India-Taiwan relationship gets complex amidst global players –


Yang Lan and Lin Xinyou

Taipei, March 9, 2019

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi with US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania at the White House (PIB Photo)

The term ‘Indo-Pacific’ has become the key word for current international observers and foreign policy communities to comment on the situation in the Asian region, as well as the focus of international media and public opinion. 

From a geopolitical point of view, it connects the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean in a marine layout, rapidly forming a new political and economic interest community, or a supra regional complex. 

This is a Japanese-born concept, but with the repeated emphasis of US President Donald Trump, all circles have focused on the US-Indo-Strategy (Indo- Pacific Strategy, IPS).

Trump’s Twist and Turn

Trump’s ‘Indo-Pacific turn’ was pushed to some extent by the ‘Asia-Pacific’ structure of the Obama era, and it strengthened the strategy for the surrounding areas of the Indian Ocean.

By highlighting the two elements of freedom and openness, the political and strategic layout of the countries and regions along the two sides of the ocean will be reshaped.

Indo-Taiwan Concept

The White House released the US National Security Strategy at the end of 2017, officially including the “Indo-Taiwan” concept in official documents, clearly pointing out the political influence, military layout and economic incentives of China in the Indo-Pacific region.

The internal freedom of trade, national sovereignty, regional stability, and the beliefs and principles of freedom and openness have had an impact. Coupled with the nuclear threat on the Korean peninsula, it will also erode the stable operation of the regional order, and the ‘Free and Open India-Pacific Strategy” (FOIP) will become an important pillar for the Trump administration to consolidate the interests of the US overseas.

There is only one ‘Indian,’ but not every ‘region’ country fully supports the ‘US version’ of the Indo-Pacific strategic connotation. For example, Japan, India, Australia, Taiwan, and even the ASEAN countries have their own concerns about the Indo-Pacific region, the interpretation of the Indian-Pacific strategy, and the interests of the Indian-Taiwan environment. Indo-Pacific strategies.

Indian Strategy

Faced with the active promotion and strategy of all parties, India, which is located in the core position of the Indian Ocean, must have its own strategic vision. Chen Dingding of China’s Jinan University believes that India, as a big country, is one of the most important proponents of the Indian Strategy. It can take advantage of the opportunity to justify his interests in Southeast Asia and expand its presence in East Asia.

At the same time, it can also strengthen the political, economic and military cooperation with the United States and its allies, and thus strengthen India’s international influence.

Indo-US Partnership

In January 2018, the Indian Observer Research Foundation and the Heritage Foundation and the Hudson Institute jointly released a copy of ‘The New India-US Partnership in the Indo-Pacific: Peace, Prosperity and Security Research Report.’ 

It mentioned partnership in defence trade and technology, freedom of navigation and safety in the sea, marine economy, infrastructure and regional links, digital links, trade and technology. The two sides have a clear understanding of cooperation in these areas for mutual benefit.

India’s weight

But this does not mean India and the United States share a common India-Pacific Strategy. 

In June 2018, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was invited to be the Keynote speaker at the Shangri-La Dialogue. His speech highlighted India’s political and strategic weight in the India-Pacific region. 

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the ‘Shangri-La Dialogue’ (AFP/PIB Photo)

In particular, he pointed out that India’s interaction with countries is the foundation of regional peace and prosperity, saying that the Straits of Malacca and the South China Sea are connected to the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean, and that they are also tied to regional countries, society and people.

Mr Modi said that India will strengthen its links with neighbouring countries in politics, national defence and the economy, establishing an institutional chain. 

These include strategic partnerships and free trade agreements with ASEAN, comprehensive economic partnership agreements with Singapore, and comprehensive strategic partnerships with Indonesia. They also do not rule out deepening cooperation with countries such as the United States, China and East Asia.

Mr Modi clearly expressed India’s position on the India-Pacific strategy and the establishment of a free and open Indo-Pacific region. 

He said, “India is a natural region, not a strategy, nor a group with limited members or trying to occupy a dominant position. There is no intention for a specific country. India’s vision for the Indo-Pacific region is positive and diverse.”

Free and Open Field

They all agree that the Indo-Pacific region is a free and open field. The interaction and cooperation of regional countries have made an extremely important contribution to regional stability. 

India’s traditional perception of security follows the spread of concentric circles in Mandala. The logic, which gradually spreads out from the Indian continent, covers the vast areas of the East Coast of Africa to the West Coast of the United States. In this regard, India must highlight ‘inclusiveness,’ while India is always cautious in following past experience for sensitive issues or power politics.

Indo-Chinese concept

For the strategic community in India or South Asia, India’s geopolitical and strategic concepts are not new ideas. After India’s independence, it faced the conflict between the North and its neighbours in the West, which made it impossible for the governments of all periods to formulate an effective and consistent ocean policy. 

Important strategic documents guide the mission and goals of the development of the Indian Navy, and put forward important strategic ideas, stating that India should establish a curved zone from the Persian Gulf to Malacca as a regional area for legal activities and ensuring benefits. . In addition, these documents have gradually expanded the areas of concern to India to the adjacent oceans, and standardised the “core and secondary interest areas.”

India believes that the existing resources should be placed in the “core interest zone,” including the import and export (strategic throat) connected to the Indian Ocean, the Indian Ocean Island countries, the Persian Gulf and the international waterway crossing the Indian Ocean; and the “Secondary Interest Zone,” waters connected by the Indian Ocean including the South Indian Ocean, the Red Sea, the South China Sea and the Eastern Pacific.

The situation in these areas directly affects India’s interests in the “core interest zone.” 

In fact, the linkage relationship between the core interest area and the secondary interest area extends to the entire Indian Ocean, and it also covers parts of the Pacific Ocean.

It is an important foundation and context for India to look at the development of the Indo-Pacific region from the strategic layout of the ocean.

The Delhi Dialogue

Indian policy and strategic community’s cognition and proposition of Indo-Taiwan In addition to Modi’s announcement on Shangri-La, India and the 10 ASEAN countries held the “Delhi Dialogue” at which India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj echoed her Prime Minister’s views on the Indian strategy. She spoke to the ASEAN countries, emphasising that the Indo-Taiwan region must abide by the rules of freedom, openness and tolerance.

India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj speaking at the ‘Delhi Dialogue’ (PTI Picture)

These rules are in line with the norms of international identity and also indicate India and ASEAN should strengthen cooperation between sea and air, especially for non-traditional security issues.

At the Third Indian Ocean Forum (2018, Hanoi), Ms Swaraj reiterated that the Indian Ocean is a core element of the Indo-Pacific region. It can be seen that the Indian Foreign Ministry is trying to win over Southeast Asian countries or ASEAN itself as a partner for stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.

On the other hand, India has also extended its reach to East Asia, especially with Japan.

This is the best practice of the “East Bank Policy.”

East Bank Policy

Mr Modi has maintained good relations with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe since he took office in 2014. Japan is the only Eastern country to establish a diplomatic mechanism for mutual visits year after year. In addition, India and Japan are both early members of the “Quadruple Dialogue” (Quad), even after it faced the problem of mistrust caused by Australia.

Tokyo has also become New Delhi’s most popular economic partner under the energy accumulated by the “Dongwang Policy” and the current “East Bank Policy.” 

In the past five years, Japan has invested an average of about US$ 5 billion in India each year, accounting for about 6% of Japan’s total overseas investment and for about half of Japan’s direct investment in China. 

The strategic relationship between India and Japan has an indicative value for the concept or model of the Indo-Pacific region or strategy.

Regional Security

From the perspective of regional security, from the past Pearl Chain Strategy to the current Belt and Road Initiative, China’s influence in the Indian Ocean is increasingly strong. 

Sunil Lamba, Chief of Indian Navy, stressed at the India-Taiwan group discussion of the “Thunderang Dialogue” held this year, that China has six to eight naval vessels or submarines in the Northern Indian Ocean and established in East Africa.

The first overseas military base has already surpassed Beijing’s motives of “combating piracy and protecting trade.” The Indian Navy has affirmed the formation of the value of the Indo-Pacific region on the “quartet dialogue” and denied the “quartet.”

In general, India’s interpretation of the India-Pacific strategy is mainly aimed at refusing the role and expansion of China’s political, economic, and military forces in South Asia.

India is not happy with the part of military security, but it may not be willing to acknowledge. What is meant here is that India does not want to use a “strong army” attitude to raise regional conflicts and tensions, as this may not be beneficial to New Delhi or the overall regional stability.

Diplomacy, not Military

In other words, India’s Indian-Taiwan issue involves a key situation of China’s military intervention, and New Delhi only looks forward to responding by diplomatic means. India’s motivation behind the word “Indo-Pacific strategy” by wooing neighbouring countries and adopting low-sensitivity vocabulary is to reduce the possible tension between India and China. In the face of the regional common concept, New Delhi is happy to see the results of the ongoing dialogue. In particular, how to adjust the frequency and tone of the “Quadruple Dialogue” that was restarted in 2017 will be worth observing.

General Elections 2019 in India

The national election in India is expected to be held from April to May this year. 

From the previous years’ fiscal and taxation policies, the recent critique of internal problems such as the deterioration of agricultural production and sales and the unemployment trend, and the performance of the Bharatiya Janata Party in local elections last year, Prime Minister Modi may not be overly optimistic about the opposition or the opposition alliance.

In any case, because India is the key to the US-India strategic blueprint, Washington will inevitably establish a long-term and stable partnership with India in its long-term strategic layout. In 2018, the “Communication Compatibility and Security Agreement” signed after the US-India Defence and Diplomacy 2+2 Dialogue hopes to gradually establish substantive cooperation on the national defence issue, apart from strengthening the communication system.

Strengthening Defence

In addition to the interoperability and operability of encryption technology, India can also purchase high-tech military products including drones from the United States. Such weapons and technologies can alleviate the insecurity of India and China in the past in the sea, and lay the foundation for the security cooperation between India and the United States.

On February 13 this year, Thomas Vadja, Assistant Secretary for Central Asia and South Asia Affairs at the US State Department, visited Mumbai and re-emphasised that “a strong US-Indian relationship is a core element of the US economic route.”

Yang Lan and Lin Xinyou  are respectively Foundation Executive Director and Assistant Research Fellow at the Taiwan Asian Exchange Foundation. The above article, which appeared in Liberty Times Net, Taiwan was sent to by the Taiwan Asian Exchange Foundation, based in Taipei.


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