Recently, Indian public opinion has been making continuous moves for playing the “Taiwan card”. First, despite protests from the Chinese Embassy in India, a number of Indian media outlets published political advertisements from the Taiwan Foreign Affairs Department on 10 October to celebrate Taiwan’s so-called “National Day”. Later, some media, such as News 21, launched a special report on India-Taiwan relations, inviting some so-called experts to clamour for advancement of India-Taiwan relations, claiming that “India-Taiwan relations should transcend the China factor”, and the UNESCO Peace Chair Professor, Nalapat, also pointed out in an interview that although India recognizes one China, Taiwan is not included in the definition of China. This is a cause for concern.
Since the border confrontation and conflict between China and India in May this year, some experts from Indian think tanks and some retired senior officials have suggested that the Indian government should use the Taiwan issue, the Tibet issue, the Xinjiang issue, the Hong Kong issue, etc., to restrain China, especially to play the “Taiwan card” to force China to make concessions to India in the border dispute. Recently, the Indian strategic circles are talking about “India should break through the diplomatic glass, consider the development of India-Taiwan substantive relations”.
In fact, India has previously had the Taiwan issue as a territorial dispute to China’s bargaining tool ideas and attempts. 2014, the then Indian Foreign Minister Swaraj in a press conference about China-India relations, especially stressed that “since China asked India to recognize the ‘one-China policy, then India also wants China to reaffirm a ‘One India Policy’. At that time, not only the Chinese but also many Indians were hearing the phrase “One India Policy” for the first time and did not know what it meant. Swaraj later explained, “‘One India Policy’ is China’s recognition of the disputed areas as Indian territory, and the recognition of Kashmir as Indian territory”. However, since then, the Indian government has not formally raised this so-called “One India Policy” with China, and Swaraj herself later reiterated in a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi that India was firmly committed to a one-China policy and would properly deal with issues involving China’s core interests, such as Taiwan and Tibet.
In recent years, the Modi government has been pushing to strengthen economic ties with Taiwan, with attracting investment from Taiwan as an important goal, and the Tsai Ing-wen Administration has been pushing for a “new southward policy”, with India as one of the most important destinations and encouraging India to play the “Taiwan card”. For example, a number of low-level Indian officials have visited Taiwan, and some retired senior Indian officials and retired senior generals often operate in Taiwan in an unofficial capacity. With India’s negative treatment of Confucius Institutes, Taiwan has set up several Chinese language teaching institutions in India and has sent many Chinese language teachers. India and Taiwan have also cooperated in intelligence gathering and exchange activities against mainland China under the guidance of the United States. In July of this year, India arranged for Gangalal Das, a senior diplomat dealing with India-U.S. relations, to serve as its new so-called “representative in Taiwan”, a position usually filled by an economic or cultural figure. This is an arrangement with obvious political implications.
Now, due to the unresolved Sino-Indian border confrontation, coupled with India’s domestic anti-China sentiment, some Indians have brought out the “Taiwan card” in the open. However, the Taiwan issue and the China-India border dispute are two completely non-corresponding issues, and there is no such thing as a so-called reciprocal exchange as envisioned by some Indians. Those who suggest that India play the “Taiwan card” on China, in fact, is digging a big pit for India.
In the 70 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and India, India has generally adhered well to the one-China principle. Even during the period when bilateral relations took a sharp turn for the worse after the 1962 Sino-Indian border conflict, New Delhi did not show any deviation from the principle, which is a basis and consensus for the continuous development of Sino-Indian relations. And, in the final analysis, India’s presence on the Taiwan horizon is small, following the United States to play the “Taiwan card” is self-defeating, and will only cause more trouble for itself.
In addition, some in the Indian academic community have complained that India’s recognition of the one-China principle is a unilateral gift to China without reciprocation from China. In fact, India is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-lingual country, with a history more of separation than unity, Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Tripura, Mizoram and many other places have been demanding independent statehood and several armed groups have been established after their incorporation into the northeast region of India. These armed groups have also repeatedly sought China’s support, and some Chinese civilians have used their support for separatist groups in north-eastern India to counter India’s calls for “Tibetan independence” and “Taiwan independence”, but the Chinese Government respects India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and upholds Sino-Indian friendship. The request of these armed groups was rejected. If India does not respect China’s unity and territorial integrity and breaks the one-China principle, China will be forced to adopt the same attitude as India, and India will have to pay a much higher price. If India really plays the “Taiwan card”, it will only be setting itself on fire.
(The author is a professor at the School of International Relations, Sichuan University of Foreign Studies, and Executive Director of Chengdu Shi Tong Research Institute)
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