Checkmating China

India and China have seen many ups and downs in their relationship. The Chinese aggression last year has forced New Delhi to rethink on its China strategy. In such a situation, it is imperative that India explore alternate routes to tame the dragon….

Opinion

By Pranay Kumar Shome

Recognizing Taiwan: Establishing formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan after recognizing should be vigorously pursued by South Block. Indo-Taiwan ties date back to the early 1950s when Chiang Kai Shek, the ex-Chinese president and former head of state fled to the island of Formosa following the victory of Mao Zedong in the long drawn out Chinese civil war, called on Nehru to establish and further ties with Formosa. However, Nehru believing that Chiang was nothing but a “peanut” decided to ignore his call, choosing instead to concentrate on building ties with People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Seven decades on, plethora of changes has taken place on the foreign affairs front, while both China and India have developed considerable military and economic strength. The dragon has surpassed elephant to become an economic powerhouse in its own might. It has now embraced aggressiveness to enforce its 5th century vision of the ‘Middle Kingdom’. In such a situation providing legitimacy to the existence of Taiwan is a necessary first step.

Paradigm shift in policy

Establishing formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan will bring about a paradigm shift vis-à-vis India’s foreign policy. It will enforce the idea that liberal democracy is the last word in the battle of ideologies as Francis Fukuyama had visualized in his magnum opus book ‘The End of History and the Last Man’ and that there is no alternative to human rights and liberties, not even the Chinese model of ‘authoritarian development’. It will be the boldest step that any global leader has taken, not even the mighty US has taken this risky step which has no formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan because it is quite apprehensive at upsetting the trade balance with China despite all the bravado against the dragon.

Recognizing Taiwan will bring a lot of benefits for India’s – first, Taiwan is a robust democracy with a rapidly expanding economy, it will prove to be an excellent alternative to China albeit in a relatively less proportion. Second, India can bolster the legitimacy as the leader of the democratic world at a time when the democratic institutions in the US-often regarded as the cradle of democracy has been undermined.

Third, India can get the support of another powerful ally in its attempt to carve out a new supply chain alliance which India-Japan-Australia formalized recently. Fourth, recognizing Taiwan will make it clear to China that India means some serious business and if the need arises then India will not back down from sending dedicated naval and air assets in the disputed South China Sea region to enforce freedom of navigation principle in the resource rich region.

Last, the Quad security grouping will be institutionalized which in the near future can even be extended to include new members. It will be the first time that India will be a part of any dedicated military and economic alliance which will deter the aggression of the Chinese war machine in the strategic Indo-Pacific Region.

Caveats remain

However the recognition may invite severe ramifications for India. China will be infuriated and can choose to ratchet up tensions with India. India must be extremely careful while dealing with China as China is our second largest bilateral trade partner and a key export partner of India with regard to raw materials and goods. According to a FICCI report, India imports more than 38% of several important goods like the API (Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients), chemicals, chips, textiles etc.

China as a possible retaliatory measure will activate its propaganda machinery to wage psychological warfare against India. It can also activate its clandestine terror financing networks which for years remained a chronic internal security for India in the northeast of the country. Further, China can use its potent disinformation propaganda machinery to try and peddle fake news about the credibility of India’s indigenous vaccines at a time when the light at the end of the tunnel of a pandemic stricken world has finally appeared and is growing brighter by the day.

Exercising caution

Keeping all the dangers in mind, the Modi government must keep national interests in mind. For the sake of the free world, India must take the hard step which will reinforce India’s position as a responsible major power.

– The writer is currently working as a Trainee Research Associate at Defence Research and Studies (dras.in) and is a columnist. The views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of Raksha Anirveda