India is seriously reviewing its stance on Taiwan after the recent presidential election resulted in the victory of William Lai, who is hostile towards China. The election is seen as a serious loss of face for China which backed another candidate in the presidential race.
Chinese officials had tried to push for the success of China-friendly Kuomintang (KMT) in the election. But Taiwanese voters elected the ruling Democratic People’s Party (DPP) for the third term. Besides internal manipulation, China tried to frighten voters into voting for KMT by issuing threats of economic blockade and military action. These efforts failed resulting in a serious loss of its image.
Why Does the Dalai Lama's Message to Taiwan Stand as a Pivotal Diplomatic Development?
Tibetan leader Dalai Lama has sent a congratulatory message to the new president. This is an extremely serious move because Chinese leaders regard the Dalai Lama as a “dangerous separatist”. Though he takes his own decision, the Dalai Lama is in close contact with Indian authorities from his abode in Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh.
The real test of whether India is changing its stance and building a closer relationship with Taiwan will come during the swearing-in ceremony of the new president. The question is whether the event would be attended by BJP MPs or by a minister.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked two BJP MPs, Meenakshi Lekhi and Rahul Kaswan, to virtually attend the swearing-in ceremony of former Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen in 2020. Lekhi is now Minister of State for External Affairs and Culture.
China regards Taiwan as part of its territory and opposes any country including the US to have any diplomatic relations with the island region. Like most countries, India does not have diplomatic relations with Taiwan. But it conducts economic and business communication through an industry body based in Taipei.
It is not clear if the Dalai Lama will visit Taiwan, something that can inflame passions in China. “As a Buddhist monk, I try my best to fulfil their (Taiwanese) requests for teachings and spiritual guidance from time to time,” the Dalai Lama said.
After congratulating the new president, the Tibetan leader said, “Indeed, observing the exercise of democracy, as has just taken place in Taiwan, is a source of encouragement for all of us who aspire to live in freedom and dignity”.
“The Taiwanese people have not only developed a flourishing, robust democracy but have also achieved a great deal in terms of economics and education, while at the same time preserving their rich traditional culture,” he said.
His reference to democracy in Taiwan has damaged the image of the Communist dictatorship in China.
New Delhi's Stern Position on Beijing
India took a bold stance when it told China in 2022 not to change the status quo in the Taiwanese Straits. The statement came after China flew jet fighters and tried to threaten Taiwan with a military attack. China has not renounced plans for a military takeover of Taiwan.
New Delhi has sent out a clear message that it wants to enhance its relationship with the island which is a semiconductor powerhouse. Two-way trade between India and Taiwan has risen from $1.19 billion in 2001 to $8.45 billion in 2022.
“We have substantial technology, economic and commercial relations with Taiwan, and certainly Taiwan has a reputation when it comes to electronics, and of course, more recently, with semiconductors. So, there has been an upswing in the levels of cooperation,” External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said last year.