China has taken umbrage at two BJP MPs, Meenakshi Lekhi and Rahul Kaswan, virtually participating in the recent swearing-in ceremony of Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen. Both MPs were among 92 dignitaries that included US secretary of state Mike Pompeo, who virtually attended the ceremony. But China has registered a protest against India’s participation on the ground that India officially adheres to the ‘One China’ principle which sees Taiwan as part of China.
It’s true that India does indeed adhere to the ‘One China’ principle. But that shouldn’t stop us from expanding appropriate relations with Taiwan which enjoys de facto sovereignty. After all, the US too subscribes to a ‘One China’ policy, but that hasn’t stopped Washington from having significant cooperation — including defence sales — with Taipei. Besides, when China itself doesn’t adhere to ‘One India’ and lays claims to Arunachal Pradesh, why should New Delhi bend over backwards to please Beijing? Nor does Beijing consult New Delhi when it carries out activities in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir, which India claims. So why should New Delhi seek permission for pursuing reasonable relations with Taiwan?
Meanwhile, Taiwan has been an excellent example of containing the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and wants to share its medical experience with the world. It has even donated face masks for frontline medical workers in India. Yet, Beijing has been unjustly blocking Taipei’s participation at the WHO. Add to this the ongoing border tensions between Indian and Chinese troops in eastern Ladakh. Against this backdrop, India should be open to boosting ties with Taiwan in an appropriate form. China can’t set the rules of engagement for everyone in Asia. Beijing’s assertiveness and unreasonable demands must be countered.