What next for India? Illustration: Liu Rui/GT
The Times of India (TOI) took a senseless step to test China’s bottom line on the Taiwan question, calling the island “a vibrant nation” on Sunday. In an editorial entitled, “Taiwan message: New Delhi-Taipei cooperation is both mutually beneficial and a pointed signal to China,” the TOI claimed “with the troop disengagement process in eastern Ladakh stalled, Beijing clearly doesn’t respect ‘One India.’ There is no reason then for India to be overly sensitive about China’s territorial claims.”
Editors of the piece seem to be in urgent need to brush up on both history and common sense. The Taiwan question was a result of China’s civil war and is China’s internal affairs. Border disputes are unsettled controversies among different countries. The two things are apples and oranges.
“The TOI has gone way out of line by publicly stating that the island of Taiwan is a country,” Liu Zongyi, secretary-general of the Research Center for China-South Asia Cooperation at Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, told the Global Times on Tuesday. Liu noted what’s concerning is that this editorial may represent the voice of New Delhi.
So far, New Delhi does not have the nerve to break the one-China principle. But Liu said it has been playing tricks behind the scenes. This includes co-hosting forums to spread its concealed motives through dual-track communications. Take the Raisina Dialogue, a multilateral conference hosted by the India-based think tank Observer Research Foundation in partnership with the Indian Ministry of External Affairs. In 2016, Taiwan representative Tien Chung-Kwang was introduced as the “ambassador of embassy of the Republic of China (Taiwan) to India” in the conference booklet.
Observers believe when Indian media outlets get increasingly arrogant over the issue, it is not simply because of the so-called freedom of press. To some extent, they are backed by the government to make breakthroughs step by step, Liu suggested.
After witnessing the US and some of its allies keep raising their voices on the Taiwan question, New Delhi, spoiled by Washington, which keeps cozying up to India, yet merely wants to make the South Asian nation a pawn, starts to have a swollen head to believe it also has a “Taiwan card” to play. It may fantasize it could make China compromise on border disputes by clamoring about the Taiwan question.
But if India really tends to fish in troubled waters over the issue, China has enough tools to shatter its illusions. The Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, including respecting the territorial integrity and sovereignty of each other, is the cornerstone of China-India diplomatic relations. Supporting Taiwan secession is equivalent to violating the principle of the establishment of bilateral ties. In that case, New Delhi should beware of Beijing’s reciprocal countermoves. “One of the measures could be not recognizing Sikkim as a part of India,” Liu told Global Times. If India supports secessionist forces in China, the latter could as well support separatist forces in northeast India in an-eye-for-an-eye manner.
The one thing India should concern the most is definitely not Taiwan, but its own disastrous epidemic. India reported a record rise in COVID-19 infections on Monday. Reuters reported that there were “103,558 new infections” in a single day. At this time, constantly playing up the Taiwan question would only make India appear that it is at its wits’ end – every time India suffers from domestic problems, it ramps up tensions with China to distract the public’s attention.
India is supposed to be a developing country with enormous potential. Even amid the pandemic, it is the world’s biggest maker of vaccines. Unfortunately, the country has only been hurting itself by putting geopolitical tricks in front of everything else.