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HomeEconomyIndian community in Taiwan is small but strong, time New Delhi appreciates...
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Indian community in Taiwan is small but strong, time New Delhi appreciates it MPNRC News

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Indian community in Taiwan is small but strong, time New Delhi appreciates it

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Access to countries across continents has been one of the most important policy achievements of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. During his foreign visits, Modi never misses an opportunity to reach out to the Indian community abroad and bond with them on their shared heritage and shared aspirations as one of the richest and oldest civilizations. For this, several cabinet ministers have also traveled to far-flung countries where India had a limited presence till now.

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As one of the favorite destinations of Indians abroad, Taiwan is carving a niche for itself. Even though Indian migration to Taiwan is limited and relatively recent compared to the Caribbean and Southeast Asia, it is beginning to make a mark in terms of the contribution the Indian community is making in some important areas. However, it is limited and underestimated due to the scope of informal relations between India and Taiwan.

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Taiwan is home to at least 5,000 Indian nationals and some members of the expatriate community. The Indian community in Taiwan includes businessmen, restaurateurs, academics, engineers, artists, students and think tankers. Most Indians in Taiwan work in white-collar jobs and are considered among the highly educated people in the expatriate community. Considered a well-to-do society, Indians have made significant progress in Taiwan.

As far as the development of the Indian community in Taiwan is concerned, Indians migrated to Taiwan in five waves. FirstIn the 1970s, Indian, mainly Gujarati, Sindhi and Marwari traders, settled in Taiwan and began exporting ‘made in Taiwan’ products to various parts of the world. This was a time when Taiwan was emerging as a major manufacturing hub, and its economy was booming.

another The wave was in the 1980s, when gem traders from Gujarat entered the precious stone markets and created a back-and-forth link between the source and the product market, often through processing industries based in Surat.

The launch of MSMEs (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises) by Indians contributed to the economic transformation of Taiwan. Increasing prosperity naturally brought more stability and consequently Indian families found it viable to settle in Taiwan.

next wave The number of Indians visiting Taiwan was the same in the 1990s. These Indians were mostly expatriates who worked in multinational corporations and came to Taiwan only for short periods. During the same time frame, another group of Indians who made Taiwan their home were the Sino-Indians. Sino-Indians were classified as overseas Chinese and were given a one-time opportunity to take Taiwanese citizenship. Some Sino-Indians took advantage of this offer and became citizens of Taiwan. The 1990s was also the time when inter-caste marriages between Indians and Taiwanese became common.

Nature of Indian Residents Really Changed in the 2000s That’s when many Indian engineers and technical experts started looking to Taiwan for better job opportunities. Most of the technical experts and engineers came to Taiwan with their short to medium term plans.

fifth, it was only in the 2010s that Taiwan began to see an influx of academics, scholars and students – mostly language and doctoral, post-doctoral scholars in the fields of science. This was mainly the result of the signing of three MoUs: MoU on Science and Technical Cooperation (2007); MoU of Cooperation between the ROC (Taiwan) Academia Sinica and the Indian Academy of Science (2012); and MoU between Taiwan’s Foundation for International Cooperation in Higher Education and Association of Indian Universities (2019). It states that more than 50 percent of the Indian community in Taiwan now includes students pursuing tertiary and professional degrees.

The Indian community played a distinctive role not only in being a part of Taiwan’s economic boom, but also by contributing to the Indian economy. Taiwan is home to over 50 Indian restaurants – owned by Indians – which employ a significant number of both Indians and Taiwanese, creating employment opportunities for locals and building a more harmonious relationship.

Established only in 1995, the de facto Embassy of India in Taiwan, the mandate of the ITA (India Taipei Association) is to focus primarily on commercial and consular issues. Prior to the ITA, an Indian-led association, the Indians Association of Taipei (IAT), was active in helping the Indian community, and even received visiting parliamentarians on several occasions. Several other registered associations representing Indians from different states have come to the fore. Three important as yet unnoticed examples are the Taiwan Tamil Sangam, the Taiwan Telugu Indian Cultural Sangam, and the Taiwan Malayali Sangam. While most Taiwanese are only aware of North Indian cuisine and culture, these associations are also showcasing the diversity and culinary experience of South Indian states. There are some online groups, such as “Indians in Taiwan”, that provide a support platform with a people-centric approach to Indians living in or planning to visit Taiwan.

While members of the Indian community are considered cultural ambassadors abroad, this is even more true for the Indian diaspora in Taiwan. Members of the Indian community have been organizing Indian festivals and cultural events for decades. In 2021, during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Indians came together and sent oxygen cylinders and concentrators to India along with other medical equipment.

While India-Taiwan relations are dominated by three factors – commerce, China and culture – the Indian diaspora in Taiwan is attempting to expand the horizons of Taiwan’s understanding of India. However, most of the time, the contribution of the Indian diaspora to Taiwan is not appreciated by India. While the Indian diaspora landscape is dominated by Indian-Americans or diaspora based in Canada and the United Kingdom, this should not affect the outstanding contributions made by the Indian community in Taiwan. The time has come for us to recognize the beauty of this little wonder called the Indian community in Taiwan.

Read also | Why India should join Taiwan, even if it flaps some Chinese wings

Sana Hashmi is a visiting fellow at the Taiwan-Asia Exchange Foundation. He tweeted @sanahashmi1. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the stand of this publication.

The authors are grateful to Dr. Priya Lee Lalwani, the first Indian student in Taiwan and a long-time resident, for her insightful interview for this article.

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