Wednesday, 30 January, 2008

A New Perspective on Taiwan-India Exchanges

         There is huge room for cooperation between India and Taiwan. Strategically speaking, the geographic position and the military force of India play an important role in ensuring Taiwan's security and in balancing the power distribution in Asia. In terms of economy, ever since the 1991 economic reform, India has become one of the major economic entities in the world. The middle-class population of more than 2 million could thus be seen as a market worthy of long-term exploration. Lastly, from the perspective of politics, India is the most populated democratic country that shares a common value with Taiwan. It would be appropriate for the two countries to share their experiences in democratic governance as well.

The Establishment of the Taiwan-India Cooperation Council (TICC)

         In 2005,Taiwan Thinktank held the "India-Japan-Taiwan Trialogue: Prospects for Democratic Cooperation" conference for the cause of reflecting on the integral development in the Asia-Pacific region and calling for India to play a more active participation in East-Asian affairs. The then Minster Yu, Shyi-Kun of the Executive Yuan granted Taiwan Thinktank to establish the Taiwan-India Cooperation Council as a medium for information exchanges between the two countries. After Mr. Yu made such statement, people in India have been anticipating its establishment, while Taiwan Thinktank undertook several meetings on pertinent details. Meanwhile, the Executive Yuan urged to accelerate the foundation of a preparatory committee, and suggested that trade and economic cooperation between India and Taiwan must be put on top of the agenda. Following the Trialogue from last year, representatives from Taiwan Thinktank visited South India in mid-May to further the establishment of the TICC. The experience gained from the trip and its report would be an important reference for establishing the Council.

Rising Stars in South India: Bangalore and Chennai

         The economic growth in India has increased swiftly in recent years. Last year, the industrial growth rate in India was 7.4%, while the economic growth rate reached 8%. In India, the human resource in the field of technology is surplus, yet exceeds the demand. Indian engineers get 12% less paid every month than China's engineers, which equals to three days' wages paid to those in developed European countries and the US. It is also noteworthy that China has become India's second biggest business partner. In 2004, the trade value between India and Taiwan was less than 10% of that between India and China, which reached 136 million $USD. Yet China is not the only one; South Korea and Singapore have also become significant trading partners of India.

         It is the right moment for Taiwan to invest in the Indian market. With the grand landscape and a variety of cultures in India, it is a must for Taiwan to start the investment in the places where have fully-equipped facility. The most significant growth lies in the information technology industry, which bases in South India, instead of the political center in the North. Taiwan Thinktank therefore chose to visit the two major cities in South India: Bangalore, the capital of Karnataka, and Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu.

         Bangalore, the Silicon Valley of India, is the fifth largest city in the nation where two famous software companies, Infosys and Wipro, were both established. Due to the development of IT industry, India has experienced a rapid urbanization, which results in the lack of power supply and the need to improve infrastructure in Bangalore. However, foreign investment continues to flood into the city, which shows the local IT industry still poses a fatal attraction for investors.

         Chennai, originally named Madras, is the capital of Tamil Nadu in the region of southeast India and a newly-risen market as well. Being the fourth largest city in India, Chennai is developing its industry in a steady pace. The first science-based industrial park was set up in 1991 in Chennai; moreover, Chennai has transformed into a BPO center in recent years. Nevertheless, compared with Bangalore, the software export market for Chennai could still be improved. Additionally, Chennai is also nicknamed "the Detroit of India," exhibiting its prosperous automobile industry with Ford, Hyundai and Mitsubishi Motors factories. With the promise of local officials assuring that the infrastructure and power supply would gradually improve, Chennai would eventually become as competitive as Bangalore.

The Road toward Bilateral Collaboration

         Due to the differences in language and culture as well as the stereotypes of Indian culture, the exchange between India and Taiwan is far less frequent than that of India between other countries. Encouraging the mutual understanding and seeking for the common interests, consequently, should be the first priority.

1) Economic and Trade Exchange

         Economy and international trade compose the foundation for Taiwan, while diplomatic clout and rich human resource as that of India. Under current condition there is a great need for the two countries to eliminate barriers in trades and to hold conferences on investment aids.

2) Exchange of Information Technology

         Taiwan excels in hardware manufacturing and marketing, while India outstands in software programming and design. India has been expecting the establishment of a research center based on reciprocal principles as a product for bilateral collaboration. Yet when Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited India days ago, he mentioned the complementary role China and India play in IT industry, without acknowledging the fact that the hardware manufacturing ability China has now should give credits to the experiences from Taiwan. In view of this, Taiwan should be more alarmed, so as to prevent the marginalization of the coming Taiwan-India cooperation.

3) Exchange of Technology Professionals

         Both Hsin-Chu Science Park and Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology have recruited several technology professionals from India, who have been gradually forming an Indian community in Taiwan. The exchange of technology specialists should thus be thoroughly planned as a major base for collaboration.

4) Academia Exchange

         Both Taiwan and India put much emphasis on higher education. Granted that the exchange in academic and educational fields is enhanced, both parties could have a better mutual understanding, which would set the cornerstone for other forms of exchanges.

5) Exchange of Cultural Industries and NGOs

         Introducing the rich Indian culture to Taiwan would certainly raise awareness and interests of India among Taiwanese societies. In addition, NGOs in Taiwan could also be actively involved in issues concerning Indian peasants, women, poverty and its social welfare.

Looking Ahead

         Following the visit to South India in May, 2005. Taiwan Thinktank is planning to attend a bilateral conference this fall, aiming to consolidate the foundation for the Taiwan-India Cooperation Council. As an NGO, the TICC is expected to act as a medium connecting human resource, information, know-how and market research. It would further find out both individual and common leverage between governments and private sectors, so as to encourage bilateral exchanges in various fields. This way, the Council would contribute greatly to the strategic union between both parties and to guiding the path toward collaboration. 


Author Soong Yun-wen

Source Taiwan Thinktank Communicator No.17