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Friday, 28 September 2012

Tsai visit boosts India-Taiwan ties (PO)

By M D Nalapat


Although very much smaller in size and population, Taiwan has double the foreign exchange reserves and foreign trade of India.Jawaharlal Nehru adopted a policy of siding with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its newly-established Peoples Republic of China (PRC) rather than the Kuomintang (KMT),which shifted to Taiwan in 1949.That was the first of many diplomatic moves that Nehru made to separate from the US the country whose foreign policy he single-handedly controlled since 1947,India.Because of his admiration for the USSR and its system of centralised planning (which Nehru - again without consultations with other individuals in the Congress Party or the government - adopted), the then Prime Minister of India fashioned a diplomatic posture that was usually on the side of Moscow rather than Washington. Certainly the fact that President Harry Truman reversed the anti-colonial policy of Franklin Roosevelt and aligned Washington firmly with European colonial powers helped propel India away from the US. However,it was equally true that such ideals as liberty and democracy were often cast aside by Nehru,especially when the USSR invaded Hungary in 1957 and, earlier, had in effect converted several countries in Eastern Europe into colonies of Moscow.

Nehru’s spurning of the KMT showed a lack of gratitude on his part.KMT supremo Chiang Kai-shek and his exquisite spouse Soong Mei-ling had strongly supported freedom for India at every meeting they had with the irascible and wholly racist Prime Minister of the United Kingdom,Winston Churchill.The strong support given to the freedom movement by the KMT was a source of considerable annoyance to Churchill,who regarded it as just that his nation should rule over India in perpetuity.However,Chiang’s backing for Indian independence was forgotten by Nehru,who rejected his Taipei-based government to become one of the first three countries to recognize the PRC. After that,relations between Taiwan and India shrank to nothing, a state of affairs which continued till the mid-1990s,when Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao established formal ties with both Taiwan as well as Israel.

Rao focused on the economy, which for the first time since 1947 was to an extent freed of the Soviet-style constraints that had bound it since Nehru’s time,thereby condemning the economy to a measly rate of growth less than half that of Pakistan at the time. He saw that Taiwan had become a trading giant,rich in capital and in technology,and wanted the Indian economy to get the benefit of that. Encouraged by a small and informal group of advisors, Prime Minister Rao overrode opposition from within the government to establish ties with Taiwan.

Since then,these have grown considerably,such that both sides now issue visas to each other,and have signed a Double Taxation (Avoidance) Agreement. By 2013,it is expected that an India-Taiwan Free Trade Agreement will get signed,complementing the free trade agreement that Taipei signed with Beijing in 2008,and which brought several advantages to Taiwan. While it was the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) regime in Taipei (2000-2008) that first gave a boost to “IT” (India-Taiwan relations), the successor regime led by the KMT leader Ma Ying-jeou has carried forward this momentum. Indeed, Ma made a very successful visit to India less than a year before being elected President of Taiwan in 2008 In democracies,opposition parties are as important as ruling parties.Which is why it has been a handicap that the Manmohan Singh government lacked the courage to welcome DPP leader Tsai Ing-wen to India for four years,because of fear that Beijing would react negatively.

Although many of her close advisors have visited India several times,yet the Manmohan Singh government kept Madame Tsai from coming to India.Only this month,now that she has relinquished the post of DPP Chairperson and conceded the Presidential election to incumbent Ma Ying-jeou, has South Block discovered enough reserves of courage to agree to a visit by Madame Tsai. Clearly,the odour of the USSR-hugging past still hangs heavy over the Government of India, so that it sees nothing incongruous in keeping at bay the leader of one of the two main parties in a full-fledged democracy that is rapidly expanding its commercial relations with India.

Even though a visa was finally issued to the DPP leader (who is likely to contest again for the Presidency of Taiwan in 2016,and this time emerge successful), it is a shameful fact that the eminent statesperson was received on September 19 at Delhi airport only by the Taiwan Representative in India rather than by a dignitary of the Ministry of External Affairs,as she ought to have been Fortunately,Tsai Ing-wen is a homespun individual,who has little use for diplomatic niceties.Indeed,she travelled by train from Delhi to Mumbai on September 23,rather than go by air the way all - repeat all - other international political notables have. While in Mumbai,Madame Tsai stayed in an unpretentious but quality hotel,the Ambassador,and could frequently be seen walking down the streets of Mumbai with other members of her delegation.She has set an example in simple conduct that few international leaders - or their domestic counterparts - follow.

The long-delayed visit of the charismatic DPP leader Tsai Ing-wen to India is evidence of the close ties between India andTaiwan.It would be safe to predict that in the future,many Taiwanese companies and many,many Taiwanese tourists will come to India. Shared business and cultural interests bind Taipei and Delhi together, in a way that does not at all go against the interests of Taiwan’s giant neighbour,China,a country which has the potential to emerge as a close strategic partner of India during the next five years. Analysts expect that Xi Jinping,the new Chinese leader will within a year make a visit to India,his first ever,so that the two countries better tap the immense synergies they possess.
http://pakobserver.net/detailnews.asp?id=175692

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