The publication of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s article on India’s presidency of the G20 in the Taipei Times (“India’s G20 presidency and multilateralism,” Nov. 30) is a welcome sign of growing India-Taiwan bonhomie.
The article was also carried in most Indian newspapers. The appearance of the article in Taiwanese media is also a message to Beijing. It is good that the article has enabled Taiwanese to learn more about India’s role, performance and achievements during India’s G20 presidency, which ended last month.
There is increasing coverage of India in Taiwanese media. Some of Modi’s observations in the article resonate with Taiwan’s perspectives on global issues, such as challenges to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic, sustainable development, climate change and reform of the UN system to keep the world organization in sync with new realities.
Modi has time and again reiterated India’s position in support of UN reform, pushing for India’s membership in the UN Security Council. Reform should not only include India’s membership in the council, but also Taiwan’s membership in the UN, as well as other agencies such as the WHO and the World Health Assembly.
It is an anachronism that India, the fifth-largest economy in the world, has not been added to the council’s five permanent members and Taiwan, a vibrant democracy of 23 million people, is not a UN member.
Modi’s article was published close on the heels of widely reported news that Taiwan is to expand permissions for Indian migrant workers.
India is slowly shedding its inhibitions and reaching out to Taiwan, and there is a groundswell of goodwill for Taiwan not only among the people of India, but also in the political spectrum, in Indian academia and the fraternity of think tanks, and in the media.
Even Indian politicians of stature and eminence such as parliamentarian Sujeet Kumar do not mince words regarding their admiration for Taiwan and its pulsating democracy.
The Indian Parliamentary Committee on External Affairs, headed by Shashi Tharoor, has recommended outreach to Taiwan.
Former Indian foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale in his book The Long Game bemoaned India’s handling of Tibet and Taiwan issues, writing that they were conducted in haste without securing India’s interests.
Despite growing awareness about Taiwan, and appreciation and admiration for it, India regrettably does not have formal diplomatic relations with Taipei, even though it does have substantive relations with Taipei touching upon the entire gamut, just as with other countries.
Physical distance might separate India and Taiwan from each other, and the two vibrant democracies might not be comparable, yet there is a host of convergences between the two political entities. The most important convergence is the pulsating and enduring electoral politics, which has developed contemporaneously: India since 1947 and the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan since 1949.
It is not a coincidence that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Modi and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) came to power in 2014 and 2016 respectively. Modi and President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) were re-elected in 2019 and 2020.
India and Taiwan are going to polls early next year, Taiwan next month and India a few months later. The BJP and the DPP are pitted against a formidable alliance of opposition parties.
The Congress party ruled India until the BJP came to power in 1977, while the DPP came to power for the first time in 2000, defeating the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).
The emergence of multiple political parties in India and Taiwan is yet another facet of deepening democracies.
However, India and Taiwan face the challenge of the communist regime in China, which is hell-bent on maligning and debunking democracy.
Modi and Tsai face the challenges from China with great resolve and without buckling to intimidation in the Taiwan Strait or over the Line of Actual Control on the Sino-Indian border.
The two leaders know very well that engagement with the neighbor is not an option, but a strategic necessity.
Be that as it may, India and Taiwan need to learn from each other in the art and craft of democratic governance, and the grammar of coalition politics to strengthen the edifice of democracy, and vindicate the triumph of democracy as a panacea to meet the hopes and aspiration of the people.
It is only through democratic means, and not through the regimentation of party-controlled totalitarianism, that people’s livelihoods and dignity can be enhanced.
Freedom is sacrosanct.
It is through the institutions and structures of democracy such as an independent judiciary, rule of law, a free press, academic freedom, a vibrant media and periodic elections to representative bodies that citizens can realize their full potential, and create reservoirs of wealth and wisdom.
Democracy has pitfalls, but with all its imperfections, it is a desirable option, because democracy being an open system, there is always room for course correction and remedial measures, which is not possible in a totalitarian and communist regime.
Rup Narayan Das is a former senior officer of the Lok Sabha Secretariat of the Indian parliament, a Delhi-based China academic and previously a Taiwan Fellow. The views expressed here are his own.
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