India’s vaccine diplomacy reaches Taiwan
Even as India doesn’t formally recognises Taiwan, its foreign policy seems to increasingly focus on the strategic importance of Taipei
India has provided Covid-19 vaccination shots to more than 90 countries and one of them is Paraguay, which received 100,000 doses of India’s Covaxin vaccine last month.
Apparently, this step came after a request from Taiwan. This was reflected in an April statement by Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu that the Chinese government had tried to convince Paraguay to drop Taiwan as a diplomatic ally in exchange for vaccine doses.
“In the last few weeks, we have been speaking to like-minded countries, including Japan, the United States, India etc., and India fortunately has been able to provide some Covaxin vaccines to Paraguay,” Wu said.
Despite New Delhi’s own statements that the vaccines were in fact delivered at the request of Paraguay, it was evident that, one way or another, Taiwan is increasingly going to be at the center of emerging fault lines in the Indo-Pacific, opined Director of Research at ORF Harsh V Pant and associate at ORF Premesha Saha in an article published in Foreignpolicy.com.
Like most countries, India does not formally recognize Taiwan and adheres to the “One China” policy that has become the global norm. But, at the same time, its foreign policy seems to increasingly recognize the strategic importance of Taiwan and the benefits of more comprehensive bilateral ties, especially after the 2020 Galwan Valley clash with China.
The two authors noted that the economic benefits of increased partnership between India and Taiwan are clear. For one, India’s huge market provides Taiwan with major investment opportunities. The two signed a bilateral trade agreement in 2018.
In 2019, trade between the two countries grew 18 percent, and around 200 Taiwanese companies in tech and manufacturing now operate in India.
There are also joint projects in the works, including a $200 million investment agreement between Optiemus Infracom, an Indian telecommunications firm, and the Taiwanese Wistron Corp. to make telecom products in India.
The central government has even suggested the possibility of a free trade agreement with Taiwan on the lines of the cooperation agreements that Taiwan maintains with Singapore and New Zealand.
Further, the authors noted that Taiwan has an important role to play in the security and stability of the wider Indo-Pacific, especially at a time when China is threatening Taiwan more blatantly than ever before. The Indo-Pacific cannot be fully inclusive without Taiwan becoming integral to the larger regional bodies. New Delhi seems willing to reciprocate and move to substantially elevate ties with Taipei against the backdrop of its deteriorating ties with China.
Acknowledgement of these dynamics has come at a time when other countries, such as the United States and Australia, are changing their stance toward Taiwan as well.
Concluding the article, both authors noted that beyond China question, India and Taiwan have plenty of opportunities for each other in the areas of trade, research, global health, technology (electronics, semiconductors, and 5G, where Taiwan is one of the global exemplars), tourism, and the like