India-Taiwan Relations: Slow and Steady Does It

Published by the World Politics Review’s Global Insider as “Taiwanese President’s Stopover in India Sign of a Warming Trend,” on 20 April 2012. These questions were answered together with Dr. Fang Tien-sze, Assistant Professor, National Tsing-hua University, Hsinchu, Taiwan.

 

WPR: How have India-Taiwan relations evolved over the past 10 years?

Fang Tien-sze and Jabin T. Jacob: India-Taiwan relations have improved gradually in many areas over the past few years. Bilateral trade has expanded from $1.1 billion in 2001 to $7.6 billion in 2011. The two sides signed a bilateral investment and protection agreement in 2002 and agreements on double taxation and customs assistance in July 2011. India and Taiwan have also commissioned think tanks to jointly study the feasibility and likely results of a free trade agreement. In the field of education, in March 2010 the two sides decided to recognize each other’s academic degrees and certificates in higher education, facilitating student mobility for advanced studies and job purposes. Earlier, in 2007, the two signed an agreement on scientific and technological cooperation, creating a joint committee that meets every year to formulate cooperation programs and activities.

At the political level, New Delhi appears to be showing increasing flexibility. In 2010, it allowed former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam to visit Taiwan to attend the 30th World Congress of Poets. The following year witnessed the first-ever ministerial visits from Taiwan to India: Christina Liu, chairwoman of the cabinet-level Council for Economic Planning and Development, led a delegation of nearly 90 Taiwanese officials and private-sector chief executives to India in February 2011, and Taiwanese Minister of Education Wu Ching-ji followed in April and May, accompanied by 13 university presidents and vice presidents.

 

WPR: What does Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou’s recent surprise visit to India indicate about the state of the relationship and its trajectory?

Fang and Jacob: Ma’s stopover in India is significant for being the first instance of a Taiwanese president setting foot in India. While this shows that the Indian government is losing some of its inhibitions as far as relations with Taiwan are concerned, it is not likely to step away from the “one China” policy. The Taiwanese government itself has cautioned against upsetting India by overinterpreting the event. Ma’s transit in Mumbai nevertheless imparts further momentum to bilateral cooperation and is a sign of increasing mutual trust. In appreciation of New Delhi’s gesture, the Ma administration is expected to take more initiatives in promoting bilateral relations.

 

WPR: How would warming ties with Taiwan affect India’s relations with the People’s Republic of China?

Fang and Jacob: The chief Indian interests in Taiwan are in increasing bilateral trade and investment links, scientific exchanges and people-to-people contacts. China is unlikely to take offense at such moves. But it could well be that difficulties in the Sino-Indian relationship will lead to increased sensitivities in Beijing about the development of India-Taiwan relations.

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