Contents

  1. A ‘Taiwan flashpoint’ in the Indo-Pacific
  2. Reflections on the ‘quasi-federal’ democracy

A ‘Taiwan flashpoint’ in the Indo-Pacific

Context:

Taiwan’s president vowed to defend the island from China’s rising pressure for reunification, after a week of unprecedented tensions with Beijing.

Taiwan said on it was “on alert” over China’s “over the top” military manoeuvres, after Beijing flew a record 56 fighter planes towards the self-governing island as a part of sustained military intimidation.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (India’s neighbours, Foreign Policies affecting India’s Interests)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Taiwan
  2. China’s Position on Taiwan
  3. Role of US
  4. Understanding the stance of the U.S.
  5. Carrot and stick policy of China
  6. Is China prepared to carry out military operations to invade and occupy Taiwan?
  7. India’s Position on Taiwan

About Taiwan

  • Taiwan, officially the Republic of China (ROC), is a state in East Asia.
  • The island of Taiwan has the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to the north-west, Japan to the north-east, and the Philippines to the south.
  • Taipei is the capital of Taiwan.

China’s Position on Taiwan

  • China has also stepped-up warnings on any attempt to include or support Taiwan’s role at the WHA.
  • Chine referred to the “One-China” principle as “a widely accepted universal consensus of the international community including the Indian government.”
  • China asserts that there is only “One China” and that Taiwan is an inalienable part of it.
  • China put forward a formula, known as “one country, two systems”, under which both Beijing and Taipei agree that Taiwan belongs to China, while the two still disagree on which entity is China’s legitimate governing body.
  • China also stated its right to use “non-peaceful means” against Taiwan if it tried to secede from China.

The Civil war

  • The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) war with the Kuomintang (KMT, or Nationalist Party) started in the 1920s.
  • The KMT forces under Chiang Kai-shek lost the 1945-49 civil war to the CCP forces under Mao Zedong.
  • Chiang retreated to the island of Taiwan and set up a regime that claimed authority over the whole of China and pledged to recover the mainland eventually.

Role of US

  • The CCP always wanted to unite Taiwan with Mainland China but it was not able to conquer it by force as Taiwan became a military ally of the United States during the Korean War of 1950-53.
  • This support to a larger extent came to an end when U.S. recognized the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as the legitimate government of China in 1979 ending its official relationship with Taiwan and abrogating its mutual defence treaty with the island.

How it helps the USA?

  • The U.S. has declared that it will “maintain the ability to come to Taiwan’s defence” while not committing itself to do so.
  • Strategic ambiguity allows the United States to hide its cards in the various scenarios that may arise in the cross-strait relationship.
  • Beijing will think twice about harming Taiwan, because it doesn’t know for certain how the United States will respond and to what degree.
  • This essentially acts as deterrence and at the same time maintains a carefully orchestrated balance of power by restricting all relevant parties from escalating the situation.

Understanding the stance of the U.S.

  • The USA will not support the idea of an independent Taiwan. However, it has gradually reversed the policy of avoiding official-level engagements with the Taiwan government.
    • Examples: Senior and Cabinet-level officials from the Trump Administration had visited Taiwan. Joe Biden Administration continues with the same policy.
  • The Taiwanese representative in Washington was invited to attend the presidential inauguration ceremony (Biden), again a first since 1979.
  • There are reports which say U.S. defence personnel have been training with their Taiwanese counterparts for some time.
  • A U.S. nuclear-powered submarine reportedly ran into an “unidentified object” while in the South China Sea.
  • China has objected to these U.S. actions vociferously.
  • Chinese President Xi Jinping said, “The historic task of the complete reunification of the motherland must be fulfilled and will definitely be fulfilled.”

Carrot and stick policy of China

  • China had promised to introduce “one country two systems” in Taiwan, which was first applied to Hong Kong after its reversion to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.
  • Hong Kong can have different economic and political systems from that of mainland China, while being part of the People’s Republic of China.
  • China promised to honour Hong Kong’s liberal policies, system of governance, independent judiciary, and individual freedoms for a period of 50 years from 1997.
  • The same was promised to Taiwan, but with the added assurance that it could also retain its armed forces during the transition period.

Economic links

  • In 1979, Deng Xiaoping announced the Open Door Policy.
  • The open-door policy adopted a stance to achieve economic growth through the active introduction of foreign capital and technology while maintaining its commitment to socialism.
  • After this policy was introduced, Taiwan business entities have invested heavily in mainland China and the two economies have become increasingly integrated.
  • Between 1991 and 2020, the stock of Taiwanese capital invested in China reached U.S. $188.5 billion and bilateral trade in 2019 was U.S. $150 billion, about 15% of Taiwan’s GDP.
  • By contrast, the stock of Chinese capital invested in Taiwan is barely U.S. $2.4 billion although investments through Hong Kong may be considerable.

Is China prepared to carry out military operations to invade and occupy Taiwan?

  • U.S. Pacific Commander, Philip Davidson, has a word of caution where he iterates China may invade Taiwan in the next few years to capture power and displace the USA from Asia.
  • Other analysts argue that cross-strait operations would be extremely complex and pacifying a hostile population may prove to be long drawn out and costly.
  • China may, therefore, be content to head off Taiwan independence while continuing to build its capabilities and await a further relative decline of U.S. power and its will to intervene in the defence of Taiwan.

India’s Position on Taiwan

  • The MEA declined to comment on whether Taiwan was discussed during the meeting, or whether India has decided on supporting the US on its move to include Taiwan as a WHA participant.
  • India recognises only the People’s Republic of China (in mainland China) and not the Republic of China’s claims of being the legitimate government of Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau – a conflict that emerged after the Chinese Civil War (1945–49).
  • The United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, India, Pakistan and Japan have formally adopted the One China policy, under which the People’s Republic of China is theoretically the sole legitimate government of China.
  • India and Taiwan do not have formal diplomatic relations but since 1995, both sides have maintained representative offices in each other’s capitals that function as de facto embassies. India has backed the “one-China policy”.
  • India finds it difficult to realise the full potential of its bilateral relationship with Taiwan. At present, about 15 countries worldwide continue to recognise Taiwan as an independent state. India is not among the sixteen countries.
  • Taiwan is an important geographical entity in the Indo-Pacific region. India’s vision of the Indo-Pacific is inclusive and it must encourage the participation of Taiwan and other like-minded countries.
  • India is already a major focus country in Taiwan’s New Southbound Policy, launched in 2016. Under this, Taiwan aims to increase its international profile by expanding political, economic, and people-to-people linkages.
  • Taiwan’s reputation as the world leader in semiconductor and electronics complements India’s leadership in ITES (Information Technology-Enabled Services).

-Source: The Hindu


Reflections on the ‘quasi-federal’ democracy

Context:

Events coinciding with the jubilee of India’s Independence draw attention to the federal structure of India’s Constitution, which is a democratic imperative of multi-cultural India, where the constituent units of the sovereign state are based on language, against competing identities such as caste, tribe or religion.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Constitution (Constitutional Provisions, Features of Indian Constitution)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Understanding Unitary System and Federal System
  2. India’s system of Federalism with Unitary Bias
  3. Driving forces of federalism in India
  4. Some Issues seen in the Federal Structure in India recently

Understanding Unitary System and Federal System

Federalism (Example: U.S.A.)

  • Federalism is a system of government in which powers have been divided between the center and its constituent parts such as states or provinces.
  • In a federation system, there are two seats of power that are autonomous in their own spheres.
  • A federal system is different from a unitary system in that sovereignty is constitutionally split between two territorial levels so that each level can act independently of each other in some areas.
  • State Government has powers of its own for which it is not answerable to the central government.

Unitary System (Example: Britain)

  • In a Unitary Form of Government there is only one level of government or the sub-units are subordinate to the Central Government.
  • The Central Government is supreme, and the administrative divisions exercise only powers that the central government has delegated to them.
  • The powers of the sub-ordinate governments like ‘State Government’ may be broadened and narrowed by the central government.

India’s system of Federalism with Unitary Bias

  • India is a federal system with a tilt towards unitary form of government.
  • It is sometimes considered a quasi-federal system as it has features of both a federal and a unitary system.
  • Article 1 of the Indian Constitution states, ‘India, that is Bharat, shall be a union of States’.
  • The word federation is not mentioned in the constitution.
  • The Drafting Committee chose the word “Union” instead of “Federation” due to various reasons:
    1. The Union of India is not the outcome of an agreement among the old provinces (like in the American Federation).
    2. It is not up to the States to secede from the union or alter their boundaries on their own free will.
  • The Indian Federation is a Union because it is indestructible. Ambedkar justified the usage of ‘Union of States’ saying that the Drafting Committee wanted to make it clear that though India was to be a federation, it was not the result of an agreement and that therefore, no State has the right to secede from it. “The federation is a Union because it is indestructible,” Ambedkar said.
  • Though the country and the people can be divided into different States for convenience of administration, the country is one integral whole, its people living under a single imperium derived from a single source.

Driving forces of federalism in India

  • As BR Ambedkar had put it, “India’s Draft Constitution can be both unitary as well as federal according to the requirements of time and circumstances.”
  • The imperatives of security, state building, and economic development are always allowed to trump federal pieties. Following Four things sustain federalism:
  • The first was a genuine concern about whether a centralised state could accommodate India’s linguistic and cultural diversity. The States Reorganisation Act and the compromises on the issue of languages was a victory for federalism. It allowed India to use federalism to accommodate linguistic diversity.
  • The second underpinning of federalism is actual distribution of political power. The rise of coalition governments, economic liberalisation, regional parties, seemed to provide propitious ground for political federalism. Political federalism is quite compatible with financial, and administrative centralisation.
  • The third thing that sustains federalism is the political and institutional culture. Because of the increasing presidentialisation of national politics, a single-party dominance with powerful messaging power, and change in forms of communication, the attribution of policy successes or failures might change, diminishing the stature of chief ministers considerably.
  • The fourth thing that sustained federalism was what Louise Tillin has brilliantly analysed as “asymmetrical federalism” — special exemptions given to various states. But asymmetrical federalism has always been subject to three pressures. For Kashmir, asymmetrical federalism came to be seen as the source, not the resolution, of the security threat. Even in the North-east, local conflicts within the scheme of asymmetrical federalism and a discourse of security allowed the Centre to step in.

Some Issues seen in the Federal Structure in India recently

  • Rajya Sabha Chairman briefly broke down when some opposition members climbed on the reporters’ table.
    • The Chairman was unable to conduct proceedings despite the use of marshals.
    • However, the House passed a record number of bills amidst a record number of adjournments, pointing to rushed passing of bills without due deliberation.
  • Cross-border police firing by one constituent State against another
    • Example: Assam-Mizoram clash
    • Such events have led to increased violence and causalities on both sides, which has resulted in retaliatory action in the form of an embargo on goods trade and travel links.
  • According to K.C. Wheare, India is a “centralized state with some federal features” as “quasi-federal”.
    • Quasi-federal refers to a system of government where the distribution of power between the centre and the state is not equal.
    • The constitutional division of power and resources remains heavily skewed in favour of the Centre; along with “Residual”, “Concurrent” and “Implied” powers.
    • Indian federalism, to be democratically federal, needs institutional amendment despite being a “basic structure”.
  • Principles of Democratic Federalism
    • Institutions should ensure equality between federal units.
    • The Centre should coordinate and respect the views of the States.
    • The Centre is subordinate to the Constitution.
    • Disputes between federal units should be adjudicated by an independent judiciary with impeccable professional and moral credibility.
    • India’s federal structure is constitutionally hamstrung by deficits on all these counts, and operationally impaired by the institutional dents in the overall democratic process.
    • Institutional preferences are based either on ethnic or kinship network, or anti-incumbency.
    • Banking on individual role-models rather than actively participating in change: T.N. Seshan for the Election Commission of India, J.F. Ribeiro for the police or Justices Chandrachud or Nariman for the judiciary.
  • State Territorial Boundaries
    • The Government of India Act, 1935, introduced the element of federalism in view of the fact that India was a country of sub-continental size.
    • It initiated ‘provincial autonomy’, attempted democratising it by: renaming “Provinces” to autonomous “States”; transferring all “Reserved Powers” to popular governance; constitutionally dividing powers between the two tiers; inserting federalism in the Preamble, and Parts 3 and 4 containing citizens’ “Fundamental Rights” and “Directive Principles”; but nothing about States’ rights, not even their territorial boundaries.
    • This has enabled the Centre to unilaterally alter State boundaries and create new States.
  • Judicial Appointments
    • The judiciary is empowered to adjudicate on conflicts between the Centre and the States, but higher judicial appointments (an estimated 41% lying vacant), promotion and transfers becoming a central prerogative, their operations are becoming increasingly controversial.
  • Role of Rajya Sabha
    • The Rajya Sabha indirectly represents the States whose legislators elect it.
    • Representatives elected should focus on issues of the States but emphasis is along political lines.
    • Members failing to win on the popular vote in Lok Sabha elections have also sought the route of Rajya Sabha indirectly.
    • It is not empowered to neutralize the demographic weight of the populous States with larger representation in the popular chamber; it cannot veto its legislations, unlike the U.S. Senate.
    • Joint sessions to resolve differences goes in favour of the Lok Sabha.
  • Other issues
    • Control over All India Services
    • Appointment of Governors

-Source: The Hindu

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