India seems to be caught-up between China and Taiwan at a time when India itself is involved in a fist-fight with China due to continued border skirmishes along the Line of Actual Control.
Recently, Indian Members of Parliament (MP) from the ruling BJP party attended the virtual swearing-in of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. The MP’s sent even congratulatory messages to Tsai, which expectedly annoyed China.
Both Meenakshi Lekhi and Rahul Kaswan virtually attended the celebrations as Tsai Ing-wen took oath for the second time as the President of Taiwan. Later the two MP’s also sent personal messages to Tsai congratulating her for her electoral victory.
Due to the travel ban in Taiwan to curb the spread of the virus, foreign dignitaries were sent invitations to attend virtually. Beijing slammed the messages that foreign dignitaries sent to Tsai as it challenges Chinese claims over Taiwan – the ‘renegade province’ of China.
The Indian delegation was also joined by Sohang Sen, the acting director-general of India-Taipei Association, who represented India at the ceremony in Taipei. Much like the rest of the world, India does not have an official diplomatic presence in the country with only 15 countries officially recognizing Taiwan that Beijing is keen the dwindle further.
Change in Indian Policy
According to experts speaking to EurAsian Times, the presence of Indian delegation at the virtual ceremony marks a break in the usual end India policy towards Taiwan and China.
New Delhi backed-off at the last minute in 2016 when Tsai got elected for office for the first time. India pulled out because it feared it could deteriorate Sino-Indian relations and possibly hamper President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to China a week after the ceremony.
However, this time India appears to be taking a bolder stance. To emphasise its warm relations with Taiwan and send a message to Beijing at the same time, the Indian MP’s in their message said that both countries are bonded by shared values of freedom, democracy and respect for human rights. They also acknowledged how Taipei-New Delhi relations have improved over the past years.
Lekhi even sent Tsai a personal message which was played at the ceremony. The 53-year-old MP from Delhi talked about “continued strengthening of the comprehensive relations between India and wished Tsai a great success.
Experts believe that India might be cosying up to Taiwan to gain leverage over the recent Sino-Indian territorial disputes. Troops from the Chinese and Indian Army clashed in Ladakh and Sikkim earlier this month and are reportedly in a state of clash in the Aksai Chin region.
Officials in Beijing were upset about the presence of foreign dignitaries at the ceremony. 92 foreign officials from 41 different countries were present for the occasion.
Before Tsai addressed the gathering, remarks from the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were read out which praised Tsai’s courage and vision in leading Taiwan’s vibrant democracy how they were an inspiration to the region and the world.
China slammed the congratulatory wishes that foreign dignitaries sent to Tsai. Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Geng Shuang spoke to reporters and said that Beijing hopes and believes that the international community will understand and support the just cause of Chinese people to oppose the secessionist activities for ‘Taiwan independence’ and realise national reunification.”
Taipei and Beijing have been at odds since 1949 but since Tsai’s landslide victory in the last election, the relationship has been at a historic low.
China snapped its ties with Taiwan after Tsai refused to accept the island as a part of China and advocated for Taiwanese independence. China has expressed its displeasure of Tsai announcements by blocking Taiwan’s entry into the World Health Organization and carrying out aggressive military drills near the island.
Taiwan is a renegade province and must be reunified with China remains Beijing’s official position on Taiwan. Taipei is firmly backed by the U.S and Japan and China sees the US as a big obstacle in reunifying Taiwan with mainland China.