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Chinese Media Interest: Likely Visit to India By Taiwan Leader

The correspondent of “International Herald Leader”, a weekly in China, interviewed (by email) the Director of the Chennai Centre of China Studies (CCCS), Mr.D.S.Rajan, on the reported forthcoming visit of Taiwan’s leader Ma Yingjiu to India. Questions raised by the correspondent and answers given are as follows:

Question: It seems India has been avoiding high-level political contacts with Taiwan, since India agrees Taiwan is part of China. However, Ma Yingjiu is one of the main political leaders of the opposition party in Taiwan. He is also the Presidential candidate of Guomingdang in the 2008 elections. How do you explain this event, although India has always stated that it wants to promote the trade relation with Taiwan?

Answer: The news about Ma Yingjiu’s visit to India, have only appeared in the press, both in India and Taiwan. It is not known in what capacity Ma is visiting India (as well as Singapore) and who in India is hosting him. An official announcement from India on Ma’s visit is unlikely in view of the Indian Government’s stand on Taiwan as part of China.

It is possible that trade circles in India may host Ma. Both India and Taiwan have, of late, realised the importance of deepening trade and investment ties between the two sides; the visit of Ma assumes significance in this regard. Ma is Taipei Mayor and an important politician; but this does not mean beginning of political contacts between India and Taiwan. The PRC itself is not against trade and commercial contacts between Taiwan and other parts of the world (PRC Foreign Ministry spokesperson, April 27, 2006) and it is expected that China would understand Mao’s proposed visit to India in that context.

Question: I wonder why you invite Ma Yingjiu, not Xie Changting, the Presidential candidate of the DPP. In fact, many Taiwanese think Ma may not be able to become next President, since he is not strong enough as much as Xie in terms of many aspects.

Answer: The answer lies in the question as to who in India has invited Ma and under what perceptions. In any case, India’s invitation to Ma looks unofficial.

Question: Do you think, it has something to do with current storm on Arunachal between India and China? I noticed from the news, some Indian officials say that although China is sensitive to India’s relationship with Taiwan, India should also make good use of it and let Beijing learn about India’s sensitivity about Chinese attitude to Arunachal.

Answer: I do not think Ma’s proposed visit has anything to do with Arunachal issue. I do not know whether any Indian official has commented on such lines. Ma’s visit to India could at best shows how Taiwan perceives about the growing India’s economic importance. Parris Chang of the National Security Council of Taiwan has stressed on Taiwan-India economic and political cooperation as part of Taiwan’s ” Go South” policy (March 2006). Taiwan-India Cooperation Council has been set up recently (February 2006) to promote economic exchanges between the two sides. India also is pursuing its ” Look East” policy and contacts with Taiwan are a part of such policy.

Question: How do you think of the denial of visa to an Indian IAS official by the Chinese Embassy? Indian media have said that the denial showed China wants not only Tawang, but also entire Arunachal. How do you see?

Answer: Denial of visa shows that China is meticulous about its territorial claims and it is not willing to leave any occasion, even such bilateral exchanges like visits to China by IAS officers, for the purpose of symbolically reiterating their border claims vis-a-vis India. Beijing, on the other hand, should understand the administrative system in India, which provides for civil service officers from all parts of the country, including Arunachal. Denial of visa has certainly negatively influenced the Indian public opinion on China.

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