In boost to ties, Taiwan to set up office in Mumbai

Third Taipei Economic and Cultural Centre in India, after New Delhi and Chennai

July 05, 2023 09:57 pm | Updated 09:57 pm IST

While India and Taiwan do not maintain formal diplomatic ties, the two sides in 1995 decided to open a TECC in New Delhi and an “India Taipei Association” in Taipei, which was a “turning point” to promote relations, said Ashok Kantha, former Indian Ambassador to China. File

While India and Taiwan do not maintain formal diplomatic ties, the two sides in 1995 decided to open a TECC in New Delhi and an “India Taipei Association” in Taipei, which was a “turning point” to promote relations, said Ashok Kantha, former Indian Ambassador to China. File | Photo Credit: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

In a significant step aimed at boosting economic linkages, Taiwan on Wednesday announced it would open its third representative office in India in Mumbai, more than a decade after it last expanded its presence in India.

Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said the move to establish in Mumbai a Taipei Economic and Cultural Centre (TECC) — the term used to describe Taiwan’s de facto diplomatic missions because India and Taiwan do not maintain formal diplomatic relations — came in the light of Taiwan and India witnessing “significant progress in numerous domains, including economics and trade, science and technology, critical supply chains”.

Also Read | The geopolitics of the Fourth Taiwan Crisis

Talks to open a TECC in Mumbai have been long in the works, following the opening of the TECC in Chennai in 2012, which has emerged as a hub for Taiwanese firms. “The TECC in Mumbai will help expand mutually beneficial trade and investment opportunities between Taiwan and India,” the statement said, adding that it “will provide visa services, document authentication, and emergency assistance to businesspeople, tourists, and Taiwanese nationals” in western India.

‘Turning point’

While India and Taiwan do not maintain formal diplomatic ties, the two sides in 1995 decided to open a TECC in New Delhi and an “India Taipei Association” in Taipei, which was a “turning point” to promote relations, said Ashok Kantha, former Indian Ambassador to China and Director of the Institute of Chinese Studies, New Delhi, who was at the time involved in setting up the offices as head of the China desk in the Ministry of External Affairs.

“The move in 1995 proved to be a turning point as we put in place the requisite institutional framework for promoting India-Taiwan relations,” Mr. Kantha told The Hindu. “The Chennai office in 2012 was then instrumental in southern India becoming a hub for Taiwanese investment. Today, we are on the cusp of a major expansion for a number of reasons. There is a critical mass and more importantly, the requisite strategic interest for both sides in the context of what is happening geopolitically, and the restructuring of global and regional value chains.”

Mr. Kantha said opening the TECC in Mumbai thus had its own strong logic, and was not necessarily linked to the current downturn in India-China relations, which have been in a state of freeze since Chinese transgressions across the Line of Actual Control starting in April 2020.

The opening of offices in 1995 and 2012 did not create much of a fallout on India-China relations despite Chinese sensitivities on Taiwan, partly because India had conveyed to Beijing that the offices would not be official and there would be no government-to-government engagement.

“We point out that Taiwan is a major economic and trading entity and what we are trying to do is promote trade and investment linkages,” Mr. Kantha said. “In fact, there are huge trade linkages between the mainland and Taiwan. I believe China by and large understands our Taiwan policy has been pragmatic and transparent, and we are not trying to achieve ulterior objectives or are in any way deviating from our larger China policy.”

India is also increasingly aware of its stakes when it comes to maintaining peace and the status quo in the Taiwan Strait. “Any sort of conflict, or even high tension, in the Taiwan Strait could have a devastating impact on Indian economic and national security interests,” former Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale wrote in an April 2023 paper for Carnegie India, noting that a blockade by China would severely disrupt semiconductor exports to India with Taiwan, as of 2022, producing 92% of the world’s most advanced logic chips and 70% of smartphone chipsets, among other critical components.

“There is an urgent need to assess the likely impact of a potential crisis across the Indian economy and to identify ways to mitigate the impact,” he added. “Delaying such assessment might prove very costly since significant preparations to harden critical sections of the domestic economy and to reduce dependencies on China and East Asia will take time. This will require a whole-of-government effort.”

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