At a time when new US President Donald Trump has put the brakes on challenging China over the Taiwan question, agreeing to change course and respecting the "one China" policy, India stands out as a provocateur.
A female "parliamentary" delegation from Taiwan, at the invitation of India, began a visit to the country on Monday, the first such visit since the Tsai Ing-wen administration took office. High-level visits between India and Taiwan are not very frequent, so why did India invite the Taiwan delegation to visit at this time?
Some Indians view the Taiwan question as an Achilles' Heel of the mainland. They have long wanted to use the Taiwan question, the South China Sea and Dalai Lama issues as bargaining chips in dealing with China. With the advancement of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor in recent years, India's strategic suspicions about China have been growing. It stubbornly misinterprets the flagship project of the One Belt, One Road Initiative that will benefit countries along the route, including India. As the corridor passes through the disputed Kashmir, some Indian strategists have advised the Modi government to play the Taiwan card, using the commitment of the "One-China" policy as leverage in exchange for China's endorsement of "One India."
By challenging China over the Taiwan question, India is playing with fire. To India, the island can not only help realize some of India's development goals, but also, strategically, check the mainland. Growing Taiwanese investment in India, including steel, telecom and information technology are important to Modi's "Made in India" campaign. Although the mainland is a major trading partner of India, political discord and the historical feud make economic cooperation between the two difficult.
Tsai is exploiting India's vigilance and strategic suspicions against China. The pro-independence leader came up with the "new southbound policy" to ramp up trade and economic interactions in Southeast Asia, South Asia and Oceania, in which India is considered "not one of the, but the most" important country, according to Taiwan's representative to India Chung Kwang Tien. Tsai hopes to put pressure on the mainland by tying India and Taiwan closer.
India wants benefits from the development of trade with Taiwan and Taiwanese investment. But it should be wary of Tsai's political intentions and avoid being used to confront the mainland. The best way for India to develop is by participating in the Belt and Road Initiative and attract more investments from the mainland. Pro-independence forces in Taiwan have become more isolated in the world. Those who want to use the Taiwan question to contain the mainland will have to suffer losses.