On August 19, Taiwan Asia Exchange Foundation (TAEF) in association with the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), India’s premier think tank held half-a-day virtual dialogue on a theme “Taiwan, India, and the Indo-Pacific Order: Current Trends and Future Possibilities”. The dialogue was inaugurated by Mr. Gourangalal Das, Director General, India Taipei Association and Mr. Bau Shaun Ger, Representative, Taipei Economic and Cultural Center, India. It was the first time that the two Representatives spoke together in the same panel in a think tank event. The inaugural session was chaired by Prof. Hsin-Huang Michael Hsiao, Chairman, TAEF, where he highlighted the importance of shared values in both Taiwan and India’s foreign policies. Given inclusivity and commitment to a rules-based order are cardinal to both countries’ global outlook, with the emergence of the Indo-Pacific and growing synergies, it has become vital that the engagement between India and Taiwan becomes multidimensional. Mr. Das mentioned that such exchanges and collaborations between the two think tanks are important as they act as an intermediary between India and Taiwan, & help bridging the information gap. Mr. Ger also highlighted the importance of such exchanges for taking the relations forward.
The dialogue was divided into three sessions focusing on different aspects of Taiwan-India relations. Moderated by Prof. Harsh Pant, Director of Studies; Head, Strategic Studies Programme, ORF, the first session focused on the contours of the Indo-Pacific. Four panelists from Australia, Japan, Taiwan, and India illustrated their countries’ respective Indo-Pacific policies and attempted to place Taiwan in the Indo-Pacific. Ms. Natasha Kassam, Director, Director, Public Opinion and Foreign Policy Program, Lowy Institute explained Australia’s position on Taiwan. She pointed out three trends vis-à-vis Australia-Taiwan relations: First, in the past year, there is a positive change in perception in Australia regarding Taiwan due to latter’s COVID-19 response; growing differences between Australia and Taiwan, and Beijing’s increasing pressure on Taiwan, second, the US-Taiwan close relations have an impact on Australia’s Taiwan policy; and third, growing regional support for Taiwan. Tosh Minohara, Professor Kobe University and Chairman, Research Institute for Indo-Pacific Affairs (RIIPA) emphasized on the Japan-US relations and the shared values of Japan and the US with Taiwan. Alan H. Yang, Executive Director, TAEF; Distinguished Professor, Institute of International Relations, National Chengchi University presented Taiwan’s perspective on the Indo-Pacific. China has been consistently using military coercion against Taiwan, that is increasingly alarming for the countries such as Japan and the US. He also highlighted the significance of Taiwan’s New Southbound Policy in its outreach and multifaceted engagement towards the countries of the region. Sana Hashmi, Visiting Fellow, TAEF gave an overview of India’s Indo-Pacific policy and pointed out the need for India’s support for Taiwan’s greater participation in the Indo-Pacific.
Second session deliberated on Taiwan-India Trade, Investment, Technological, and Health Cooperation and included domain experts. It was moderated by Kuan-Ting Chen, CEO, Taiwan NextGen Foundation. Kristy Hsu, Director of Taiwan ASEAN Studies Center, Chung Hua Institution for Economic Research, Taiwan spoke on Taiwan-India economic cooperation. She highlighted Taiwan’s potential role in Modi’s Make in India, and explored ways to strengthen economic ties. Trisha Ray, Associate Fellow, Technology and Media Initiative, ORF gave an overview of tech cooperation between the countries. She was of the opinion that cooperation in the field of 5G and semiconductors could be improved given these two are also important areas of cooperation within the Quad and in the Indo-Pacific. Oommen C. Kurian, Senior Fellow, Health Initiative, ORF, highlighted the importance of health cooperation between India and Taiwan. He opined that it was a missed opportunity for India to not push for Taiwan’s observer status in the World Health Assembly (WHA) when it assumed the chairmanship. However, given Taiwan’s exemplary response to COVID19, it is crucial for India to explore ways to strengthen cooperation in the health sector. Medical education is still an untapped area between India and Taiwan. Taiwan’s experience and response to the COVID-19 will benefit India and therefore, the cooperation in the health sector is mutually beneficial.
Third session on the future of Taiwan-India relations was moderated by I-Chung Lai, President, the Prospect Foundation. He opined that the COVID-19 has changed how countries are interacting with each other including India and Taiwan. Taiwan-India relations is based on merit, and to take the relations forward, it is important to minimize the China factor. Roger Liu, Associate Professor and Chair of the Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies, FLAME University, mentioned about the lack of understanding about India in Taiwan, and about Taiwan’s strategic role in the global context within the Indian strategic circle. To bridge this gap, he emphasized on the importance of exchanging ideas between Indian and Taiwanese strategic circle. Indian and Taiwanese scholars can also work on the South China Sea for scientific exploration. He posed an important question that if China and Sri Lanka can work together in the Bay of Bengal, why is not considered natural for India and Taiwan to work in the Taiwan Strait and elsewhere. Premesha Saha, Associate Fellow, ORF, opined that the India-Taiwan relations should be seen from a broader lens and the relations should be free from the shackles of the China challenge. She also focused on maritime cooperation between the countries. There are several mechanisms through which countries especially India could engage Taiwan in the Indo-Pacific. Some examples include Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI) Partnership, Maritime domain awareness, etc.
The participants offered diverse regional perspectives on Taiwan, India, and the Indo-Pacific order, but there was consensus that the major stakeholders in the Indo-Pacific should promote Taiwan’s greater participation in the Indo-Pacific. Participants were also in agreement regarding the elevation of India-Taiwan relations. The dialogue was concluded with the hope that more such exchanges between India and Taiwan take place and think tanks like ORF and TAEF will continue to contribute to the discourse on Taiwan, India, and the Indo-Pacific.
The links to the webinar :
1. Inaugural Session