By Rajeev R Chaturvedy & Prashant Sharma
India has always been cautious in engaging Taiwan since New Delhi established relations with Taipei in 1995. Indeed, this growing relationship between Delhi and Taipei have been held quietly, and India has been hesitant to acknowledge the warming relationship. Will PM Narendra Modi end India’s historic hesitation and redefine India-Taiwan relations when Delhi and Taipei are celebrating 25 years of their partnership?
With ‘India-Taipei Association’ and ‘Taipei Economic and Cultural Center’ in Taipei and New Delhi, respectively, both sides have facilitated scalable business, tourism, culture, science and technology and people-to-people exchanges. Mutual efforts have by far resulted into a range of bilateral agreements covering agriculture, investment, customs cooperation, civil aviation, industrial cooperation, among others. Notably, with $7bn bilateral trade and over $350mn worth of investments in India, Taiwan’s Foxconn is reported to consider $1bn worth of investments to expand Apple iPhones assembling from India.
Above all, New Delhi and Taipei have increasingly deepened mutual respect underpinned by openness, democracy and diversity as key principles for growth. The shared faith in freedom, human rights, justice and the rule of law continues to embolden their partnership. Moreover, Taiwan’s New Southbound Policy and India’s Act East Policy could steer a resilient and sustainable future, within and beyond their boundaries.
In the stint to steer people and economies through the pandemic, New Delhi and Taipei could shape and strengthen digital healthcare, economic and security linkages. Furthermore, the two sides need to explore greater production and supply chains complementarities in cybersecurity, electric mobility, defence, biotech and medical technology, capital goods, chemicals, textiles and apparels, telecommunications and technology infrastructure, semiconductor industries and gems and jewellery. There is also a huge scope of accelerating two-way partnerships in construction and related engineering services, financial services, education and related services, smart city, transport and logistics infrastructure and related services as well as green and renewable energy.
New Delhi and Taipei can also collaborate and undertake joint research and development initiatives in the field of organic farming. In fact, shared interest and combined wisdom, knowledge and expertise could potentially be turned into a mutual vision for developing sustainable agriculture systems within and beyond their boundaries. For example, New Delhi and Taipei could partner together with eastern South Asian countries including Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal, for such efforts. This way, the two sides can help a larger chunk of the world population in getting access to safer and nutritious food while fostering eco-friendly and organic food habits and practices.
Cultivating and nurturing educational and cultural relations are other important avenues for deepening ties. Taiwan awards nearly 100 scholarships for Indian university students annually, and currently, about 2,400 Indian students are pursuing higher education in Taiwan across various streams. Similarly, more than 6,000 students have benefitted at various Indian universities from language training programme provided by Taiwan. Indian universities also host several Taiwan Education Centres where Indians can get a sense of Taiwan’s food and culture, learn Mandarin Chinese as well as get exposure to exciting higher education landscape in Taiwan.
The US-Taiwan relationship remains stirred in the wake of Taiwan’s demonstrated health leadership to combat Covid-19. Furthermore, with 5G networks as a new front in the US-China trade war, the US has even expanded the Clean Network Program for enhanced data privacy, reliable and secured data flows, based upon internationally accepted digital trust standards, among others. Taiwanese telecoms and India’s Reliance Jio have been regarded as Clean 5G networks.
The time is, therefore, ripe for breaking the barriers and creating a political framework between New Delhi and Taipei to reap the benefits of huge potential. Dialogue between political players will help better understand each other and will provide the necessary catalyst to the growing strategic and economic relationships in the emerging geo-economic landscape.
Chaturvedy is adjunct fellow, IAIE, Brisbane; Sharma, economic and strategic affairs analyst, CUTS International. Views are personal