Taiwans de facto ambassador to India said on Monday that it was time for Taipei and New Delhi to “redefine” their relationship with their belligerent Chinese neighbor in the face of increasing tensions between the two countries.
Baudhuan Ger, who formerly headed Taipei’s representative office in Chicago, suggested that a rapprochement of “new security interests” could bring the two democracies closer together.
He was sent to New Delhi in September, at a time when Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen enjoyed unusually vocal support from the active Indian Twitter community. She gained her popularity against the background of the violent clashes between the Indian army and Chinese troops in Ladakh along the “Line of Actual Control”, in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed this summer.
Despite many rounds of negotiations aimed at de-escalation and demilitarization of the disputed region, the two armies in Latin America and the Caribbean remain deadlocked and seem to be preparing for a long winter stalemate. This has enabled Taiwan to successfully attract New Delhi, which is in addition to the informal diplomatic relations that are now in their 25th year.
India is one of the 18 nations with which Taiwan has sought improved economic and political relations as part of its “New Southbound Policy,” Ger told the Hindustan Times, which reported bilateral trade growth exceeding the $7 billion mark in 2017 and 2018.
The Tsai government’s initiative, launched in 2016, aims to reduce Taiwan’s dependence on the otherwise massive Chinese market, since without one or two political concessions, no economic relationship with Beijing is possible.
Taiwan’s push for more cooperation with countries in South Asia could coincide with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s own “Act East Policy,” Ger said, pointing to promising growth in Taiwanese investment in India and burgeoning educational and cultural exchanges.
“The expansion of bilateral relations should be based on the mutual interests of both countries and not on the consideration of other external factors,” Ger was quoted as saying. “New security threats such as COVID-19, disobedience to common norms and values, environmental disasters and cyber security are also becoming our common concerns.
He added: “Now is the time for us to redefine our mutually beneficial goals and the strategies to achieve them. The promotion of economic links and social exchange remains the priority, but other new areas will be considered”.
Ger said that Chinese military aircraft and ships continue to “provoke” Taiwan. Three hundred fighter planes have entered Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone since January, the diplomat said.
“We are committed to maintaining stability across the Strait, but this is not something Taiwan can shoulder alone; it is the joint responsibility of the international community,” he said.
There is no doubt’, the minister said, ‘that China is building up military forces to target Taiwan
After Taipei’s unsuccessful attempts to join this year’s World Health Assembly, Ger said he hoped India’s new role as Chairman of the Executive Council of WHO Taiwan would support future participation in the UN organization.
Although in the 1950s India was one of the first Asian governments to recognize China and its “One China” policy – including Beijing’s claims to the self-governing island of Taiwan – New Delhi has tried to counter Chinese influence in the region by making its own soft power games.
China, which maintains a strong strategic relationship with India’s neighbor Pakistan, reminded the media in New Delhi in October of the country’s “One China” stance when its local embassy tried to prevent coverage of Taiwan’s national holiday celebrations.
The attempt backfired, leading to a further deterioration in Indo-China relations, while Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu called on Beijing to “back off.
Later that month, Wu was interviewed by Indian television station WION. He described “very alarming” Chinese military developments in the Taiwan Strait.
Taiwan Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou, speaking in Washington Newsday on Wednesday, said India was a “like-minded country” and a “living democracy” that was crucial to securing freedom and prosperity in the Indian-Pacific region.