What Can India Do In China-Taiwan Crisis?

Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan or China's reaction to the visit did not surprise people in India, but the timing of it raised many eyebrows

The political observers and the foreign policy experts in India were not shocked when the Chinese military launched its biggest military drill in the Taiwan Strait.

The Eastern Theatre Command of the People’s Liberation Army pressed into action 22 aircraft, many missiles, warships, destroyers and frigates to encircle the island and bully it.

Beijing claims Taiwan is its breakaway province that needs to be unified with the mainland peacefully but forcefully if needed. But Taipei considers itself a self-governed territory, distinct from the mainland.

China was furious when the US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan despite its stiff opposition and a stern warning.

It was the visit of the highest ever US official in 25 years.

Nancy Pelosi, the 82-year-old Democrat lawmaker is an old critic of China and its policies and a sworn enemy of communism and the Chinese Communist Party.

Her visit to Taiwan or China’s reaction to the visit did not surprise people in India, but the timing of the visit raised many eyebrows.

They whispered, “Why now, what China has done recently to provoke the US and what Pelosi wants to achieve?”

But many experts in India asked their friends and colleagues, “What India can do in a similar situation if the tension escalates and Beijing thinks that enough is enough?”
China was the first to react.

Chinese ambassador to India Sun Weidong expressed hope that India will continue to adhere to its old One-China policy.

One-China policy means there is only one China, the territory with its capital in Beijing.

Talking to the media in Delhi, he said, “It is hoped that India can honour the one-China principle, grasp the vicious political intention behind Pelosi’s visit and the serious harms of the ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist force.”

It was a warning in sugar-coated words. Beijing tried to emphasize that New Delhi need not jump into the crisis and fish in troubled waters, keeping in mind the Ladakh foray of the Chinese army two years back.

As expected, India did not take the opportunity to settle scores with its estranged neighbour.

But how long New Delhi can keep its fingers crossed if a full-fledge war erupts in its neighbourhood?

Will it honour the One-China principle and keep itself completely aloof in the war?
Will New Delhi succumb to the US pressure and send its warships on the pretext of keeping the trade routes free? Will it come out gun blazing to safeguard the freedom at sea?

As ‌Indian society is undergoing a transformation and paradigm shift in recent years, so is Indian diplomacy.

Narendra Modi invited Taiwanese ambassador Chung Kwang Tien and President of the Central Tibetan Administration Lobsang Sangay to his swearing-in ceremony in 2014.

Two MPs of the ruling BJP attended the swearing-in ceremony of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, though in virtual mode.

India condoled the death of former Taiwanese President Lee Tien Hui in 2020.

Taiwan’s national day was celebrated in a big way in Delhi in 2020 and posters were put near the Chinese embassy.

India sent a top career diplomat Gauranga Lal Das to its trade office in Taipei in 2020.
India has no formal diplomatic relation with Taiwan under the One China policy.

The two countries have trade offices in each other’s capital and these work as a de-facto embassy.

Gauranga Lal Das was a Joint Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs and the highest level diplomat to take charge of the Taipei trade office.

The hawks in the south block believe that India must exert itself and flex its muscles if required. They argue that India should settle scores with China and exploit the situation to put the dragon under pressure.

The over-excited party leaders and enthusiast nationalists want to hit Beijing where it is vulnerable.

But the majority of the foreign policy mandarins suggest treading with caution and not angering the dragon.

What if India gets tempted?

Pramode Mallik

is former BBC Producer and a commentator on international affairs.

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One Comment

  1. What India can do for Taiwan, China can do for Kashmir. It can recognize Kashmir’s independence and the troubled north eastern states. We can do nothing to help Taiwan other than gestures because Taiwan is so far away but China can create all kinds of problems in India since it right next door. So, India needs to tread with caution. We should safeguard our interests to the utmost but nothing will be gained by provoking China on an issue where our stand makes no difference on the outcome of the issue.

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