Taiwan–India Partnership for an AI-Powered, Smart, Green India of Tomorrow

The destructive pandemic has brought the two democracies even closer through trade and economic linkages.

4 min read

The National Day of Taiwan – 10 October – has been celebrated by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Centres (TECCs – the de facto embassies) in New Delhi and Chennai every year since their inception in 1995.

However, this year things will be quite different.

One, due to COVID-19, celebrations will be muted. Two, 2021 marks the silver jubilee of TECC’s functioning in India.

Three, the relations between India and Taiwan have grown exponentially over the past five years than the preceding 20, providing a special reason to commemorate the relationship.

As the age-old saying goes, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant.” In 2021, it is time for India to embrace its relationship with Taiwan.

If India’s goals of transitioning to a green economy, powered by clean energy; its ambitions of becoming a global manufacturing hub; and its agenda of Aatmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India) were all tied to its international relations with one democracy, it would be none other than Taiwan.

Viable Economic Partner 

It just so happens that the Modi administration has found a willing partner in Taiwan to execute its plans for the Indian economy. Over the past five years, 30-plus Taiwanese companies have set up shop in Southern India alone.

These are manufacturers producing components that go into vital technologies, forming clusters for sourcing different inputs in the value chain. A case in point is the manufacturing of Apple’s iPhone in India.

Ten years ago, this development would have been unfathomable. In 2021, Taiwanese Foxconn & Wistron and America’s Apple have made it possible.

These localised operations not only assist iPhone manufactures but the electronics cluster enables manufacturers of other products to source locally.

Both Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen have been vocal in their desire to shift, transform and lead supply chains. This policy convergence between the two leaders has been instrumental in realising their nation’s goals.

For Modi, it is the success of 'Make in India' initiative, part of Aatmanirbhar Bharat and for Tsai, it is the new south-bound policy in action.

Taiwanese corporations have taken advantage of this policy synergy and consequently the incentives offered by the Modi government for setting up operations in the country.

The Tech Factor 

These shifts secure India’s supply chain and its entry into the world run on AI and smart technologies.

The components made by Taiwanese corporations not only transform smartphones to 5G, but power cars, microwave ovens, televisions, computers, and CCTV cameras.

As India enters the world of AI, a partnership with Taiwan, a liberal democracy, will assuage concerns about the safety and privacy risks associated with the use of high technology products.

Looking forward, as the Indian economy moves away from the internal combustion engine toward batteries, Taiwan’s expertise in electric vehicles manufacturing can play a vital role in the transition.

The well-established automobile ecosystem in Chennai, touted as the 'Detroit of the East', together with the clusters of high technology manufacturing units in the region, can transform the entire industry without having to reinvent the wheel.

Subsequently, an entire high-technology manufacturing ecosystem will be created in the subcontinent.

Coupled with the existing large-scale information technology sector in Bengaluru, also known as India’s 'Silicon Valley', Southern India will transform into a technology powerhouse synthesising the capabilities of a Detroit and a Silicon Valley.

From AI to addressing climate change, to becoming Aatmanirbhar Bharat, Taiwan could be India’s partner of choice. Through the partnership with Taiwan, India can make in India for a smart, clean, and green India.

Forging a Bond During the Pandemic 

The COVID-19 pandemic drove home the need for supply chain diversification with an unprecedent urgency. Of all the destruction and chaos caused by the pandemic, the light at the end of the tunnel has been the opportunity the pandemic presented to discern and recognise true friends over pretenders on the global stage.

Taiwan has come out as one such true friend of India. In the height of the pandemic when India was facing an acute shortage of oxygen and other vital supplies, Taiwan delivered around 150 oxygen concentrators and 10 lakh masks, saving lives and providing assistance in an hour of need.

The destructive pandemic has brought the two democracies even closer through trade and economic linkages. The pandemic had provided an impetus to source locally to ward off supply-chain disruptions.

The Director General of Taipei Economic and Cultural Center in Chennai, Ben Wang, was proactive in capitalising on the situation by meeting with chief ministers of different states in South India to double the investment in the region. Enterprising initiatives such as Wang’s sow the seeds for a successful economic partnership between the democracies.

Furthermore, the economic partnership will not be isolated to India. If Modi were to continue on the path of fulfilling his party’s manifesto, the step succeeding his Make in India initiative will be to Make in India for the world, that is, manufacturing not solely for domestic consumption but for the purpose of exporting to the world.

A successful execution of that promise will consequently lead to the world relying less on authoritarian states for high technology products.

Growing relations between Taiwan, one of the world’s most vibrant democracies, and India, the world’s largest, will be a catalyst for peace in the Indo-Pacific region and a testament to the resilience of liberal democracy.

To that end, Happy Birthday Taiwan!

(Akhil Ramesh is Non-Resident Vasey Fellow at Pacific Forum, United States. He has worked with risk consulting firms, think tanks and in the blockchain industry in the United States, India and in the Philippines. He can be reached @akhil_oldsoul on Twitter. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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