India-Taiwan relations are at their strongest in history. The growing bonhomie between New Delhi and Taipei is a testimony to India’s increasing interests and stakes in Taiwan. Its keenness to engage Taiwan is noticeable.
Early last month, Deputy Minister of Economic Affairs Chen Chern-chyi (陳正祺) visited India, achieving several tangible outcomes. He was in India to participate in the annual deputy ministerial dialogue. He also addressed the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry’s India-Taiwan Industrial Collaboration Summit. His visit was well-received by the Indian government as well as by industry leaders.
“India can be the best production place for us. India’s policy of Make in India is fully in line with my government’s policy. Our companies will rely on horizontal collaborations [with Indian companies],” he said during his visit.
With the COVID-19 pandemic subsiding and Taiwan’s re-opening, economic and people-to-people exchanges between India and Taiwan have resumed.
In October, Indian lawmaker Sujeet Kumar visited Taiwan to participate in the high-level Yushan Forum and the inaugural Taiwan-India Dialogue hosted by the Taiwan-Asia Exchange Foundation and Observer Research Foundation. His visit was the first by an Indian member of parliament to Taiwan in six years.
India-Taiwan relations are undergoing a significant transformation. India’s hardline approach toward, and further deterioration of, relations with China has led India to realize the futility of overlooking engagement with Taiwan, at least in the economic, tech and culture domains.
While India is growing more proactive in embracing the idea of engaging Taiwan, the scope is still narrowly defined. India’s eastward engagement would remain incomplete without truly including and working with Taiwan. There is a need for more openness and transparency from the Indian side.
Engagement with Taiwan is not about China, but about mutual benefit. Taiwan is a key part of India’s ambitions of establishing itself as an alternative supply chain hub, and its investment in India could be a game changer for the flagship initiatives of Indian Prime Minster Narendra Modi’s administration, such as production-linked incentives, “digital India,” “Make in India,” and modified programs for semiconductors and the display fab ecosystem.
Defending Taiwan is critical to ensuring a rules-based liberal order in the Indo-Pacific region. Taiwan is an antithesis to China’s authoritarian model of governance. Taiwanese democracy is applauded in the Indo-Pacific region for its openness and transparency. A free Taiwan is exposing the looming fault lines in China. This makes protecting Taiwan from a potential Chinese invasion more important for key stakeholders in the region.
Despite what Beijing claims, Taiwan is no longer just a sovereignty issue for China, but an important piece in achieving a geopolitical victory in the China-US great power rivalry and defying the Indo-Pacific rules-based order. Under Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), China not only seems insecure, but is also becoming more determined to intimidate Taiwan militarily. This pattern in Chinese territorial behavior is a cause for concern for India and some other fellow democracies.
China’s overtures in the Solomon Islands and wider South Pacific have triggered alarms in neighboring Australia and New Zealand as well. Bereft of any institutional mechanism to deal with China’s hegemonic tactics, countries are realizing the importance of safeguarding a rules-based order.
Rising powers such as India and Japan, and middle powers such as Australia, are increasingly playing a bigger role and acting as responsible stakeholders.
India should be a part of the collective effort to maintain the “status quo” in the Taiwan Strait. Taiwan’s participation in the Indo-Pacific region would benefit all stakeholders in the region, economically and strategically. It is vital to accept and acknowledge that Taiwan is not part of the problem, rather a part of the solution. It is China that has used military and economic coercion to change the “status quo.”
India is no stranger to such a tactic by China. Similar behavior meted out to India by China should make it more compelling for India to speak out for Taiwan. Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) rightly pointed out that China’s geostrategic ambitions would not stop with Taiwan, and would go beyond.
There is hardly any doubt that the next target for China’s aggression will be India.
Sana Hashmi is postdoctoral fellow at the Taiwan-Asia Exchange Foundation.
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