While supporting the ‘One China’ policy, the Lithuanian PM said, ‘Our government’s programme says Lithuania wants a more intense economic, cultural and scientific relationship with Taiwan.’

Lithuania is a small European country, with a population of less than 2.8 million, smaller than that of the Trans-Yamuna part of Delhi (though its area is bigger than that of Himachal Pradesh). But it has tons of courage; it has taken on China, the world’s most dangerous rogue state. It has allowed Taiwan to open a representative office in the capital, Vilnius.

Quite characteristically, the dragon is spitting fire. It unleashed its wolf warrior diplomacy in no time; it also blocked all imports from the Baltic nation to Taiwan. Beijing downgraded relations with Vilnius, calling it a “treacherous” supporter of Taiwanese separatism. Lithuania’s move, according to China, undermined its “sovereignty and territorial integrity,” thus setting a “bad precedent internationally.”

China has not just downgraded diplomatic relations with Lithuania; it has also pressured major corporations to shun using components made in Lithuania. Beijing has also imposed a blockade to Lithuanian cargos.

Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte, however, has refused to buckle. While still supporting the “One China” policy, she said, “Our government’s programme says Lithuania wants a more intense economic, cultural and scientific relationship with Taiwan.”

On its part, Taiwan has announced a $1-billion credit programme to help fund joint projects between Lithuanian and Taiwanese companies in six business categories.

This has attracted harsh remarks from Chinese diplomats. “The Taiwan authorities’ attempts to use dollar diplomacy to expand Taiwan independence activities are doomed to fail,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told the media.

Simonyte is unperturbed despite the fact that Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda, who is her political rival, expressed displeasure over his country’s righteous move. “I think it was not the opening of the Taiwanese office that was a mistake, it was its name, which was not coordinated with me,” Nauseda said.

Unfortunately, all major countries, including India, follow the “One China” policy. It began in 1979 when the US recognised the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and derecognised the Republic of China (ROC) or Taiwan. However, many countries, including ours, have commercial relations with Taiwan. Today, only a clutch of small nations recognise Taiwan. By the way, China considers Arunachal and Ladakh, not to mention parts of Bhutan as part of One China, the formula even India repeatedly supports.

Lithuania has received support from the European Commission and the US. One reason is that China’s action against Lithuanian merchandise to Taiwan has adversely and indirectly affected France, Germany, and Sweden, for Lithuanian supply chains are involved.

“We have immediate concern about the Government of China’s attempt to bully Lithuania, a country of fewer than three million people,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

While a small nation like Lithuania has stood up to China’s bullying, India should not continue to placate its bellicose enemy. In the aftermath of China’s treachery in Galwan in June 2020, there was some talk about India reviewing its adherence to the One China policy, but nothing came out of it.

Indeed, India continues with its old policy. The Ministry of External Affairs can only come out with ineffectual statements criticising Beijing, but what is needed is to formulate a foreign policy that could hurt the Chinese Communist Party bosses. An example: the inveterate suspicion for security alliances with Western nations of the Lutyens Zone has practically made the Quad irrelevant. Recognising this, the US, the UK, and Australia have come up with a new alliance to counter China. Australia and Japan have forged new ties bypassing India.

Forget about India recognising Taiwan as a nation; it even holds trade talks with Taiwan diffidently. For instance, negotiations between the two nations started last month on a free trade pact and the setting up of a semiconductor manufacturing hub in India. “The two sides set up four groups earlier this year that are focusing on creating a semiconductor manufacturing hub, education and training of highly specialized manpower needed for the industry, a bilateral investment agreement and a free trade agreement,” the Hindustan Times reported on 16 December 2021. But the report also says, “As with most contacts with Taiwan, the Indian side has been proceeding cautiously, largely because of the tensions with China over the military standoff in the Ladakh sector of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).”

Such is the influence of the champions of status quo; these grandees are determined to persist with the abomination called non-alignment. China doesn’t accept our claim on Arunachal Pradesh; it doesn’t settle the border issue; but we accept Tibet as an “integral” part of China and implicitly Taiwan as its province.

China favours the status quo. So the 14th round of Corps Commander level talks between the two countries regarding disengagement from Hot Springs failed; the only thing the two sides could agree on was to meet again soon. Quite like a famous episode from the Jaspal Bhatti show.

It is painful to realise that a tiny nation can stand up to China, thus showing the way for major powers that refuse to.

The author is a freelance journalist.