Former Taiwan Vice President Chen Chien-jen said Taiwan and India are important like-minded partners in the Indo-Pacific region and the former’s timely donation of medical supplies to India in the time of need is a testament of the close ties. The Former Vice President added that more supplies from the country will arrive in India in the coming weeks.
Highlighting the close ties between the two countries, Chien-jen said that Taiwan is committed to advancing its economic, trade, and technology cooperation with India. He also called for International collaboration to end Covid-19 and added WHO should maintain its professional and neutral position to involve participation of all stakeholders.
The former Taiwan Vice President also spoke on a range of issues including China, conflict in South China Sea and wider participation in WHO.
Here is the edited excerpt from the interview:
As an epidemiologist yourself, what is your reading of fresh wave of the COVID-19 hitting the world and India quite badly? How can we do better?
India was facing the attack of various variants of concern especially the variants from South Africa from UK and other countries. In Taiwan we also have the challenges of variants of concern. I think for the time being we have to be careful and take preventive programmes against the variants of concern. On behalf of all the people in Taiwan, I would like to express our sympathy and solidarity with our Indian friend. I think that to do better and contain this outbreak, we can do several things, first one is taking good care of the severe cases in the hospital and isolation and to avoid the infection of health care personnel. The mild cases and asymptomatic cases can be asked to stay at home and isolated from other family members to avoid the transmission of virus to other family members. I think that a very good habit of personal hygiene is important. One of the ways we can cure or any other country can cure is to increase the immunisation coverage, more rapidly and more widely.
As the second wave is spreading across India, many countries and international organizations have announced that they will provide equipment and supplies to help India fight rapid COVID-19 surge. What is Taiwan’s plan of extending a helping hand?
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has also expressed our willingness to provide assistance in this difficult time. Taiwan’s first batch of medical supplies of 150 oxygen concentrators and 500 oxygen cylinders arrived in New Delhi on Sunday, May 2, and is currently deployed in hospitals across India. More medical equipment and supplies are expected to be delivered to India in the coming weeks. Taiwan will continue to provide urgent relief to India to fight against the pandemic.
Taiwan and India are important like-minded partners in the Indo-Pacific region. Taiwan’s timely donation of medical supplies to India in its time of need is a testament to our close partnership and friendship. It also demonstrates our capacity to provide robust humanitarian assistance and join global efforts in battling the pandemic.
Shouldn’t Taiwan have a place at the WHO to air their views and concerns?
WHO is the most important international organization regarding global health issues. To realize the vision of Universal Health Coverage enshrined in WHO Constitution, WHO should maintain its professional and neutral position to involve participation of all stakeholders.
The global pandemic of COVID-19 has reminded the world that infectious diseases know no borders. Taiwan is a transport hub for the Asia-Pacific region. In 2019, it handled 72 million inbound and outbound journeys. The frequency with which travellers arrive and depart Taiwan shows the extent to which Taiwan and other countries are exposed to the threat of communicable diseases. It also highlighted the importance of Taiwan’s participation in WHO. However, Taiwan has been restricted from participating in WHO. It applied to participate in 199 technical meetings between 2009 and 2020, but received invitations only to 69 for a high refusal rate of 70 percent. Furthermore, data released by WHO has inaccurately put Taiwan’s confirmed cases information under China’s, which is inconsistent with the fact that neither Taiwan nor China is part of each other. This can be misleading about the geographic information of the pandemic. Only the democratically elected government of Taiwan can represent Taiwan’s 23.5 million people at WHO, excluding Taiwan from WHO is infringing the fundamental health right of 23.5 million Taiwanese people, and deconstructive for global efforts in pandemic containment.
Despite the interference from China preventing Taiwan’s effort to participate in WHO, Taiwan has been sharing its successful pandemic-combating experience “Taiwan Model” and medical supplies with international communities, which leads to growing international support for Taiwan’s participation in WHO. So far this year, leaders and high-level government officials of numerous countries—including Japan, Palau, Sweden, Canada and the United States—have publicly voiced their support for Taiwan. Taiwan is optimistic to the future for its international participation. The fundamental right to health of 23.5 million Taiwanese people should not be dismissed.
No country can fight an epidemic alone. International collaboration is the only way to end the pandemic. Only by inviting Taiwan to attend WHA as an observer, and systematically including Taiwan’s participation to WHO technical meetings, mechanisms, and activities, can ensure the global health system leaves no one behind. Taiwan is also looking to its international friends in all sectors to staunchly support Taiwan’s participation in the global health network and facilitate its further contributions in the post-pandemic era.
Do you think US support for Taiwan is creating tension in the region with China vociferously opposed to it?
Over the past few months, China frequently sent PLA fighter jets and ships to intimidate Taiwan and took more assertive actions in the East and South China Seas. Such behavior has increased the tension in the region, and have raised concerns from the regional countries and the international community. Taiwan is at the frontline against China’s aggression, and is under tremendous political and military pressure. Thus, it is of utmost importance that we work with like-minded countries in the region to counter China’s threats.
Since taking office, the Biden Administration showed staunch support for Taiwan through concrete actions, and reiterated that the U.S.’ commitment to Taiwan is rock-solid. These are significant to maintaining the peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
Facing China’s threats to Taiwan’s security, we will continue strengthening our capabilities on self-defense to protect Taiwan’s hard-earned democracy, freedom, peace, and stability. We will also deepen our cooperation with the U.S. and other like-minded countries to safeguard the rules-based international order, and to promote the peace, stability, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.
Is it time for India and Taiwan to work together? Do you see any further cooperation between India and Taiwan?
Our shared values continue forming the bedrock of our close bond and friendship. Taiwan is committed to advancing its economic, trade, and technology cooperation with India. The mutually beneficial relationship between Taiwan and India is critical to prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region. Indeed, over the past year, we have received waves of support in India from academia, social media, and opinion leaders calling for even stronger Taiwan-India relations. As we are facing direct and increasing challenges to our democracy and security, it is in our interests to amplify our economic and security cooperation to safeguard our precious freedom and sovereignty.
The intensifying economic ties between Taiwan and India underpin the profound complementary nature of our two economies. Taiwan excels at hardware manufacturing while India’s prowess lies in software development. Against the backdrop of global and regional supply chain restructuring in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reaffirmed his commitment to not only “Make in India” but “Make for the World.” In line with India’s initiatives and policies, Taiwan hopes to further strengthen its trade and investment ties as well as technology cooperation with India. By doing so, we can work together to rebuild regional economic recovery from COVID-19.
Lastly, Taiwan and India have a shared vision for a free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific region. We are pleased to see India’s dedication to strengthening its economic and strategic cooperation in regional architecture, particularly its active participation in the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD). The complex regional dynamics have underscored the imperativeness of multilateral coordination and collaborations among the regional stakeholders. It is time for the like-minded countries in the Indo-Pacific region to discuss a framework like QUAD under which we make sustained and concerted efforts to maintain the rules-based international order. And we hope India can help Taiwan to be included in the regional security dialogue platform.