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  • As the World Health Assembly (WHA) convenes in the 4th week of May, virtually, there is a political battle over the question of inviting Taiwan to join the discussion as an observer.
  • The Assembly brings together the ministers from all the member-states of the World Health Organisation.

The Arguments for Taiwan

  • Proponents point to Taiwan’s success in dealing with the coronavirus and its role in contributing to international cooperation against the COVID challenge.
  • Taiwan points to the fact that it had participated in WHO meetings from 2009 to 2016.
  • Taiwan argues that the WHO should be focused on promoting global health and it should not exclude an important territorial entity on political considerations.

China’s Arguments against Taiwan

China has been adamant in its refusal to let Taiwan attend the meeting and Chinese position on Taiwan’s participation in the WHO deliberations have intensified after a pro-independence party was elected to power in 2016.

Taiwan China China Sea Map

India’s Position

  • India is all set to be elected as the chairman of the executive board of the WHO in the 4th Week of May, for the next three years.
  • Taiwan’s participation is likely to come up for discussion at the WHA.
  • Many of India’s partners, including the US, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, with whom Delhi has been actively coordinating its international response to the COVID crisis, are calling for Taiwan’s presence in the WHO deliberations.
  • Both India’s Western partners as well as Beijing are said to be pressing India to support their respective positions.

Way Forward: Handling China

  • Supporting Taiwan’s presence can be retaliation to China’s efforts against India, such as Repeated Chinese efforts in the months, after India repealed Article 370, to get the United Nations Security Council to discuss the Kashmir question.
  • When the bilateral relations are going through a difficult phase and military tensions on the border are rising, there is also the danger of upsetting China.
  • Delhi has never recognised Taiwan as a separate nation and there is no basis for conflating Taipei’s presence as observer at WHO proceedings with India’s consistent “One China” policy.
  • At the same time, Delhi can’t afford to cede to Beijing a veto over its approach to multilateral issues.
  • One such suggestion for a sensible middle path for India would lie in the apolitical appreciation of the specific technical issues involved and an objective merit-based decision.

-Source: Indian Express

December 2023