India Maritime Bilateral Exercise — every year since 1994.
While this level of military collaboration might not be possible for Taiwan in the short term, given the role that China plays in the region, India and Singapore might still be able to collaborate on areas of security cooperation without harming their adherence to a “one China” policy.
For example, India and Taiwan could begin by agreeing to share information. This would definitely bolster their relations, as the two nations have converging strategic interests regarding bringing stability to the Indo-Pacific region.
While the New Southbound Policy is newer, the policy’s goal of enhancing Taiwanese diplomacy closely resembles India’s Act East Policy and even coincides with ASEAN’s outlook on the Asia-Pacific region. Hence, Taiwan should continue to engage with partner countries under the New Southbound Policy, perhaps by also referencing how India has improved its relations with Southeast Asian countries such as Singapore.
Cheow Jin Jie is a research assistant at Taiwan’s NextGen Foundation.
Local media reported earlier this month that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) criticized President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) for referring to China as a “neighboring country,” saying that this is no different from a “two-state” model and that it amounts to changing the cross-strait “status quo.” I find it quite impossible to understand why civilized Taiwan continues to tolerate the existence of such a deceitful group that believes its own lies. The relationship between Taiwan and China is the relationship between two countries, and neither has any jurisdiction over the other — this is the undeniable “status quo.” Those who believe in the
With the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan, China has remarketed its East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) concerns. Beijing urged the Taliban to make a clean break with the movement and asked the US to blacklist it again. While some are still debating whether the movement exists, it is not the core of the matter because its existence neither justifies China’s Uighur policy nor sheds light on its concerns after the withdrawal of the US from Afghanistan. Is China really worried, and if so, is it because of the movement? This question needs to be answered. When Chinese officials first acknowledged
On Thursday, China applied to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) — a regional economic organization whose 11 member countries have a combined GDP of US$11 trillion. That is less than China’s 2019 GDP of US$14.34 trillion, so why is China so eager to join? China says there are two main reasons: To consolidate its foreign trade and foreign investment base, and to fast-track economic and trade relations between China and member countries of the CPTPP free-trade area. China’s bilateral trade with these countries grew from US$78 billion in 2003 to US$685.1 billion last year, mostly because of China’s 2005
WASHINGTON [Special Commentary]: It is just a teensy-weensy change, a change of one little syllable. It is barely noticeable unless you’re watching really carefully: The Tai-“pei” Representative Office in Washington, D.C. (TECRO) could soon change its name — just ever so very slightly — to Tai-“wan” Representative Office. The office’s “TECRO” initials would remain the same. It will be only a symbolic change. London’s Financial Times reported last week that such a change may soon be coming. The timing was a bit awkward, though. The FT’s report came out on the very same day that Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮)