Modi Went Straight From Reelection to Needling China

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, front and China’s leader, Xi Jinping
Manish Swarup/AP

  • India’s prime minister caused a shock after his reelection by publicly thanking Taiwan’s leader.
  • Many countries avoid publicly engaging with the island nation so as not to anger China.
  • Tensions between India and China, Asia’s two major powers, are increasing.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi riled China in one of his first acts after being reelected for a historic third term.

Modi, who was reelected in a much-narrower-than-expected victory on Tuesday, accepted the congratulations of Taiwanese President Lai Ching-te.

“I look forward to closer ties as we work towards mutually beneficial economic and technological partnership,” Modi wrote in a post on X.

China is often furious when countries publicly acknowledge Taiwan’s independent status.

It has long considered Taiwan its rightful territory and is menacing the independently governed island with the prospect of invasion.

At a press briefing on Wednesday, China’s foreign ministry criticized Modi’s message.

“India has made serious political commitments and is supposed to recognize, be alarmed about, and resist the Taiwan authorities’ political calculations,” the foreign ministry’s spokeswoman, Mao Ning, said at a press briefing in Beijing on Thursday, according to Bloomberg.

Tensions between China and India, Asia’s biggest powers, are increasing as New Delhi seeks to counter what it sees as intensifying Chinese aggression in the region. A clash on the countries’ Himalayan border in 2020 resulted in the deaths of 20 Indian soldiers and four Chinese.

While India and Taiwan do not have formal diplomatic relations, Modi has sought to strengthen economic ties with Taiwan in his 10 years in office.

An employment pact between the two countries could allow Indians to work in Taiwan. Meanwhile, Taiwan is seeking to increase its investment in India.

“There’s a foundation for India and Taiwan to move forward [with a trade deal],” John Deng, Taiwan’s longest-serving cabinet member, told the Financial Times in April.

“Taiwanese investments will help India develop its manufacturing infrastructure. India is competing with China as a global manufacturing hub, and this represents an opportunity for Taiwan to step up its business ties.”

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