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India Gets Caught Up Between the US, China Tussle Over Taiwan

The diplomatic scuffle between China and the US over the presence of Taiwan in WHA meeting continues to perplex India as Beijing reminds New Delhi of the ‘One-China principle’. 

Taiwan recently donated about 1 million surgical masks in an attempt to help India in the tough times of the pandemic. However, experts opine that the backdrop behind the support by Taipei was largely for New Delhi to return the favour by supporting Taiwan’s fight to attend next week’s virtual World Health Assembly (WHA) as an observer.

The Chinese embassy in India has said that the issue must be dealt while keeping in mind the “One-China policy”. Self-administered Taiwan is looked upon by China as a breakaway province that it attempts to reunify with the rest of the country.

Earlier this week, New Zealand had extended its support to Taiwan as Winston Peters, New Zealand’s foreign minister had said that “We have got to stand up for ourselves … true friendship is based on equality…on the ability in this friendship to nevertheless disagree.”

China quickly responded to New Zealand’s statement by warning it to “stop making wrong statements” that could damage bilateral ties between the two countries.

“Such erroneous remarks on the New Zealand side severely violate the one-China principle. China deplores and opposes them and has lodged representations with the New Zealand side,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said in a briefing with reporters.

The World Health Assembly’s Virtual Meeting scheduled for May 18 and 19 has garnered more limelight for the US-China tussle on inviting Taiwan than on its focus for a specific health agenda for tackling the ongoing pandemic.

The support that New Zealand extended to Taiwan forms a part of many other nations such as the UK, Japan, Canada, Australia, along with multiple European and developing countries who stand with Taiwan. However, the leading supporter for Taiwan and as some experts say its ‘biggest ally’ seems to be the United States.

United for Taiwan

In particular, the United States has been acting considerably strong on the matter as the US Senate on Monday passed a bill asking the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, to formulate a strategy to help Taiwan win back its observer status at the WHA, which it originally held from 2009 – 2016, before being blocked by China.

In 1971, under Taiwan’s formal name, Republic of China (ROC), it was thrown out of the United Nations as the UN body voted for People’s Republic of China to be a legitimate representative of Taiwan.

However, Taiwan had been taking part in the WHA meetings under the name “Chinese Taipei” as an observer from 2009-2016 before being kicked out once again in 2017, due to conflicts with China over not recognizing itself as a Chinese province.

The US state department has also launched a “Tweet for Taiwan” campaign arguing that Taiwan “deserved a seat at the table” when the world gathers at the next WHA meeting on May 18 to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the present times of the pandemic, Taiwan’s response and prevention work to the Covid-19 has been recognised as a commendable job by the health authorities globally since, the region has reportedly less than 500 coronavirus cases and only seven deaths due to the ailment.

US’s efforts to bring Taiwan to the table have in fact been so dynamic that, Pompeo had himself urged Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director-general, to invite the island country to the upcoming assembly.

While the US publicly endorses Taiwan and its independence, it is also seen as an effort by Washington to balance Beijing’s emergence as a strategic power in Asia. The US policy used to deal with issues related to Taiwan largely fall beneath a strategic ambiguity.

Indian Stance On Taiwan

Amid these tensions, global pressure has been also rising on India, especially from the US, to recognise Taiwan’s older status as an ‘observer’ in the WHO’s main decision-making body, the World Health Assembly (WHA).

With India set to assume the chairmanship of the WHA by the end of May, the US has been pushing India to take Taiwan on board of the body that President Trump has called China’s “PR agency”.

India has always recognised Taiwan to be part of China under the ‘One China’ policy. After cutting ties with Taiwan in 1949, India did not change its policy even after the 1962 war. According to experts, India has only business ties with Taiwan. The Indian position has not changed and it will not change in the near future.

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