India on a tight rope: Taiwan Strait Tensions stretch foreign policy to its limits
1. Both China and Taiwan are trying to expand their influence around the world, particularly in South Asia (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal etc.) China wants to strengthen its political, military and business influence, where as Taiwan, being a tiny country, wants to strengthen its business influence.
2. India is in a tricky situation. It can’t openly be hostile to China. It can’t openly build good commercial ties with Taiwan. To complicate the matter further for India, it has eagerly entered into a few military-cum-political groupings with the United States. One such grouping is the QUAD (the U.S., Australia, Japan and India). This QUAD group has been formed to openly confront China and stop it from extending its influence. So, India has to be friendly with rival powers such as the United States, China and Taiwan). This puts India in a tight spot.
3. China, despite the animosity with India, has managed to invest $17 billion in India. Chinese exports to South Asia has increased by 500% in 15 years (2005-2020). Taiwan has not been so successful. It exports just $9 billion to South Asia. But, if we consider South East Asia (Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Borneo), Taiwan’s exports are a whopping $70 billion. Quite obviously, Taiwan is selling much more to South East Asia than to South Asia.
4. Taiwan is making vigorous efforts to increase its exports to South Asia, but it can’t do much. This is because none of the South Asian countries recognize Taiwan diplomatically. China has pressured these countries to not recognize China. Still, Taiwan eagerly gives visas to visitors from South Asian countries to go there. Most of these visitors are traders, who buy goods from Taiwan and sell them in their countries. These traders don’t like a armed conflict in the Taiwan Straits. If a war breaks out, all imports from Taiwan will stop.
5. India is a big importer in the world stage. India has increased its trade ties with Taiwan to show to China that Taiwan can be a valuable friend for buying high-tech goods. India and Taiwan have agreed to invest in high-tech products in each other’s countries.
6. India, at the same time says it will go by ‘One-China policy”. It recognizes Chinese ownership of Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan. Because of such ambiguity, India does not taken an open stand in support of either China or Taiwan, when military conflicts happen.
India cleverly manages its relations with other rival nations. Saudi Arabia and Iran are arch enemies, yet India is friendly with both. During the present China-Taiwan tensions, India is under pressure from the United States to side with Taiwan, but India does not want to anger China by doing this. The QUAD was formed by the U.S. leadership to counter China. India is a member of QUAD. So, India not siding with Taiwan will be unacceptable to the United States. Thus, India’s foreign policy is under tremendous pressure.