As Chinese President Xi Jinping secures an unprecedented third term after the 20th party congress, Taiwan remains a top priority for China. However, there was a strong element of continuity with respect to Taiwan.
This was in reference to the growing popularity and support of Taiwan by the international community and a flurry of visits of parliamentarians from the United States(US)and Europe to Taiwan. Growing exchanges between Taiwan and other countries have made China so insecure that it has been attempting to shrink Taiwan’s international space since Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) came to power in 2016.
Tech and Trade: How US-China’s Rivalry Affects Taiwan
There is a greater divide between China and the US now, and hardly any attempt to normalise ties. Latest developments in the tech sphere demonstrate further deterioration in the relations and United States’ efforts to contain China’s tech ambitions.
Taiwan is increasingly becoming a subset of the China-US great power rivalry. There is a link between the China-US tech and trade war and the escalation in cross-strait tensions. China’s overblown reaction to the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives—Nancy Pelosi’s Taiwan visit could be seen in this context.
Even though the US is a key defence partner of Taiwan, it is vital for Taiwan to manage the situation and focus on diversifying its relations for reducing economic dependence on China and limiting the impact of China-US strategic rivalry. In this context, advancing ties with India seems to be a viable option for Taiwan.
Why India Must Have a Taiwan Policy
India pursues an independent foreign policy and an ardent follower of strategic autonomy— is least inclined to get influenced by the United States’ policy on Taiwan and China. India became an active member of the Quad only when it realised it will be instrumental in forming a collective response to address the China challenge. To counter China’s aggression, it was important for India to cooperate with like-minded countries but Taiwan is not a part of such a strategy yet.
A rather surprising change was observed in Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson— Arindam Bagchi's statement regarding the cross-strait tensions when he said, “We urge the exercise of restraint, avoidance of unilateral actions to change the status quo, de-escalation of tensions and efforts to maintain peace and stability in the region.”
It has not been India’s traditional practice to comment on issues such as Taiwan and the South China Sea. China’s escalation of tensions with India at the Line of Actual Control(LAC) and the recognition that India and Taiwan have been victims of China’s rising aggression are driving this change.
Active boundary dispute coupled with China’s undeterred assistance to Pakistan will continue to shape India’s regional security outlook, and in such a situation, engaging Taiwan would prove beneficial.
In all fairness, it is important for India to have an independent Taiwan policy that is long-term, consistent, and practical. Forming a Taiwan policy that hinges on its China policy will present formidable challenges for its engagement with Taiwan. Therefore, it becomes all the more important for India to limit the influence of China-US rivalry or, for that matter, the deterioration of India-China relations on its Taiwan policy.
How Far Will China Factor Guide India-Taiwan Ties
Shared interest and convergent approaches are driving the India-Taiwan relations. While the China factor has loomed large over the prospects of the relations, it is no more defining how India sees Taiwan.
Taiwan is a valued partner for India in the field of economics, tech, and culture. In the past two years, the scope of cooperation has significantly increased. One of the latest examples is the resumption of India-Taiwan economic dialogue, and the recent visit of Taiwan’s Deputy Minister of Economic Affairs Chen Chern-Chyi to India, has also substantially increased two-way trade.
Amid the China-US trade war, there are ample opportunities for India and Taiwan to cooperate. Engagement with Taiwan is more relevant when India is building semiconductors and display fab ecosystem.
India’s engagement with Taiwan is guided by maximising convergence (economic interests) and minimising obstructions (China factor).
India’s decision to steer clear of the China-United States rivalry and foster ties with like-minded countries including Taiwan has the potential to establish it as a rule-maker in the Indo-Pacific. Continuity of such an approach and inclusion of Taiwan in its economic and strategic outlook will benefit India in the long run.
(Sana Hashmi postdoctoral fellow at Taiwan-Asia Exchange Foundation. She tweets @sanahashmi1. This is an opinion piece. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)