Rejuvenation of India-Taiwan Relation: Need’s a Focus
The common factors that binds India’s ‘Act East Policy’(AEP) and Republic of China’s (Taiwan) New Southbound Policy(NSP) are manifold—economic development, people-to-people connect, technological development and many more. India’s AEP was originally formulated keeping in mind the development of India’s North Eastern Region. However, over the years, India’s approach matured and the policy was further extended to ASEAN, and its related frameworks like ARF (ASEAN Regional Forum), EAS (East Asia Summit) and ADMM+ (ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting Plus). It was further extended to East Asia to include Japan, South Korea, etc. The AEP is based on the 3 Cs—Commerce, Culture and Connectivity.
The NSP entered its third phase in August 2016 with the moot aim of strengthening the comprehensive trade and economic ties between Taiwan and members of ASEAN, South Asia, New Zealand and Australia. It aims to “redefine” Taiwan’s role in Asia’s development, “identify” a new direction and a new “driving force” for a new stage of economic development and “create” future value. 
The main aim of this paper is to look into the aspect of growing connectivity and bilateral relations between India and Taiwan. This paper will not be taking into account the economic activities that are prevailing between the two countries.
India-Taiwan Bilateral Relation
India-Taiwan relations could be traced back to 1920s wherein ties between Jawaharlal Nehru (First Prime Minister of India) and Chiang Kai-shek (Later President of the Republic of China) were deep and which could have laid the foundations of a strong India-Taiwan bilateral relation, but was ‘hijacked’ by the China factor.
Presence of Indian and Taiwanese officials during the swearing-in ceremonies of respective Government Heads could be termed as a watershed moment in the growth of India-Taiwan relations. India had mentioned it, in passing, that India would respect the ‘One China Policy’ only if China respects the ‘One India Policy’ i.e. respecting India’s territorial sovereignty and integrity with respect to mainly Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) and stapled visas in Arunachal Pradesh. However, the recent incursions by China on India’s land (Galwan standoff, villages in Arunachal Pradesh, etc.) gives all reasons for India to reconsider its views about the ‘One China Policy’.
The Covid-19 crisis could be seen as another turning point in India-Taiwan bilateral relation. The handling of the pandemic by Taiwan could serve as a good case study for the rest of the world. Moreover, Taiwan’s timely helpful aid of masks, PPE kits. to India during the peak of the Pandemic, has opened new avenues for India-Taiwan cooperation as far as the health sector is concerned. India-Taiwan relation touched a new high when India launched its PSLV-C 52 Satellite on February 14, 2021. The PSLV comprised of an Earth Observation Satellite (EOS-04), a student satellite—INSPIRESat-1 and a technology demonstrator satellite—INS-2TD. What is of interest here is that, the INSPIRESat-1 has been jointly developed with Taiwan along with other countries like Singapore and USA, —this is the first time, that India has joined hands with Taiwan with respect to its space security. Such a development is indicative of the growing trust between India and Taiwan.
Way Ahead for India-Taiwan Relation
Both, AEP and the NSP are crucial for the strengthening the bilateral relation; a strong broad-based India-Taiwan relations is important for a strong and rules-based Indo-Pacific. Although, China is a ‘common threat’ in this relationship, however, it should never be a limiting factor in the growth of India-Taiwan ties. It should also be realised that, India should not see or consider Taiwan as an ‘alternative’ to China— its relationship with Taiwan should be independent of the ‘China’ factor.
Few recommendations to boost India-Taiwan ties are as follows:
- Shift of Market. Taiwan is a manufacturing hub and India has a wide market base. Indian market could be a Gateway to most South Asian countries —Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, etc. South Korea’s mobile giant—Samsung opened its first plant in India in 2018. This increased the sale ability of Samsung phones not only in India but also in India’s immediate neighbourhood. Similarly, Taiwan’s hardware company—Asus could also open its plant in India. This would lead to increase in profit share of the company as also expanding its market in India and India’s Neighbourhood. Moreover, the current Indian Government’s “Make in India” initiative requires a strong market base, which Taiwan could provide.
- Investment Options. Since, Taiwanese Companies are now planning to move out of China, therefore India could be a good option for investment. Since, India encourages Foreign Direct Investment, and provides cheap skilled labour, it could be a good and viable option for Taiwanese companies to now look for ground in India and rule the Indian market.
- I-T Brain. India has a strong ’silicon valley’ and so does Taiwan. Therefore the‘India-Taiwan Brain (I-T Brain)’ could be put together to create state of art technology, which is needed in today’s world. The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) has brought to limelight ‘technological experiments’ like Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain technology, Big Data and Cryptocurrency. These technologies have great scope of development and is the future of the world. The ‘I-T Brain’ could jointly undertake research on such technologies with a larger aim to induct these technologies in daily life in the near future.
- Technological Research.The global economy is now running on 5G technology. India is yet to adapt 5G technology whereas Taiwan is moving quickly towards full exploitation of the said technology. It is obvious that, as the global economies have moved towards 5G, it will soon move towards 6G. The Ministries of Science and Technology of both, India and Taiwan, should undertake joint research to study the pros and cons of such technological advancement and find out ways as how to adopt such technologies into their day-to-day in the quickest timeframe possible or else the two countries will be left behind in the global technological race.
- Effective Measures for Ageing Population. India is facing the problem of ageing population and so is Taiwan. As per 2019 data, India has 84.9 million and Taiwan 3.27 million population aged 65+.Active ageing is what today’s world is looking at. Gerontologists from both the countries must undertake joint research with a broader aim of finding ways to actively involve the aged population in activities that would allow them to enjoy their work and at the same time, uplift the countries’ economy and generate a strong GDP for the countries.
- India-Taiwan Smart City Cooperation.India plans to create 100 smart cities. The main aim of India’s Smart City Mission is to focus on economic growth and improve the quality of life of people by enabling local area development and harnessing technology. There is thus great scope for Taiwan to invest in this area with a broader aim to set a platform for Taiwanese Companies to settle in India. This would reduce both Taiwan and India’s ‘overwhelming’ dependence on China.
- Taiwan as part of the QUAD. The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) comprises of India, US, Japan and Australia. The main aim of the QUAD is to establish a rules-based international order in the Indo-Pacific. Therefore, a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) could be signed between the QUAD countries and Taiwan. Moreover, measures like student exchange programmes, sportsmen training programmes. between the QUAD countries and Taiwan could have a positive impact on India-Taiwan bilateral relations.
- India and Taiwan both are religious countries and hence ‘Religious Tourism’ could bring both the countries more closer to each other. Buddhism, which has its origin in India, is one of the major religions of Taiwan. Hence, monks, students of Buddhist Studies can visit each other’s country with an aim to study and understand the religion more closely. Also, Pilgrimage could be another progressive tool in India-Taiwan relation.
There is huge potential for growth in India-Taiwan relations. It is indeed a sad reality that the relation was ignored for so long. Focus, at present should be to start from the grass roots level like undertaking joint research and finding out ways to uplift the rural sectors of both the countries and improve these regions by means of setting industries, giving employment to local people, etc. Also Area Studies students should be given an opportunity to visit each other’s country for a better understanding of the environment.
 Teshu Singh, “The New Southbound Policy and India Taiwan Relations”, VIF Paper, April 2019 : 8, https://www.vifindia.org/sites/default/files/new-southbound-policy-and-india-taiwan-relations.pdf.
 “The Guidelines for New Southbound Policy”, Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Brunei Darussalam, August 23, 2016, https://www.roc-taiwan.org/bn_en/post/644.html.
 Pranab Dhal Samanta, “One China? What about One India policy: Sushma Swaraj to Wang Yi”, The Indian Express, June 12, 2014, https://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/one-china-what-about-one-india-policy-sushma-to-wang/.