Taiwan's opposition presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou addressed a public forum in the Capital in Tuesday, the first top ranking leader of that country to visit India since Chiang Kai-shek in 1942.
Taiwan has yet to receive diplomatic recognition from India, which continues to adhere to a 'one-China' stance.
But Ma was all praise for India's 'pragmatism', which allowed him to speak publicly, despite its unwillingness to recognise Taiwan. "It is this pragmatism that has enabled India to prosper since it opened up in 1991," he said, speaking at the Indian Council of World Affairs on 'The role of Taiwan's economy in the regional international environment'.
"The Cold War is over, and it is allowing us to forge new relationships,"said Ma. "India is an old friend with whom we are making a new beginning," he added.
A former justice minister and mayor of Taipei, Ma belongs to the pro-unification Kuomintang (KMT) party. He said he aimed at a "renaissance of Taiwan" to make the country "open, pragmatic and flexible". "We need to open up to the world," he said, "and if I am elected as the next president, our relationship with India will be a priority."
Ma said he would follow policies that would promote business and investment between the two countries. Bilateral trade has been growing rapidly in recent years, and stands at $2.7 billion.
Taiwan is about 1 per cent the physical size of India, and has 2 per cent of its population. Yet this Asian tiger produces 90 per cent of the world's computers, nearly 40 per cent of all microchips and half the world's LCD screens. Its economic growth has not been hampered by diplomatic isolation.
Taiwan lost its UN seat to the People's Republic of China in 1971. Since then, the number of countries that formally recognise it has gone down from 60 to 24. China and Taiwan have been engaged in aggressively competitive "chequebook diplomacy", literally buying diplomatic relations with countries through generous aid and trade deals.
China's recent economic boom has given it an upper hand. Ma said chequebook diplomacy was expensive and dangerous, but did not say he would end it if he came to power. "We have not done anything wrong," he said, "it would not be fair to us if we got isolated from the world."