By: Anondeeta Chakraborty
India became one of the very first Asian countries to recognize China and its One China Policy in the 1950s.
This move inevitably closed the doors for establishing any sort of diplomatic
relations with Taipei.
Following the formation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, many countries of the world forewent a relationship with Taiwan, and recognized China, along the lines of their One China policy.
The coveted permanent seat of the United Nations Security Council of Taiwan also went to China in 1971, and in 1979, the United States, recognized China and withdrew its recognition of Taiwan.
The world back then failed to foresee the threat that the authoritarian state might pose to the invaluable ethos of liberty, freedom and democracy!
Despite being recognized by only 15 small states, the tiny island state of Taiwan has held its ground strong and firm, even in the face of the mighty Chinese regime.
It has shown itself as a beacon of liberty and freedom in a striking contrast to the curtailment of the same, in authoritative China.
Taiwan did not move an inch despite being threatened by the thunderous sound of Chinese fighter planes or an enormous Chinese naval fleet.
India, meanwhile, since the very early years of its existence has religiously reiterated to this One China policy, and it continues to be one of the founding pillars of Indo- China bilateral relations.
From choosing not to recognize Taiwan as a sovereign nation, to providing political legitimacy to the Chinese annexation of Tibet, India has time and again reestablished its support for the One China Policy.
Unfortunately, India never really received such warm reciprocal gestures from China as far as “One India” is concerned.
It took China as late as 2003, to recognize the Indian State of Sikkim as an integral part of India, and until today, the state of Arunachal Pradesh in India is seen by China as part
of her own territory.
Despite vehement protests from the Indian Government, China plans to carry on with the construction of the “One Belt, One Road” Project through Pakistan occupied Kashmir, which India sees as a “legitimate” integral part of the republic.
China has also been separately issuing passports to the residents of Jammu and Kashmir, a move which greatly frustrates India.
Moreover, after the repeal of Article 370, (that gave autonomy to the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir) which was contested by China, in tune with its “all weather friend”
Pakistan, the Indian union territory of Ladakh in the same way is now claimed by China, and, more recently the country has embarked on its infamous “salami slicing” technique that includes border infringements; the Galwan Valley Skirmish being the latest on that list.
Regardless of all these, India has never diverted away from its One China policy, in pursuance of a bilateral relationship with China.
Many analysts think this to be an appeasement strategy of India towards the “sleeping dragon”.
The Panchsheel signed with China in 1964, following the bitter experiences of India in the Sino- Indian War of 1962, can be branded as one of the illustrious cases of its appeasement strategy through the One China policy, which was very firmly implicit in
India during that period was a nascent republic, seriously lacking in economic and military might.
The Sino- Indian Conflict of 1962 brought a serious threat to the very existence of the republic. India had no ground whatsoever, to challenge China or toy with its
“Achilles heel”: the idea of “One China.”
But now times have changed!
A shift in One China Policy?
India, the largest democracy in the world soon realized the importance of Taiwan in the strategic and economic sphere, but more so as a hope for the survival of democracy.
With the Look East Policy of Narashima Rao, Taiwan really became an integral part of India‟s foreign policy.
This was followed by a diplomatic breakthrough when Taipei and Delhi established representative offices in 1995. In the following years the relationship only warmed and became more cordial.
In 2010, the then Indian President APJ Abdul Kalam visited Taiwan. This was ground-breaking as it was an official visit of the Head of The State to a country, which was never officially recognized as a sovereign state.
Coincidentally enough, 2010, was the last year when India officially through a statement, reaffirmed its acceptance of One China Policy.
In 2011, Taiwan opened another representative office in the Indian city of Chennai. In the very same year, it was announced by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, that India is exploring the idea of a Free Trade Agreement with Taiwan.
Then, with Narendra Modi assuming office in 2014, many analysts fathomed a robust shift from the One China Policy, but strangely enough this has been slow in coming.
In 2016, after Taiwan elected its first female -and current – President Tsai Ing- wen, a congratulatory note came from a very important leader of India’s ruling party BJP, Ram Madhav.
Similarly in the 2020 swearing-in ceremony of President Tsai Ing- Wen, the congratulatory message of two important BJP parliamentarians were played at the inaugural ceremony.
The two MPs were even virtually present at the ceremony; something India backed out of in 2016, for fear of a fall out with China.
In 2020, India also appointed the envoy Gourangalal Das; a marked shift from its erstwhile risk-aversion policy. This appointment of an envoy to Taiwan signals a partial recognition of Taiwan as a sovereign state.
On the economic front as well, the relationship between India and Taiwan has been blooming. Taiwan as a thriving hub of science and technology is now seen by many Indians as a viable substitution for China.
The ban on Chinese 5G technology will surely open more doors for the Taiwanese telecom companies to invest in India.
Taiwan – India -China as it stands
As such in the new South Bound Policy of Taiwan, greater emphasis has led to developing the relationship with India, which is the most prominent player in South Asia.
The Act East policy of Narendra Modi also holds great potential to further strategic and economic ties with Taiwan.
But all these become pointless, without any defence agreement in place.
Many defence analysts think it would be a perfect and a strategically prudent decision to include Taiwan as the fifth member of the Quad, thereby turning the military alliance into a formidable challenge to China.
But what needs to be kept in mind, is that any harsh and strict move on the part of India and Taiwan, against China, can become problematic for both of them.
So for now, India is playing the Taiwan card to balance and negotiate its relationship with China.
But it is important to note once again, that China is not an “all weather friend”.
Given that background, it is extremely important to construct a concrete and sturdy relationship with Taiwan.
Minor defence ties should be fabricated to pose an obstruction to Chinese aggression. Soft power politics, and public diplomacy is yet another cardinal way to rejuvenate ties between Taiwan and India.
As Annette Lu has noted, “Taiwan matters because of its vital role in spreading democracy in East Asia. Taiwan matters because of its strategic importance to promote peace in the Pacific region.”
–this once again reiterates the importance of Taiwan as a sovereign nation.