India Should Rethink Its Taiwan Policy and Be More Proactive: Experts

By Venus Upadhayaya
Venus Upadhayaya
Venus Upadhayaya
Reporter
Venus Upadhayaya reports on wide range of issues. Her area of expertise is in Indian and South Asian geopolitics. She has reported from the very volatile India-Pakistan border and has contributed to mainstream print media in India for about a decade. Community media, sustainable development, and leadership remain her key areas of interest.
November 4, 2021 Updated: November 5, 2021

NEW DELHI—In the emerging world order, India and Taiwan, both key countries in the Indo-Pacific, will need to cooperate more in the face of Chinese aggression, experts say.

Although both countries have made efforts over the past few years for greater cooperation, India needs to rethink its policy toward Taiwan, experts told The Epoch Times.

“There is no better time than today to remind ourselves that the engagement between India and Taiwan is mutually beneficial, and there is so much that could be achieved in the relations without making adjustments to their respective China policies,” Sana Hashmi, a visiting fellow at the Taiwan–Asia Exchange Foundation, told The Epoch Times in an email.

Hashmi, who is based in Taipei, said the India–Taiwan relationship has a lot of potential, but India needs to be more proactive.

“There have been monumental achievements, such as the signing of several agreements and the revival of the India-Taiwan Parliamentary Friendship Forum,” she said. “However, a vision for a sustainable and long-term framework for advancing ties is missing. Without implementing a long-term plan, the relations will only achieve short-term results.”

The India–Taiwan Parliamentary Friendship Forum was formed by Indian and Taiwanese lawmakers in 2016 and was revived in October 2020 to uphold the “cherished ideals of democracy.”

Hashmi wrote in a Nov. 4 op-ed published by multiple Indian outlets that India had previously been cautious toward its dealings with Taiwan because of China, with whom the country shares more than 2,000 miles of the land border. But now the situation has changed.

“This [caution] came at a time when India and China were trying to manage tensions and India was hopeful of achieving a breakthrough in its border dispute with China. However, now, much has changed not only in India–China relations but there is also a remarkable shift in India’s Taiwan policy,” she wrote.

Hashmi mentioned a 2020 incident in which the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi tried to issue a diktat to Indian media outlets, demanding that they not refer to Taiwan as a nation. The Indian government sided with the media outlets.

These shifts aren’t momentous, but they do reflect a “definite policy rethink,” and further engagement needs to be more meaningful, she said.

Madhav Das Nalapat, director of the Department of Geopolitics and International Relations at Manipal University, told The Epoch Times that “significant attention is being paid to Taiwan under Narendra Modi.” He noted that in a new world order characterized by the “Cold War 2.0” with the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan is a critical component.

The Future of the Indo-Pacific

Taiwan is among nations such as India and the United States that seek a free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific and that don’t want the region to be dominated by any single power. China is attempting to do just that by claiming 80 percent of the South China Sea and 60 percent of the East China Sea, according to Nalapat.

“In particular, Taiwanese tech is crucial in the development of defenses, especially in the fields of Artificial Intelligence and cyber warfare. The PRC would immediately have the advantage in the South and East China seas were Taiwan to be brought under its control in the manner that Manchuria, Tibet, Xinjiang, and Inner Mongolia have been during the period in the power of Mao Zedong,” he said.

The quad—the quadrilateral alliance between the United States, Japan, Australia, and India—understands Taiwan’s significance very well, according to Napalat, who also stated that even though “Delhi is not as vocal about the importance of keeping Taiwan from PRC control as Tokyo, Canberra, and Washington are,” it’s taking note of the Chinese regime’s attempts to bully Taiwan into submission through intrusions into its airspace and seaspace.

Hashmi said COVID-19 has brought a lot of sociopolitical and geoeconomic changes throughout the world, and in the past two years, like-minded countries with common concerns and shared interests are coming together.

“Taiwan is a like-minded country in the Indo-Pacific that propagates a rules-based order,” she said. “India is an important country in the Indo-Pacific region. Given India and Taiwan share similar values, common interests, and shared concerns, it is important for the two countries to cooperate and collaborate to contribute towards the peace and stability of the region.”

Hashmi believes that Taiwan’s participation in the Indo-Pacific shouldn’t be seen as an attempt to aggravate China, but it should instead be considered for several issue-based reasons.

“It is a robust democracy, an important country in the regional supply chain resilience, and has the potential to meaningfully contribute to the region,” she said.

In this context, the India–Taiwan relationship has multiple factors contributing to it, and China’s aggression is just one, she said.

“In the past two years, Taiwan has also attempted to reach out to India and its people. Some of the examples include Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen’s use of social media for reaching out to Indian netizens, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Diwali celebrations for the Indian diaspora in 2020, Taiwan’s donation of masks, PPE, oxygen cylinders, and concentrators to India in 2020–21, and so on,” Hashmi said.

Epoch Times Photo
Shih-Chung Liu, vice chairman of Taiwan External Trade Development Council, and Chung-Kwang Tien, the representative of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Center in India, attend a news conference in New Delhi, India, on Sept. 20, 2019. (Sankalp Phartiyal/Reuters)

Taiwan’s Investment

India is important for the success of Taiwan’s New Southbound Policy, an effort for Taipei to expand its presence in the Indo-Pacific, as deepening economic cooperation is an important part of that strategy, according to Hashmi.

“When both India and Taiwan are attempting to reduce their dependence on China, it is beneficial for the two countries to work towards advancing their bilateral commercial ties,” she said.

Cooperation between the countries’ tech industries could play an important role, Nalapat said.

“Tech parks by Taiwanese tech companies will help India in such crucial areas as chipmaking. Taiwan played the biggest role in developing China into an economic powerhouse, the way Japan and the U.S. did. Now all three are at the receiving end of Beijing’s hostility and are looking to set up their manufacturing and servicing units in a country that is not part of the Sino–Russian alliance in the manner that Pakistan, for example, is,” he said, noting that India is emerging as an attractive alternative because of its talent pool and because of the potential of its market.

Hashmi said India and Taiwan are discussing advanced cooperation in the field of semiconductors, and Taiwan is likely to play an important role in helping India to set up a semiconductor plant.

“With Taiwan’s successful handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and India’s vaccine Maitri [friendship], the two countries have proved their mettle. They need to combine their efforts to promote health cooperation,” she said.

Nalapat said that agreements regarding Taiwanese investments in India, made possible by relocations from China, can be expected by 2023.

Venus Upadhayaya
Venus Upadhayaya reports on wide range of issues. Her area of expertise is in Indian and South Asian geopolitics. She has reported from the very volatile India-Pakistan border and has contributed to mainstream print media in India for about a decade. Community media, sustainable development, and leadership remain her key areas of interest.