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Modi’s Nod To Closer Ties With Taiwan Suggests India’s Evolving ‘Act East Policy’

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Modi’s Nod To Closer Ties With Taiwan Suggests India’s Evolving ‘Act East Policy’

Authored by Venus Upadhayaya via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

After being sworn in as India’s prime minister for a third consecutive term, Narendra Modi received congratulatory messages from a diverse array of world leaders around the globe.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi gives a victory symbol at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) headquarters in New Delhi on June 4, 2024. (Adnan Abidi/Reuters)

However, one leader who stood out was Taiwan’s newly elected president, Lai Ching-te. In response to his message, Mr. Modi not only thanked Mr. Lai but reciprocated with a message highlighting the strengthening ties between China’s two frontline adversaries.

Geopolitical analysts told The Epoch Times that the exchange of messages between the two leaders shows that India’s Act East policy—an initiative to promote economic, strategic, and cultural relations within the Asia-Pacific region—is shaping up and now encompasses Taiwan. The cordial exchange also highlights strategic concerns shared by the two countries, and their mutual dependence for economic growth.

India’s Act East policy is taking shape, while its definition and scope of ‘Indo-Pacific’ is broadening. New Delhi used to be focused on East Africa and up to the Malacca Strait. However, over the last few years, it has engaged in port calls in [the] Philippines, PNG [Papua New Guinea] and actively pursued relations with Taiwan, thus expanding from Malacca Strait to the Taiwan Strait,” Akhil Ramesh, a geo-political analyst who leads the India program at the Honolulu-based Pacific Forum, said.

Taiwan is currently recognized as a sovereign nation by only 12 nations. While India hasn’t officially recognized Taiwan, diplomatic relations between the two countries have been on the rise, particularly since 2020’s bloody Galwan conflict caused Indo–China relations to plunge. Taiwan’s exports to India increased by 13 percent last year, and as of February 2024, Taiwanese businesses have made investments in India.

Ming-Shih Shen, director of national security research at Taipei’s Institute for National Defense and Security Research, told The Epoch Times in an email that the interaction between Mr. Lai and Mr. Modi on social media platform X is based on what they want from each other.

Taiwan President Lai Ching-te needs the attention and support of the international community and hopes to cooperate with regional powers to deter China, because India can threaten China from the west, and Taiwan and India have a common geopolitical interest, so there is more space for cooperation,” Mr. Shen said.

Taiwan’s President Lai Ching-te delivers his inaugural speech after being sworn into office at the Presidential Office Building in Taipei, on May 20, 2024. (Sam Yeh/AFP via Getty Images)
Modi’s and Lai’s Interaction

The interaction between Mr. Modi and Mr. Lai occurred immediately after the election results were declared on June 4 and before Mr. Modi was formally sworn in on June 9.

My sincere congratulations to Prime Minister @narendramodi on his election victory,” Mr. Lai said in a message on X on June 5. “We look forward to enhancing the fast-growing #Taiwan-#India partnership, expanding our collaboration on trade, technology & other sectors to contribute to peace & prosperity in the #IndoPacific.”

In response, Mr. Modi thanked Mr. Lai for his “warm message” and said he looks forward to “closer ties” as India and Taiwan “work towards mutually beneficial economic and technological partnership.”

The exchange between the two newly elected leaders garnered considerable attention online. Mr. Lai’s message has 2.5 million views to date, while Mr. Modi’s response has 2.7 million views. However, the exchange didn’t go over well in China.

At a regular news conference on June 6, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning not only protested the interaction between Mr. Modi and Mr. Lai, but denied the existence of a Taiwanese president.

“First of all, there is no such thing as ‘president’ of the Taiwan region,” Ms. Mao said in response to a question by a Bloomberg reporter. “As for your question, China opposes all forms of official interactions between the Taiwan authorities and countries having diplomatic relations with China. There is but one China in the world. Taiwan is an inalienable part of the territory of the People’s Republic of China.”

Ms. Mao told reporters that China had already lodged a protest with India about Mr. Modi’s response to Mr. Lai.

“The one-China principle is a universally recognized norm in international relations and a prevailing consensus in the international community,” she said. “India has made serious political commitments on this and is supposed to recognize, be alarmed about, and resist the Taiwan authorities’ political calculations. China has protested to India about this.”

Indian Border Security Force troops patrol as an Indian army convoy passes through on a highway leading toward Leh, which borders China, in Gagangir, India, on June 19, 2020. (Yawar Nazir/Getty Images)
Toward a Shared Global Footprint

Experts say that a shared Chinese threat has actually drawn Taiwan and India together. The two countries have shared interests, and Mr. Modi’s response to Mr. Lai gives a clear message that their relationship is governed by that. The Indian prime minister’s response also denotes India’s wish to graduate from a regional role to a larger role in the world.

“India is reaching higher and wants to play a larger role in global affairs. So far, it has limited itself to [being] a regional player dealing with a string of pearls and other challenges China poses,” said Mr. Ramesh. “By stretching itself far and wide, to Taiwan in the East and East Africa in the West, or the more recent IMEC [India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor], India wants to expand its global footprint.”

By expanding that footprint, India is aiming at “global leadership, power through increased trade and commercial activity,” he said.

Mr. Shen said that India doesn’t necessarily need Taiwan to compete with China. However, Taiwan’s chip and semiconductor technology has become a new cooperation sector between the two countries, one that can help India to promote high tech and enhance its economy.

“Especially after Taiwan has begun to invest in India, in the future, if it wants to improve India’s semiconductor technology or artificial intelligence development, Taiwan is an indispensable partner,” he said.

During his second tenure, Mr. Modi’s government began the country’s ambitious semiconductor mission with an outlay of $10 billion in 2021. It advanced toward the goal with the Indian cabinet’s approval early this year of three new plants, which are estimated to generate 20,000 advanced technology jobs and about 60,000 indirect jobs.

Perhaps the most strategically important of these is a semiconductor fabrication plant worth $11 billion by India’s Tata Group, in collaboration with Taiwan’s Powerchip Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp. The facility will be located in Dholera, Gujarat, in western India.

According to the Taipei Economic and Cultural Center, which represents Taiwan diplomatically in India, the investments in India until February of this year were primarily in electronics, information and communication technology, petrochemicals, steel, shipping, footwear manufacturing, automotive and motorcycle components, finance, and construction industries.

Mr. Shen predicted that Taiwan–India relations will continue to deepen and strengthen.

“In addition to open economic, trade and scientific and technological exchanges, maybe more in security and defense industry cooperation will begin as the relationship between the two countries gradually deepens. India needs [to] strengthen its defense and aviation industry capabilities, and Taiwan needs the defense industry cooperation market,” he said.

An outdoor screen shows news coverage of China’s military drills around Taiwan, in Beijing on May 23, 2024. China began on May 23 what it called “Joint Sword-2024A” exercises, surrounding Taiwan with warplanes and navy ships and vowing “stern punishment” of separatist forces on the island. (Jade Gao/AFP via Getty Images)

The Taiwanese analyst doesn’t believe that India will establish formal relations with Taiwan because it doesn’t want conflict with China. However, if it wants to strengthen its economy and develop enhanced comprehension of China’s military intelligence, it must look to Taiwan.

Mr. Shen said the main reason for China’s anger at the interaction between Mr. Modi and Mr. Lai is fear.

“China is afraid that the relationship between Taiwan and India will deepen, so that the Sino–Indian border sovereignty issue and the conflict in the Taiwan Strait will be merged, and China’s enemies may form alliances and cooperation.”

That situation will be a “nightmare” for communist party leader Xi Jinping, Mr. Shen said.

Tyler Durden Wed, 06/19/2024 – 15:30

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