New Delhi: It was an unusually noticeable 109th Taiwan National Day in India, with posters and flags hung outside the Chinese embassy by a ruling party member and Taiwan’s president thanking “dear friends in India” for sending wishes for their annual celebration
There had been heightened awareness about the Taiwan national day, especially after the Chinese embassy issued a ‘letter’ to the Indian media with instructions not to use certain terms that would violate the ‘One China’ policy.
India has followed the ‘One China policy’, which means that it doesn’t have diplomatic ties with Taiwan. However, both sides have trade offices which operate as de-facto embassies.
Subsequently, India’s Ministry of External Affairs dismissed the Chinese embassy’s instructions, by stating that the “free” Indian media would report “as it sees fit”.
India and China are currently involved in a military stand-off since May in eastern Ladakh. While both sides are still talking, the negotiations have stalled with China unwilling to return to its side of the Line of Actual Control. There have been heightened emotions in India due to the stand-off, which have already led to the first casualties along the border in over four decades.
The Bharatiya Janta Party’s Delhi unit spokesperson Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga had tweeted pictures of having erected posters with flags of Taiwan in a sidewalk near the Chinese embassy in the capital’s diplomatic enclave on Friday night.
According to PTI, an official of the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) had stated that the flags were brought down within a few hours. “We have removed the posters which were put up close to Chinese embassy,” an NDMC official said Saturday.
Later in the night, Chinese embassy spokesperson tweeted, “One-China policy is long-standing position of Indian government. China firmly opposes any individual or any move trying to create “two Chinas” or “One-China, one Taiwan”, which violates this position”.
Taking a swipe at the Taiwan government, the embassy spokesperson said, “DPP authorities can’t change the fact Taiwan is an inalienable part of China, any attempt to engage in political manipulation & separatist activities to create “Taiwan independence” will lead to a dead end. China is determined to safeguard sovereignty & territorial integrity.”
Incidentally, some Indian journalists, who had posted on Taiwan on their social media accounts, received private messages from the Chinese embassy on Saturday. “We have noticed your twitter on Taiwan. Hope you could stick to Indian government’s position on Taiwan question and do not violate the One-China principle when you do the report. We are willing to maintain communication with you and … (media organisation) on China-related reports,” said the uniform template for the messages from the Chinese embassy’s press section sent out to journalists.
China’s state-run English language tabloid, Global Times also published an article quoting analysts that the posters hung outside the embassy will “only exasperate already soured China-India ties” and called on “India’s ruling party to give up its irrational behavior and to realize it is playing with fire”.
Taiwan’s top authorities. including the President, made specific references to India in their remarks during the day.
In her national day speech, President Tsai Ing-wen referred to the military stand-off among the steps taken by China in the region. “From sovereignty disputes in the South and East China Seas and the China-India border conflict, to developments in the Taiwan Strait, as well as the “Hong Kong version of the National Security Law” that has garnered international concern, it is clear that democracy, peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific are currently facing serious challenges,” she said.
On Sunday, she tweeted thanks to “dear friends in India”. “Together, we can take pride in safeguarding our shared values like freedom & human rights, & defending our democratic way of life,” said Tsai.
Thank you to all of our dear friends in India 🇮🇳 for your well wishes on 🇹🇼 #TaiwanNationalDay. Together, we can take pride in safeguarding our shared values like freedom & human rights, & defending our democratic way of life. #namaste pic.twitter.com/ZZQT1286lR
— 蔡英文 Tsai Ing-wen (@iingwen) October 11, 2020
The other countries to which she had expressed appreciation through her Twitter timeline were St Kitts and Nevis and Honduras. Both these countries are among the 15 nations who have full diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
A day earlier, Taiwan’s foreign ministry had already geared up for Indian ‘support’ by thanking “friends in India” for getting ready to mark Taiwan’s national day. Previously, Taiwan’s foreign ministry had tweeted that China should “get lost” following the guidelines issued by the Chinese embassy to the Indian media.
On Saturday, Taiwan foreign ministry posted a signed tweet from foreign minister Jaushieh Joseph Wu which singled out India for marking Taiwan national day.
Hats off to friends from around the world this year, #India🇮🇳 in particular, for celebrating #TaiwanNationalDay. With your support, #Taiwan🇹🇼 will definitely be more resilient in meeting challenges, especially those “Get Lost” types. JW pic.twitter.com/VNwcHAhOuQ
— 外交部 Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ROC (Taiwan) 🇹🇼 (@MOFA_Taiwan) October 10, 2020
Tweets related to India from Taiwan’s foreign ministry garnered thousands of retweets, in comparison with other tweets from the handle. Hashtags related to Taiwan’s national day were also trending on Indian Twittersphere during the first half of the day.
Despite the visibility, there were no official statements from the Indian government or its members. India’s representative office, India Taipei Association, which is headed by a senior Indian diplomat, had no posts to mark the national day on its Facebook page.
In July, ITA had posted a condolence message on the passing of former Taiwan president Lee Teng Hui, describing him as ‘Mr Democracy’. The first popularly elected president, Lee had been a thorn in Beijing’s side even in his old age.
The post raised several eyebrows as the ITA had previously never treaded into the sensitive area of cross-Strait relations and was posted just two weeks after the violent Galwan Valley clash in Ladakh.