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May 28, 2017

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Government urged to deepen ties with BJP by former envoy

NEW DELHI -- A former Taiwanese envoy to India has suggested deepening ties with New Delhi to capitalize on the existing friendship between Taiwan and India's incoming ruling party, which swept to a landslide victory in general elections over the weekend.

Taiwan and India should work to beef up the intensity and depth of their relations now that the groundwork for exchanges has been laid, Ong Wen-chyi told CNA in an interview Sunday.

Ong, who was Taiwan's representative to India from 2008 to 2012 and now serves as chairman of Chunghwa Post, made his appeal after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept to victory in India's parliamentary election on Sunday.

The victory will usher in a new government led by prime minister-elect Narendra Modi.

In urging the government to take action, Ong criticized it for not showing sufficient commitment to closer bilateral ties, in contrast to India, which has shown considerable interest in cooperation.

"Compared with India, how much effort has Taiwan made (on cooperation)?" Ong asked, citing frequent visits to Taiwan by officials from India's Ministry of Commerce and Industry and Ministry of Communications and Information Technology.

Given the recent anti-China riots in Vietnam, "perhaps we should consider whether India should play a greater role (in Taiwan's economy)," said Ong, who helped the state of Gujarat, governed by Modi since 2001, solicit investment from Taiwan-based China Steel Corp.

Taiwan's ties with the BJP date back almost seven years ago when President Ma Ying-jeou, then a presidential candidate, visited BJP President Rajnath Singh in June 2007. Singh called the meeting with Ma historic.

Deputy defense minister Andrew Hsia, Ong's predecessor as representative to India, met with Modi at an international meeting on shipbreaking in Gujarat in September 2007.

During their meeting, Modi lauded Taiwan's expertise in hardware and said that with India's strength in software, the two sides should cooperate more closely like "body and soul."

Modi visited Taiwan in November 1999 when he was a general secretary of his party.

Economic cooperation between Taiwan and India has warmed up in recent years, with the two signing an agreement to avoid double taxation in 2001 and another for mutual assistance in customs matters in July 2011.

In March 2013, the two countries signed an agreement allowing temporary duty-free admission of products and equipment, usually for exhibition purposes, to boost trade and business exchanges.

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