Gradual yet seemingly planned warming of ties between India and Taiwan, which China sees as a renegade region, could soon become a new talking point in the choppy Sino-India relations.
State-controlled media lashed out at New Delhi for signing an industrial collaboration MoU with Taipei this month, though China is yet to react officially.
What could particularly annoy Beijing is that the MoU – as per the official statement in Chinese released by Taiwan – was signed between “two nations”.
In the English version, it is referred to as one of the five bilateral agreements signed between “two countries”.
“India and Taiwan island signed a MoU on December 14 to promote mutual industrial cooperation, an alarming move that could sabotage the recent smoothing of Sino-Indian relations, said Chinese experts,” the nationalist tabloid Global Times, affiliated to the Communist Party of China, reported on Wednesday.
The MoU was the fifth bilateral agreement since President Tsai Ing-wen took over as Taiwan’s first woman leader in May 2016.
India has no formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan; the de facto Indian embassy in Taipei is the India-Taipei Association and the Taiwanese maintain the Taipei Economic Cultural Centre in New Delhi.
Beijing opposes any official contact between Taiwan and other countries and has warned India earlier this year to strictly follow the “one-China” policy.
The Chinese foreign ministry had then said it was against any “upgrade” in India-Taiwan ties.
Following the 19th Communist Party Congress in October, there is no doubt that China has at least in words strengthened its plans to unify Taiwan with the mainland. Therefore, Beijing is expected to be more sensitive to any effort by India to inch closer to the democratically-run island nation.
“All activities of splitting the motherland will be resolutely opposed by all the Chinese people. We have firm will, full confidence, and sufficient capability to defeat any form of Taiwan independence secession plot,” President Xi Jinping had said in his opening speech at the party congress.
“India is using the Taiwan question as a bargaining chip in exchange for China’s support and concession on its own territorial disputes,” Wang Dehua, head of the Institute for South and Central Asian Studies at the Shanghai Municipal Center for International Studies, told Global Times.
To mainland experts, President Tsai is exploiting India’s strategic mistrust against China in an effort to expand trade ties with the South Asian giant.
Taiwan, of course, seems happy with the progress in ties with India.
“Relations between India and Taiwan are close and cordial, especially as President Tsai Ing-wen initiated the New Southbound Policy to strengthen Taiwan’s exchanges with India, as well as ASEAN member countries, in May 2016,” an official statement from Taiwan said.
It added that more than 100 Taiwanese companies have invested around US$1.5 billion in India, mostly in the IT, engineering, shipping, shoe manufacturing, finance, chemical, and service industries.
“Bilateral trade reached $4.7 billion from January to September this year, an increase of over 40% compared to the same period last year. India is now Taiwan’s 18th-largest trade partner.”
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