Growing India-Taiwan ties benefit both

In mid-February, India and Taiwan signed an agreement on migration and mobility, enabling Indian workers to seek employment on the island.

Growing India-Taiwan ties benefit both

Representation image

In mid-February, India and Taiwan signed an agreement on migration and mobility, enabling Indian workers to seek employment on the island. Taiwan faces shortfall of workers in the fields of manufacturing, construction and agriculture. The industries, the number of jobs, he expertise necessary, language skills and recruitment procedures have yet to be finalised. It appears that the Taiwanese government would determine these, while the Indian government would conduct training.

The first lot is expected to be recruited from the North East which has similarity in religion and food habits. It is expected that there would be a pilot scheme prior to implementing the accord. Overall, about 100,000 will be ultimately hired. Unofficial inputs indicate that there is also an increased demand for caregivers to cater for the aging Taiwanese population. Taiwan, like China and other parts of the world, has an aging population and low birth rates, resulting in a reduced work force. Thus, Taiwan is compelled to import labour to enable its economy to continue flourishing. Apart from India, it also sources skilled and semi-skilled manpower from Vietnam, the Philippines and Thailand.

During PM Modi’s visit to Israel in May 2023, a similar agreement for 42,000 migrant workers was inked. There are already over 18,000 Indians in Israel, either as students or caregivers. In January this year, an Israeli team selected approximately 6,000 workers with more expected to be approved shortly. With the suspension of work visas to Palestinians the numbers are only likely to increase. Taiwan has promised pay parity with local labour as also insurance policies.


Taipei is aware of hardworking Indian labour which contributed to the economies of Middle East nations and hence seeks them. The agreement would benefit both countries. The Indian government is working towards building India as a global destination for skilled and semiskilled workforce. The nation most irked by this agreement, solely because it has been ignored, is China, which considers Taiwan as its part and has repeatedly warned of unifying it by any means, including use of force. China always believed it had the first lien over Taiwan. For China, Indians in Taiwan would add to concern, as it would imply closer Indo-Taiwanese ties. China objects to any nation enhancing ties with Taiwan. Beijing desperately worked to create an anti-India image in Taiwan exploiting its media network and social media influencers.

A Chinese news portal, Chinanews.com stated, ‘Will 100,000 Indians flock to Taiwan? Taiwanese authorities confirm the introduction of Indian migrant workers sparking opposition on the Island.’ Chinese social media site Weibo went berserk accusing Indian workers of being involved in ‘sexual assault cases in Singapore.’ An influencer warned, ‘women in Taiwan should try not to go out at night.’ Another mentioned that the Taiwanese government is attempting to ‘dilute Chinese culture through intermarriage and allowing Indian men to replace Taiwanese men.’

The proposal was also compared to the move of African and Asian slaves moved to meet agricultural labour demands of colonies in the West Indies and the US. Mainland Chinese media even stated that many Taiwanese were protesting the government’s actions. There were doubts within Taiwan but these were well handled by the Taiwanese government. While trade between India and Taiwan has been growing, touching USD 8.5 billion in 2022, Taiwan is hoping to gain from actively exploiting the immense Indian market.

Taiwan is currently pursuing a ‘New Southbound Policy,’ which implies moving manufacturing away from the Chinese mainland, into South Asian nations. Foxconn, a prominent Apple supplier, has established an iPhone manufacturing facility in Tamil Nadu and is planning another in Karnataka. India is also requesting Taiwanese semiconductor companies to establish their manufacturing plants in India. The Indo-Taiwan agreement comes at a time when tensions with China are high and the border dispute lingers. Simultaneously, India continues with its anti-China stance in global forums.

The presence of three former service chiefs at Taiwan’s Ketagalan Forum, a Taipei sponsored Indo-Pacific Security Dialogue, in August last year, on the invitation of the Taiwanese government and approved by New Delhi, did not go unnoticed by Beijing. Admiral Karambir Singh, the former naval chief, was the only active Indian participant in a panel discussion.

He warned: “In the event a conflict breaks out in the Taiwan Straits, it will certainly not be contained within the Straits, and we’ll have serious geopolitical and economic consequences globally — and, to my mind, much more serious than the effects of the Ukraine conflict.” India, whose economic trade is seabound will be impacted. The visit of former chiefs only confirmed India’s determination to counter China. India’s refusal to normalize ties till troop deployment reverts to pre-April 2020 positions adds to the ongoing rift. India’s confidence stems from its growing economy, military power and alignment with the West, largely the US. Unofficially, the pact also questions India’s ‘One China policy.’ In another pro-Taiwan move this year, the government recognized Foxconn Group CEO and Chairman Young Liu with a Padma Bhushan.

He was the only foreigner in the list this year. As is the case with Israel currently and with Ukraine recently, India would remain concerned about its workforce being caught in a warzone, in case China plans a military operation to unify Taiwan. However, currently such a threat is unlikely. A major benefit is that both India and Taiwan have disputes with China as also seek to reduce their dependence on it. With IndiaChina relations strained, there could not have been a better opportunity to enhance ties with Taiwan.

For China, which faces hostility from both nations, the concern which has always remained is of the two cooperating in the security realm. The fact that the Indian delegation at the Ketagalan Forum also held a closeddoor meeting with the Institute of National Defence and Security Research, a Taiwanese think tank, made this aspect evident. Both India and Taiwan appear to have overcome their ‘appease- China’ positions. Engagement between the two has moved beyond just trade and minimal diplomatic engagement.

Both are aware that any Chinese military action against either would be a warning to the other. Further, both have close ties with the US. Growing Indo-Taiwan relationship is also a fallout of Chinese offensive policies.

(The writer is a retired Major-General of the Indian Army.)