India’s train to Taipei: Business, Bollywood, Buddhism (With Images)

May 30th, 2010 - 1:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Shah Rukh Khan By Manish Chand
Taipei, May 30 (IANS) The three Bs of business, Bollywood and Buddhism are set to bring India and Taiwan closer as the self-ruled island and tech mecca - encouraged by the thaw with China - looks afresh at India as a rising Asian power and burgeoning market.

“Taiwan can’t put all the eggs in one basket. We are now reaching out to rising Asian powers like India so that we can establish Taiwan as Asia’s logistics centre,” Francis Kuo-Hsin Liang, vice minister of economic affairs, told IANS in an interview in the skyscraper-specked Taiwanese capital.

Riding on two years of thaw with mainland China, a signature initiative of President Ma Ying-jieou, Taipei is now readying to sign a landmark Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) next month with Beijing that could act as a precursor to similar trade pacts with other countries.

“Improving relations with China and stabilised regional situation will encourage emerging powers like India to be more willing and cooperate with Taiwan,” he stressed.

India, which did not loom high on Taipei’s horizon during its Asian Tiger days in the 1990s, is now a focus country as the Indian economy continues to grow at over seven percent in times of global meltdown.

Although India officially follows one-China policy, this has not deterred Taiwan - the world’s 17th largest economy, a manufacturing hub of iPods and the world’s top producer of PC notebooks - from setting an ambitious target to scale up its bilateral trade from the current $6 billion to $10 billion in the next five years.

Only 23 countries recognise Taiwan, a self-ruled democracy that split from mainland China in 1947, and lost its UN seat to Beijing in 1971.

“India accounts for less than one percent of our total trade,” Liang said alluding to plans to expand trade and investment in areas ranging from IT hardware, electronics, machinery and agri-tech and food processing industries.

Compared to that, China’s trade with the self-ruled island has crossed $160 billion. Taiwan has invested $150 billion in China since the 1990s.

“That’s why this year we have targeted a few emerging markets like India and Indonesia for promoting trade and industry. Our industry is very excited about the potential of the Indian market.”

“Corporates, think tanks, and academia are now closely evaluating emerging markets like India,” said David S. Hong, president of the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research, an influential think tank.

Top Taiwanese companies like HTC, Acer, BenQ and CEC are already thriving in India. The Delhi Metro is linked to Japan in people’s minds in India, but not many know that CEC is one of the co-projectors of the Metro.

Its aging demographics is also driving Taiwan - 35 percent of 23 million people are over 65 years old - to look anew at India, which has an overwhelmingly young population.

Buddhism and Bollywood are other potential connectors. With more than one-third of the Taiwanese population travelling abroad every year, there is good scope for attracting Taiwanese tourists to India’s Buddhist circuit, Pradeep Kumar Rawat, director-general of the India-Taipei Association and India’s representative in Taipei, told IANS.

Agrees David Y.L. Lin, Taiwan’s vice minister of foreign affairs: “Yes, there is scope in expanding tourism. Taiwan is a predominantly Buddhist nation and there will be an interest in visiting Buddhist centres in India.”

Rawat points out that India’s soft power attractions like Bollywood and ayurveda could also act as force multiplier in expanding bilateral ties with Taiwan, home to some of the most picturesque mountains and exotic seascapes. Some Bollywood films have been screened in Taiwan like Shah Rukh Khan-starrer “Om Shanti Om”. “It got an enthusiastic response,” said Rawat.

Blending Indian software prowess and Taiwanese hardware innovation holds the key. “We believe that there is a lot we can do together,” said Liang.

“We are very strong on ICT (information and communication technology) industries, while India has also developed very highly competitive clusters built around the software industries,” he said.

Taiwan is planning a slew of trade exhibitions and trade missions to tap the burgeoning Indian market starting with the Taiwan Industrial Exhibition in Chennai Sep 8-10.

“This year, we have already organised six trade missions to India showcasing machinery industries, information industry, medical equipment, construction and pollution prevention industries. We intend to attend 15 local trade shows,” he said.

(Manish Chand can be contacted at manish.c@ians.in)

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