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Emerging Perspectives: India’s Multi-Faceted Diplomatic Outreach

Over the last months, Taiwan has faced the brunt of Chinese displeasure as it scrambled fighters to counter Chinese aircraft flying dangerously close to the island’s Air Defense Identification Zone. This development is being associated with Taiwan’s diplomatic relations visibly going stronger other global powers, in this case, the United States of America. Over the years the Taiwan government has on several occasions, expressed a strong desire to strengthen its relations with India, particularly with its NSP (New Southbound policy). The NSP looks to form more pragmatic relations with nations of South and South-east Asia, with India highlighted as one the key players.

Recent developments

A new direction, or a more reformed one, is now being analysed and the means to implement the same are being mulled over. In recent times, India has been projecting a more responsible, pragmatic and proactive image. Even as it deftly tackles rising tensions originating on its international border, India’s diplomatic stance has remained commendably balanced. It is also interesting to note that the economic and trade relations India maintains with Taiwan have steadily increased, as have the people-to-people exchanges.

Several new perspectives pertaining to India’s stance when it comes to its largest Eastern neighbour, along with Taiwan, have begun to take shape. Going back almost two years, the Committee on External Affairs’ 22nd report sheds some favourable light on the afore mentioned ideas. The report considers and in doing so, also recommends, some important reforms when it comes to India’s relations with Taiwan, or as it is addressed in some official reports, Chinese Taipei.

Going back even further, to December 1949, India unofficially adopted its ‘One China’ policy, a standpoint which has not changed much since then. In the current scenario, where stapled visas have been issued continually by China, a more indepth reassessment of some key policies related to international affairs and diplomatic policies seems to be a probable possibility.

The larger picture

The reports pointing to recent appointment of career diplomat Gouranglal Das, as the unofficial envoy to Taiwan, may be interpreted as sign of shifting perspectives. Taiwan’s growing pragmatism and trading potential, which stands close to USD 7.5 billion a year (2019), is also painting an increasingly favourable picture. Coupled with top Taiwanese officials present at PM Modi’s swearing-in ceremony in 2014 and vice-versa (albeit virtually, given the COVID-19 pandemic), at Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen’s swearing-in ceremony in May this year, a re-envisioning of diplomatic ties may very well be on the cards.

Thanks to the recent efforts by the Indian government, even during the drastic impact of COVID-19, regional ties have been reaffirmed through positive engagement. Be it the new trade routes with Bhutan, flagging off container-ships and trains to Bangladesh, or the development partnerships we share with Sri Lanka, India has projected our commitment towards development. Similarly, Taiwan’s assistance to India and several other nations, over-and-above a functional trade-relationship it maintains with China amongst geopolitical tensions, cannot be overlooked. As New Delhi moves towards increasing its capabilities and reducing the conventionally-adopted policy of deferential treatment with Beijing, relations with Taiwan can be gradually strengthened.

A multilateral approach?

With the re-election of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, a renewed focus has been put on the nation’s NSP, relaunched in 2016. The NSP highlights the need to build stronger relations with Australia, Japan, USA and India, mixing a wide array of complementaries with the ‘Quad.’ The possibility of the partnership developing further to bring important sectors like electronics, telecommunication, research and maybe even defence, cannot be ignored. Even when Beijing has been largely unconcerned about New Delhi’s economic relations with Taiwan, it would be interesting to see its reaction if a stronger, more encompassing relations begin to develop – particularly with the Quad. With advisories being issued to the Indian media before Taiwan’s National Day celebrations, India’s master-plan to reduce Chinese dependence and increase its own capabilities through strategic partnerships, seems to be pushing the right buttons.

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