China has reacted angrily to reports of possible talks between India and Taiwan on a trade deal at a time when there is a growing debate in New Delhi on whether the government should review its relationship with Taipei against the backdrop of the border standoff in Ladakh.
India’s relations with Taiwan: India and Taiwan do not have formal diplomatic relations but since 1995, both sides have maintained representative offices in each other’s capitals that function as de facto embassies. However, in a sign of the sensitivities involved, both offices don’t mention the word “Taiwan” in their names. Taiwan has the Taipei Economic and Cultural Center in New Delhi, and India has the India Taipei Association in Taipei.
India has backed the “one-China principle”, whereby countries formally recognise and have diplomatic ties only with China, and this has found mention in bilateral documents. In mid-2018, when relations between India and China were on the mend following the military standoff at Doklam, state-run Air India changed the name of Taiwan to Chinese Taipei on its website, in line with similar moves by other airlines following protests from Beijing.
At the time, the external affairs ministry spokesperson had said the decision was “entirely consistent with international norms and our own position on Taiwan since 1949”.
However, India and Taiwan recently posted highly regarded diplomats as de facto envoys in each other’s capitals, signalling a desire to give impetus to their ties. India named Gourangalal Das, an up-and-coming diplomat handling relations with the US, as its representative in Taipei. Taiwan appointed Baushuan Ger, who was director general of the department of East Asian and Pacific affairs and had served in the US, as its representative in India.
At the time, Taiwan News portal reported “the relationship with India is likely to become one of Taiwan’s most important diplomatic priorities in the future”.