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India backtracks on sending MPs to inaugural of new Taiwan Prez

world Updated: May 19, 2016 17:42 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
India Taiwan relations

File photo of Taiwan's president-elect Tsai Ing-wen after winning the elections in Taipei on January 15. (AFP)

India has reportedly backtracked on sending representatives to the swearing-in ceremony of Taiwanese president-elect Tsai Ing-wen on Friday, days after naming two parliamentarians to attend the event.

This comes at a time when the Tsai-led Democratic Progress Party (DPP), taking over for the next four years, is readying a fresh policy initiative to focus on strengthening relations with India.

It means India will not have any official representation at the inaugural of Tsai, Taiwan’s first woman head of state, or at the dinner banquet later on Friday evening.

An academic, who is also an editor, and a New Delhi-based BJP leader are expected to attend the ceremony in their personal capacities.

“There is disappointment in the (Taiwan) government at India’s decision not to send parliamentarians. Taiwan’s first woman president is taking oath. It was a good opportunity for India to show solidarity,” an official said, adding New Delhi seems to have “bound itself up tightly in its own polices”.

But officials were confident this would not impact relations as the two countries try to expand ties under the Taipei government’s new policy.

Though India follows the “One China” policy and does not recognise Taiwan as a country, the reason for accepting the invitation and then saying no was not clear.

Diplomatic circles in Taipei are speculating it could well be the China factor, especially because any official visit to Taipei now would have been close to President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to Guangzhou and Beijing next week. Mukherjee will be in China between May 24 and 27, and an Indian presence in Taipei would have been diplomatically awkward.

China considers Taiwan a “breakaway province”, with the Communist party leadership vowing reunification in future.

The New Southbound  Policy Office (SBPO), which will directly function under the Taiwanese president, will focus on strengthening all-round ties with the ASEAN and South Asia, particularly India, diplomats told Hindustan Times.

The SBPO’s focus will be strengthening economic ties with India and expanding cultural, educational and people-to-people links, a Taiwanese diplomat who served in India told Hindustan Times from Taipei.

“Earlier, the focus was ASEAN, now India and South Asia. This will be a high priority policy for the new president,” the diplomat said.

Taiwan’s renewed focus on India could find resonance in the “Make in India” and “Digital India” campaigns, officials said. There is much scope for bilateral trade to go beyond the $6-billion mark, they said.

“ASEAN and India are poised to become two of the world’s largest economic bodies. Strengthening our overall relations is a natural choice for Taiwan as we diversify our economic and trade ties. In the future, we will form a new task force to actively pursue this policy objective,” Tsai had said in her DPP anniversary speech in September.

The new policy will of course have old boundaries and diplomatic baggage to negotiate.