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CWA # 717, 11 April 2022

NIAS Area Studies Brief No 47 | China Reader
India-Taiwan Relations: Making a Case for Active Sub-National Diplomacy with Tamil Nadu

  Naina Singh

Tamil Nadu, a well-established industrial state in South India, has been a first-hand witness to Taiwan’s deepening economic engagements with India since the very start. With its distinct state identity, a stable political governance committed to industrialization, and focused diplomatic manoeuvring towards Taiwanese investments, Tamil Nadu has emerged out to be Taipei’s persistent partner

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Traditionally, a country's central administration and authorities are bestowed with the responsibility to carry out international interactions of military, political, economic, and social nature. However, the practice of ‘(para)diplomacy’; simply describes as international and regional outreach of subnational governments (SNGs), has been a topic of conversation, especially with regards to federal western contexts. From setting up permanent offices abroad to organizing multilateral forums aimed to increase visibility, SNGs have increasingly developed an influential diplomatic and economic networking parallel to the system of formal diplomacy. Constituent units in Canada and United States actively engage with their cultural and economic twins across the sea and land borders, whereas regions within Europe enjoy active autonomy under European Union’s multilateral governance.  The phenomenon is equally important in countries with authoritarian political structures such as Russia and China. It has widely been recognized across Asia to make use of globalized economy for social and economic development. 

India-Taiwan Ties and SNGs 
With no formal diplomatic ties, the mutual economic interest has long framed the relationship between the two democracies. Since the establishment of representative offices at each other's capitals, both New Delhi and Taipei has approached the relationship in a functionally limited and one-dimensional mode. But this has not restricted enterprising states to put their cards on the table. Often cited, the 2012 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Gujrat’s State industrial facilitation arm and Taiwanese steel maker China Steel Corporation (CSC) for setting up the steel plant at Dahej is attributed to then chief minister Narendra Modi’s interconnections.  As Bharatiya Janta Party’s (BJP) general secretary he has visited Taiwan in 1999. Tsou Jo-chi, CSC’s then president also attended 7th Vibrant Gujarat Summit in 2015 inaugurated by Modi, now in Prime Minister capacity. The 2015 MoU between Maharashtra Government and Foxconn to set up a manufacturing in the state was also the outcome of the continuous dialogues between the company and state government officials. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis-led delegation visited company’s facility in China and pushed for manufacturing giant’s investment in Maharashtra under ‘Make in India’ campaign. Later the state further offered to set off the higher import duties levied by centre to reassure company’s $5 billion investment.

One can find growing attentiveness towards forging such interactions, especially since the advent of New Southbound Policy. Today, Tsai administration’s eagerness to build consequential ties with New Delhi has made critical intervention in redirected Taiwan-India partnership. But, Tamil Nadu, a well-established industrial state in South India, has been a first-hand witness to Taiwan’s deepening economic engagements with India since the very start. With its distinct state identity, a stable political governance committed to industrialization, and focused diplomatic manoeuvring towards Taiwanese investments, Tamil Nadu has emerged out to be Taipei’s persistent partner.

 

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