CHENNAI: ‘New Delhi will suffer losses if it plays Taiwan card.’ That stark threatening headline in the state-run Global Times is a clear indication of how upset Beijing is over the visit of a Taiwanese delegation to India. ‘By challenging China over the Taiwan question India is playing with fire,’ says the editorial.
The warning comes barely a week before foreign secretary S Jaishankar’s visit to China for the first India China Strategic Dialogue, finalised by external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi during the latter’s visit to New Delhi in August last year.
Quizzed on China’s official line, however, a foreign ministry spokesperson in Beijing said that “Not all diplomatic activities are open to the public. All that I can tell you is that the Chinese side has lodged representations with the Indian side.”
In New Delhi, MEA spokesman Vikas Swarup played it down, saying that “We understand that a group of Taiwanese academics and business persons, including a couple of legislators, is visiting India. Such informal groups have visited India in the past as well for business, religious and tourist purposes. I understand that they do so to China as well. There is nothing new or unusual about such visits and political meanings should not be read into them."
China considers Taiwan a renegade province and insists that every country clearly endorses a one-China policy which prohibits diplomatic relations with Taiwan and recognises Tibet as an inalienable part of China. India, while publicly accepting the policy, hosts a trade delegation from the island nation. A startled China had voiced strident protests when newly elected Prime Minister Narendra invited the Tibetan Prime Minister-in-exile Lobsang Sangay as well as the head of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Center in India, Chung-Kwang Tien, to his swearing in May 2014.
New Delhi has been quietly seething over Beijing repeatedly vetoing its bid to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group, scuttling its attempts to get Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar declared a terrorist, and building the multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor through Pakistan-occupied Gilgit Baltistan, which India claims as its own. Recent events like allowing the Dalai Lama to visit Arunachal Pradesh and hosting the Taiwanese delegation are seen by many as an attempt by New Delhi to push back against Chinese intransigence.
'If Beijing does not respect India's sovereignty and concerns, should we not start questioning the One-China policy?" asked an academic who specialises in India-China relations.
New US President Donald Trump, who evoked much consternation in Beijing after he accepted a congratulatory phone call from Taiwan’s new President Tsai Ing-wen after his election victory and subsequently inviting a Taiwanese delegation to his inauguration, was forced to publicly proclaim his endorsement of the One-China policy last week.