Indian MP calls for closer ties with Taiwan to counter China's 'bullying'

10/03/2022 05:31 PM
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Indian lawmaker Sujeet Kumar. CNA file photo
Indian lawmaker Sujeet Kumar. CNA file photo

New Delhi, Oct. 2 (CNA) Indian lawmaker Sujeet Kumar said he believed New Delhi should step up its political engagement with Taiwan, including through mutual visits by parliamentary delegations, to counter the "bullying" behavior of China.

Kumar, a member of the Biju Janata Dal party representing the eastern state of Odisha in the Rajya Sabha, India's upper house of parliament, arrived in Taiwan on Sunday for a 10-day visit.

During the trip, he is scheduled to deliver a speech at the Yushan Forum, meet with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), and visit several think tanks, business groups and universities.

In an interview before leaving India for Taiwan, Kumar told CNA he believed there was "immense potential" for developing India-Taiwan relations in the trade, investment, and tourism spheres as well as through educational and political exchanges.

"I think it's necessary that the two countries come together, because we are both proud democracies. India is the largest democracy in the world, and Taiwan, (while) being a small nation, is a successful democracy," he said.

While Kumar's Yushan Forum speech will focus on Taiwan's role in the Indo-Pacific region, with an emphasis on semiconductors and the digital economy, he said he also planned to use the visit to explore the possibility of a free trade agreement with Taiwan.

"In India, we are really hopeful that the Taiwanese semiconductor industry will look at India as a destination," particularly as countries try to diversify their supply chains away from China, Kumar said.

He added that Taiwanese, meanwhile, can learn from India's successful service industry, and should also consider visiting the country as tourists, given its status as "the cradle of Buddhism."

In addition to building social and economic ties, India and Taiwan need to come closer politically, as both have relationships with China in which Beijing acts as "the aggressor," whether it be in the Taiwan Strait or along the Line of Actual Control that serves as India and China's de facto border, Kumar said.

While acknowledging that the Indian government may have reasons for adhering to a "one-China" policy, Kumar said he personally did not believe that Taiwan or Tibet are a part of China.

Rather, he felt it may be time for India's government to "rethink its one-China policy," and make clear that "China is a bully" which, if tolerated, will only act more aggressively.

During the interview, Kumar noted that it had been four years since the last Indian parliamentary delegation visited Taiwan, and expressed the hope that lawmakers on both sides will make such visits more frequently going forward.

Kumar, who was elected to parliament in 2020, is also a co-founder of the Formosa Club Indo-Pacific, a platform for international lawmakers working to enhance relations with Taiwan and help it connect with the world.

(By Emerson Lim and Matthew Mazzetta)

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