India-Taiwan Ties: A Case for Stronger Partnership Asie.Visions, No. 125, November 2021
The links between India and Taiwan have gathered unprecedented momentum in recent years. This has largely come about due to growing support for Taiwan at civil society level in India.
Taiwan has tried to reach out to India. Its carefully crafted New Southbound Policy, President Tsai Ing-wen’s flagship foreign policy move, which was officially launched in 2016, has served as a roadmap for greater engagement with Taiwan’s potential friends and partners – especially India. India’s Act East policy and Indo-Pacific outreach efforts have also encouraged Taiwan to widen and deepen its engagement with India. This, however, is a recent development facilitated by a variety of strategic developments in the region. With the Indo-Pacific construct taking a firmer shape, New Delhi-Taipei ties are poised to assume a more concrete shape and provide a meaningful role for the bilateral relations, which have ebbed and flowed since the establishment of unofficial relations between the two democracies in 1995.
For a long time, the China factor has overshadowed India-Taiwan relations. While Taiwan itself was taking a conciliatory stance toward China before Tsai assumed the president’s office in 2016, India’s complicated relationship with China also played a role in preventing Delhi and Taipei from intensifying their relationship. However, China’s assertive foreign policy under President Xi Jinping has compelled several countries to find a long-term and viable solution to address their national concerns. China’s reluctance to address India’s territorial concerns and two major Chinese territorial incursions over the past four years (Doklam 2017, Galwan 2020) have forced India to rethink its China policy. In the process, India-Taiwan ties have also benefitted, and India is making efforts to revamp its Taiwan policy. The early signs of this were visible during the initial phase of the first term of the Narendra Modi government (2014–17).
There are noticeable signs of India slowly shedding its hesitancy about Taiwan, but it still remains cautious. To step up the momentum, Taiwan needs to maximize the potential of the New Southbound Policy in engaging India and other major actors in the Indo-Pacific region. Given that India is a key focus country within the framework of the New Southbound Policy, Taiwan should take further steps to strengthen relations with the South Asian country. This partnership is mutually beneficial in several aspects. It will be a missed opportunity for both Taiwan and India if the two sides do not find a way to engage each other purposefully.