India-Taiwan: A young diplomacy of an unofficial identity

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*Taiwan and Republic of China has been used interchangeably throughout the article and refers to the same nation.

A Historical Overview:

Perhaps in what would be the most significant pre-Independence India-Taiwan Political Leaders’ visit was that of Chiang Kai-shek in 1942, who would then become the first President of the Republic of China or what is known as Taiwan in 1947 after its new Constitution was enforced, after his Political Party the Kuomintang(KMT) was forced to withdraw from the mainland China after the Chinese Civil War. Even though such a visit was diplomatically unsuccessful, as Gandhi after meeting Kai-shek in a letter to Sardar Patel wrote[1]:

          “I would not say that I learnt anything, and there was nothing that we could teach him.”

Furthermore, in his meeting with Muslim League’s President Jinnah during the same visit, Jinnah criticised him for his support of a Hindu India. The premise of the visit was pivoted around the discussions for strategies for India’s Freedom Struggle and the Chinese internal conflict. Once the KMT was entirely thrown out of the mainland China in 1949 and India formally recognized the Chinese Communist Authority over the mainland China, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was met with severe criticism from the KMT who believed that Nehru was deluded when humoring China’s communist Government for National Security[2].

During the cold war, India again found herself in a non-amicable situation with Taiwan as the anti-communist leadership in the KMT was openly siding with the United States of America. The situation remained cold between the two states until the 1990s.

After a Financial setback India suffered in 1991, Indian leaders were inclined towards the “Look East” Policy and were in the process of building good relations with the United States of America, and this was also a transition period for the Indo-Taiwanese relations. The two countries step-up unofficial embassies in Taipei and New Delhi and direct cross-country flights were started. Gradually, India and Taiwan started trade and investment. In 2010, Former Indian President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam visited Taiwan and the countries started recognizing Higher Education degrees of the respective nation.

The PRC’s ROC and One China Policy

Under the One China Policy, the People’s Republic China requires all the Nations to recognize Taiwan as a part of the PRC. The relevant part of the PRC’s Constitution’s Preamble declares Taiwan to be a part and further states that it is the duty of all the citizens for a reunification of the two countries. Being a major manufacturing hub, China has successfully kept Taiwan from forming formal relations with most of the countries of the world and even successfully usurped Republic of China’s seat in all the organizations of the United Nations albeit, 15 countries still formally recognize Republic of China as the only China which include Paraguay, eSwatini, and Belize among others.

India, for the same reason, has not officially recognized the legitimacy of the Republic of China to an extent where Indian diplomats visiting Taiwan use the regular passports instead of the diplomatic ones.

A Political Turn Around for PRC?:

Owing to PRC’s implicit constancy in its support for Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and claim over Ladakh region as well as parts of Arunachal Pradesh, India has started to recontemplate her strong stand on One China Policy. Recently, in President Tsai Ing-wen’s swearing ceremony, two BJP MP’s, Meenakshi Lekhi and Rahul Kaswan were virtually present. This can be construed as a subtle phase shift on India’s part in her diplomacy as in 2016, when Ing-wen was elected for her first term, any Politician affiliated with the BJP Government refrained from any kind of visits or even congratulatory messages.

 President Tsai Ing-wen belongs the Democratic Progressive Party(DPP) whose primary viewpoint on the entire One China Policy is a demand for separate Taiwan, recognized by all the nations and International Organizations alike and not being recognized by China anymore, is very contrasting in its Progressivism from the ruling party in the People’s Republic of China. Needless to say, the people of Taiwan are inclined towards such Governance which upholds Human Rights and supports the Gender Equality cause. The PRC and the ROC at this point of time have an entirely different way of Governance, a call for the unification of the two countries would bring a Geo-political turmoil in the region, even more so when the People’s Republic of China would be likely to make aggressively oppressive moves in Taiwan, as it did and still continues to do in Tibet[3], whom PRC had agreed to provide autonomy after invading the Tibetian Land in 1949. People’s Liberation Army’s illegal capture of a Country which had remained free for over 2,000 years which the PRC later ironically called the “liberation of Tibet”, might be not be enough to emphasize that if Taiwan comes under the blanket of the People’s Republic of China, it might not enjoy the privileges and freedom it possesses or that the Taiwanese Citizens would be targeted like the minorities of Tibet and Xinjiang but one thing could be said with all certainty: The People’s Republic of China will not let the Republic of China secede from its ambit once the unification occurs. The People’s Republic of China knows how to crush a revolt as seen in the Tiananmen Square Protests in 1989 or the Tibetian Rebellion of 1959.

On the other hand, if we consider that India would discard the One China Policy, it would mean all formal relations with the People’s Republic of China would come to an end. In essence, what this means is that India recognizes Taiwan as Republic of China, a democratic entity and the whole mainland China’s legitimacy would be of Taiwan. Taiwan as a separate entity is an agenda which is being pushed forward by the DPP has been constantly been invalidated by the PRC, and successfully so as the Taiwan of today stands proud as a separate identity. Taiwan’s entry to WHO was blocked by PRC for not wanting to be recognized with the PRC.

Even if one were to say that India should no longer sympathize towards the One China Policy, taking into account People’s Republic of China’s take on Kashmir, Aksai Chin and the recent non-lethal aggression near the Pangong Lake in Ladakh and along the Line of Actual Control(LAC), People’s Republic of China also happens to be India’s biggest trading partner with trade worth more than $80 Billion USD. Not recognizing the PRC as a sovereign entity will raise major problems for the Indian Economy as the imports are worth more than $60 Billion USD and even if we are to assume that the PRC does not completely revoke majority of those imports of India, a very unlikely predicament given the strong steps the People’s Republic of China is used to taking and how it does not involve into trade with Countries establishing official relations with Taiwan, India will still have to look for an alternative to the PRC which is can be a very difficult job. Furthermore, a naturally conniving PRC would then get a free hand to be involved in armed conflict against India since now the business model is not big of a constraint to have larger consequences.

The Kuomintang’s model of One China Policy is rather far-fetched and utopian to be achieved in the foreseeable future. The KMT, in 1992 had a partly-official meeting with the PRC, which they later called the “consensus of 1992”, where there was no apparent consensus as the PRC believed that the ROC was under the banner of the PRC while the Republic of China(under the KMT) staked a claim at the entire mainland China as a legitimate part of their Republic[4]. For a State with only 15 official diplomatic relations, the KMT does seem to have unrealistic ambitions to recognize the PRC, having a Communist Government constantly trying to be a Superpower, as a Republic with anti-communist foundations.

Republic of China’s Geopolitical issues with India:

The Republic of China largely concedes, or used to concede as the current position remains ambiguous, the People’s Republic of China’s border propaganda in delegitimizing the boundaries between India and the PRC which happens to be a major cause of the strain in the diplomatic relations between India and the PRC. A long-standing disapproval of the McMahon line has been made by the Taiwanese side and they called India’s formation of Arunachal Pradesh as an illegal act. However, such geo-political tensions were created by Taiwan under the KMT till 1995, when the Taiwanese ambassador to India for the last time emphasized their stance on the McMahon line. Since then the ROC has taken a rather neutral stand on India-PRC boundaries with neither explicitly supporting nor disapproving. It would make sense for the Pan-Green Coalition to not get caught up in a controversy relating to the Sino-Indian border issue since their characterization is now being a separate entity as a whole while recognizing the Sovereignty of the People’s Republic of China at the mainland China.

A Progressive road for India and Taiwan:

India as an aspiring self-dependent technocratic nation may see Taiwan as a treasure trove for  Taiwan is one of the biggest suppliers of semi-conductors, a very essential commodity in the manufacturing of Electronic items and is the biggest manufacturer of Laptops in the World along with being the top manufacturer of integrated circuit foundries. More than 50% of Taiwan’s GDP is dependent on the services sector, making it the fifth-biggest economy in Asia. India’s Make in India and Start-up India initiatives, under which the current Governments provide various incentives to manufacturers of the Country, could use an impetus with the help of a large scale collaboration with Taiwan in this sector. Taiwan is an inseparable part of India’s Look East Policy, however, only as a predilection of interest in doing Business. Ease of cross-border involvement in small and medium enterprises would further enhance the ties and serve the economy.

Furthermore, Indo-Taiwanese collaboration in research and development wings of multiple sectors such as pharmaceuticals and agriculture would be mutually beneficial for both as India’s consumer market is growing at a very fast pace and with the help of Taiwanese expertise in innovation and logistics, this could surely be helpful from a corporate perspective as well as potentially reduce People’ Republic of China’s dominance in Asia as the biggest corporate power.

Coming from such disapproval of each other’s policies to large scale mutual cooperation and defiance of PRC’s attempt to subdue Taiwan’s autonomy, India-Taiwan relations have come through an array of turns, and considering the current position with respect to each other; it has a very large scope of economic, political as well as social collaboration. Even when Taiwan’s position as an independent country exists in a grey area, India’s subtle hints come off as a sympathetic message espousing the cause for a separate Taiwanese identity.   

– Osho Dubey, 

Writer, Bharat Bhagya Vidhata.

[1] Letter from Sevagram, February 25, 1942, in Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, vol. 75

[2] “Nehru’s Pilgrimage to Peiping,” Taiwan Review, October 1, 1954,

[3] “China’s successful repression in Tibet provides a model for Xinjiang”, The Economist,
[4] “Ma refers to China as ROC territory in magazine interview”, Taipei Times,

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