The recent clashes between Indian and Chinese soldiers have led to country-wide calls for New Delhi to retaliate. So far, the Modi government has countered Beijing via the economic means and there are growing voices from the nationalistic players to play the Taiwan and Tibet card.
After the death of 20 Indian soldiers in Galwan Valley, anger against China has surged dramatically. While some have demanded to militarily retaliate against China, others have called for an economic boycott of Chinese products. So far India has chosen the latter.
However, as the border stand-off between Indian and Chinese troops stretches into its 11th week, increasingly vociferous voices are now urging New Delhi to rethink its backing for Beijing’s cherished One-China policy and use Tibet and Taiwan as diplomatic leverage to restrain China.
As reported by EurAsian Times earlier, under the One-China policy, both mainland China and Taiwan are parts of the same sovereign nation. It does not allow countries to have diplomatic relations with both Taipei and Beijing.
Until now, India has adhered to the One-China policy so as to not deteriorate ties with the world’s second-biggest economy and one of India’s largest trading powers. Retired diplomats, experts and defence analysts are now urging the government of Narendra Modi to step-up ties with the Taiwanese leadership and the Tibetan community to send a clear signal to China.
Thanks to the One-China policy, relations between New Delhi and Taipei have largely been hampered. India does not have official diplomatic relations with Taiwan. Instead, it has established the India-Taipei Association, headed by a diplomat, to coordinate ties with the island.
According to Sana Hashmi, an India author and Taiwan scholar at Taiwan’s National Chengchi University, India has been cautious in expanding economic ties and hesitant in exploring the political potential of the relations because friendship and cooperation with Taiwan mean perpetual animosity with China.
However, after the deadly border clashes, the status quo could change, argue experts speaking to The EurAsian Times. By strengthening ties with Taiwan, India will not only send a tough message to China, but this could just be a trigger for other nations to follow the Indian move.
Beijing has zero-tolerance for countries endorsing stronger ties with Taiwan since it considers the island country to be an integral part of China. Getting cosy with Taiwan could give India the upper hand while negotiating with the Dragon.
Although India is home to the largest diaspora of Tibetans in the world, support for the Tibetan cause within India has been muted to protect ties with China.
In the past, New Delhi has refrained from participating in events celebrated by the Tibetan community in India. China considers Tibet to be an integral part of the country and currently administers the region as the Tibetan Autonomous Region.
According to BR Deepak from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) talking to SCMP, India’s attempts to make strategic use of the Tibetan diaspora had until now been “shrouded in ambiguity”, but the Galwan Valley incident would change this.
He goes on to add that while India is unlikely to back the idea of an independent Tibet, Indian politicians might meet the Dalai Lama more often, or the representatives of the Tibetan government-in-exile would be given more space in the Indian media.
China’s transgression in Ladakh has led to Tibetans in India voicing their concerns about Beijing. An active group of Tibetans, operating on foreign soil, demanding an independent Tibet is the last thing Beijing wants right now.
Experts talking to EurAsian Times suggested that one meeting between Indian PM Narendra Modi and with His Holiness – Dalai Lama would make Indian intentions to Beijing very clear. This would come at a time when the US has already announced a visa ban on top Chinese officials over Tibet repression while reaffirming its support for “meaningful autonomy” for Tibet.
For decades, India has tried to not to annoy China because of its economic dependency on the latter. However, with New Delhi aiming to reduce this dependency under the ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ mission, economics is unlikely to hinder politics like before.
Written by Armaan Srivastava with valuable inputs from South China Morning Post.