It would be erroneous on the part of United States and India to show intent by way of meeting between their foreign and defence ministers—due in New Delhi on Tuesday—and lack purpose in ignoring the Sarajevo moment in the room.
In 1914, the first World War broke out after an Austrian prince and his wife were assassinated by a local Bosnian group in Sarajevo and it was the beginning of the new World Order. Another such moment awaits us if China, wholly unpredictable and raging mad, were to invade Taiwan.
Taiwan is small, an island, within the breath of Beijing, blocked and bullied all these years by the Mainland. It has stood alone in Covid-19 pandemic and if you thought it was the world which has made her recover, it’s the other way around. Taiwan donated 5.6 million masks to Europe which earned it the gratitude of Brussels. Yet the niceties are not enough. There has to be a resolve and an open one on the part of the World to let Taipei know: We Care.
So it’s all very well for the arriving US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to talk of “regional security in Indo-Pacific” but he needs to shout Taiwan within the earshot of China. And so does India. Taiwan is everybody’s business. For their own good if Taiwan’s democracy, technology, a thriving economy and a role-model-to-follow-on-healthcare is not enough. For all we know, Taiwan could be the first stop of China to test the world’s resolve and we all can’t be talking in circles.
Our leaders need to highlight how military sorties of Beijing are at an unprecedented level in Taiwan Strait. It’s in the same South China Sea which falls in Indo-Pacific and which China wants to make all of its own—and which has drawn world’s biggest democracies together. In 2020, People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has made 49 military aircraft sorties violating the Taiwanese space. It’s the highest ever. It’s defence minister told parliament that the Chinese military “conducted 1,710 aircraft sorties and 1,029 military vessel sorties into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) this year.”
Truth to tell though, it’s India more than the United States which needs to brush up its Taiwan game. More than media or a zealous nationalist, it’s the Indian State which needs to come out in open as Beijing does for Jammu and Kashmir as a matter of daily drill. The United States indeed had caught our eye as their health secretary and under-secretary of state for economic growth have visited Taipei in recent months. It’s the first since they broke off diplomatic relations in 1979. It was a signature transitional moment in Taiwan’s brutalized history. It has been made sweeter now that the United States has committed an arms package of almost $2 billion to Taiwan, with a promise to up it to $5 billion in coming days. The military package includes missiles, sensors and artillery.
The Modi government shouldn’t worry of the consequences of coming out in open for Taiwan. It could conduct a popular poll if that is the fire which would propel our rocket of commitment. The United States, for example, has just done that. The US Congress always was in support of Taiwan. But now the US citizens are showing a remarkable preference to come to Taiwan’s aid if Beijing was to invade it.
Two studies have caught my attention. One was by Chicago Council on Global Affairs (CCGA) which has shown 41 percent o Americans backing US intervention on behalf of Taiwan. It might not sound much but given the tepid response of US citizens since the study began conducting its poll in 1992, it’s remarkable. The other one by Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) is even more remarkable: It shows up a support of 6.69 out of 10 for Taiwan which is more than even what Australia (6.38) could muster. Japan (6.88) and South Korea (6.92) were favoured ahead of Taiwan only in decimals.
People clearing their throats for Taiwan was one thing. The other influential nodes made no less buzz. The Thought-Leaders supported Taiwan’s military cause by a whopping 7.93 out of 10. Human Rights Experts too gave an overwhelming (57%) response in Taiwan’s favour.
So buoyed as we are at the possibility of inking the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) with the US and S. Jaishankar and Rajnath Singh beaming for the Indian audience, this is as good a moment as any to pop out Taiwan in public domain. It would be a pity of China was to test us out on Taiwan and we would show our preoccupation in Ladakh to excuse ourselves from the entanglement.
The world has enough blood on its hand in pampering the wolf and ignoring the lamb. Taiwan must be returned to the global fold with forgiveness on lips.