Conflicts - TensionsSouth Asia

Broader ties projected between India, Taiwan


A potential deterrent to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) escalating its aggression toward Taiwan sits more than 4,000 kilometers west of the self-governed island. It’s the nation of India, which is confronting a long-standing border dispute with the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

India has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan and released a joint statement with the PRC in 2008 affirming that its One China policy “remained unaltered” and that New Delhi would “oppose any activity that is against” that principle.

Subsequent public declarations haven’t been abundant, however, after the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) failed to reciprocate with an endorsement of the One India policy, which defines Arunachal Pradesh as part of India. The CCP’s snub meant a continuing dispute over the northeast Indian state, which Beijing claims as its territory. It also likely contributed to a change in India’s messaging. In August 2022, for instance, India said it opposed any unilateral change to the status quo over Taiwan, which the PRC threatens to annex by force.

Some changes in the India-PRC relationship have been nuanced, such as Indian diplomats now receiving Chinese language training in Taipei rather than Beijing, Tanvi Madan, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said in a January 2024 edition of the United States-based think tank’s Global India podcast.

Other developments point directly to a pronounced downturn in bilateral ties, including:

  • Beijing’s 2023 release of a new version of its purported boundaries that claimed Arunachal Pradesh as part of the PRC. The Indian state is at the eastern end of the 3,380-kilometer disputed border known as the Line of Actual Control, where a PLA buildup has heightened tensions, sparking a deadly clash between the nations’ forces in 2020.
  • In 2022, India accused the PRC of militarizing the Taiwan Strait, a vital global trade route. Analysts said India’s tougher rhetoric could be part of a new bargaining strategy. “Knowing that China does not want escalation on multiple fronts, India is venturing to create a new leverage where none existed before, by calling China out on Taiwan,” Wen-ti Sung, a political scientist at the Australian National University, told The Guardian newspaper.
  • In January 2024, Manharsinh Laxmanbhai Yadav, director-general of the India Taipei Association, New Delhi’s de facto embassy in Taiwan, congratulated Taiwan’s newly elected leaders. Lai Ching-te’s victory in the presidential election keeps the Democratic Progressive Party in power for a third term despite the PRC’s warnings over Lai’s pro-sovereignty views. “Together, we [India and Taiwan] are united by our unwavering commitment to democratic values and I believe that by working in closer collaboration, we can advance these shared principles and foster a more peaceful world,” said Yadav, according to the Focus Taiwan news agency.

That lauding of Taiwan’s democratic process and the promise of further collaboration signaled a turning point for India, said Jagannath Panda, head of the Stockholm Center for South Asian and Indo-Pacific Affairs at the Institute for Security and Development Policy in Sweden.

India’s ambiguity toward the PRC-Taiwan issue, Panda wrote in a February 2024 essay for The Diplomat magazine, could be replaced by a “movement in favor of the emerging regional architecture with like-minded partners like Japan and the United States, which aims to counter China’s military and economic belligerence.”

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