Taiwan Woos India As China Border Clash Boosts Taipei-New Delhi Relationship

Taiwan's de facto ambassador to India said Monday that it was time for Taipei and New Delhi to "redefine" their relationship amid both countries' rising tensions with their belligerent Chinese neighbor.

Baushuan Ger, who used to head up Taipei's representative office in Chicago, suggested a convergence of "new security interests" might bring the two democracies closer together.

Ger was posted to New Delhi in September, at a time when Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen was enjoying unusually vocal support from India's active Twitter community. Her popularity came against the backdrop of the Indian Army's violent clashes with Chinese troops in Ladakh, along the Line of Actual Control, resulting in the deaths of 20 Indian soldiers in this summer.

Despite many rounds of negotiations aimed at de-escalating and demilitarizing the disputed region, the two armies remain deadlocked along the LAC and appear to be bedding in for a long winter stalemate. This has allowed Taiwan to make success overtures to New Delhi, creating goodwill on top of an informal diplomatic relationships now entering its 25th year.

India is among 18 nations with which Taiwan has sought improved economic and political ties as part of its "New Southbound Policy," Ger told Hindustan Times, which reported bilateral trade growth crossing the $7 billion mark in 2017 and 2018.

The Tsai administration initiative, launched in 2016, is aimed at reducing Taiwan's dependence on the otherwise massive Chinese market, the view being that no economic relationship with Beijing was possible without some political concession or other.

Taiwan's push for more cooperation with countries in South Asia could meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi's own "Act East Policy," Ger said, citing promising growth in Taiwanese investment in India, as well as a burgeoning educational and cultural exchanges.

"Enhancement of bilateral relations shall be based on the mutual interests of both countries rather than consideration of other external factors," Ger was quoted as saying. "New security threats such as COVID-19, disobedience [of] shared norms and values, environmental disasters, as well as cybersecurity, are also becoming our common concerns."

He added: "Now it is time for us to redefine our mutually beneficial objectives and the strategies to achieve them. Promoting economic connections and social exchanges remain the priority, but other new areas shall be taken into consideration."

Ger said Chinese military aircraft and vessels continue to "provoke" Taiwan. Three hundred warplanes have intruded into Taiwan's air defence identification zone since January, the diplomat said.

"We are committed to upholding cross-strait stability, but this is not something Taiwan can shoulder alone; it is the joint responsibility of the international community," he said.

After Taipei's unsuccessful attempts to join this year's World Health Assembly, Ger said he hoped India's new role as chair of the WHO Executive Board would help Taiwan's future participation in the U.N. body.

Although India became one of the first Asian government's to recognize China and its "one China" policy—and by extension Beijing's claims over the self-ruled island of Taiwan—in the 1950s, New Delhi has sought to counter Chinese influence in the region by making its own soft power plays.

China, which has a strong strategic relation with India's neighbor Pakistan, reminded New Delhi media outlets of the country's "one China" stance in October, when its local embassy tried to discourage reporting of Taiwan's National Day celebrations.

The attempt backfired, causing a further deterioration of India-China relations, while Taiwan's foreign minister, Joseph Wu, told Beijing to "get lost."

Later the same month, Wu was interviewed on Indian television channel WION. He described "very alarming" Chinese military developments in the Taiwan Strait.

Taiwan's foreign ministry spokesperson Joanne Ou told Newsweek on Wednesday that India was a "like-minded country" and a "vibrant democracy," vital to securing freedom and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen
File photo: Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen (C). SAM YEH/AFP via Getty Images