Despite China proper and the Indian subcontinent, where two of the four ancient civilizations of the world emerged, having shared thousands of years of extensive trade and cultural exchanges, primarily through Buddhism, direct contact between Formosa and South Asia has historically been considerably more limited due to geographic constraints and distances. Tianzhu (天竺), situated in Buddhist cosmology at the "Western Heaven", has traditionally been regarded by Buddhists as an idealized holy land where their faith originated from, and subsequently served as a pilgrimage site for many who sought to receive Buddhist scriptures, as romanticized in the classical Chinese tale of Journey to the West. Hu Shih, the ROC Ambassador to the United States from 1938 to 1942, commented, albeit critically, on India's Buddhism almost completely subsuming Chinese society upon its introduction.
ASIA is one. The Himalayas divide, only to accentuate, two mighty civilisations, the Chinese with its communism of Confucius, and the Indian with its individualism of the Vedas. But not even the snowy barriers can interrupt for one moment that broad expanse of love for the Ultimate and Universal, which is the common thought-inheritance of every Asiatic race, enabling them to produce all the great religions of the world, and distinguishing them from those maritime peoples of the Mediterranean and the Baltic, who love to dwell on the Particular, and to search out the means, not the end, of life.
While never having actually visited India in his lifetime, Sun Yat-sen, founder of the Republic of China, occasionally spoke and wrote of India as a fellow Asian nation that was likewise subject to harsh Western exploitation, and frequently called for a Pan-Asian united front against all unjust imperialism; in a 1921 speech, Sun stated: "The Indians have long been oppressed by the British. They have now reacted with a change in their revolutionary thinking...There is progress in their revolutionary spirit, they will not be cowed down by Britain." To this day, there is a prominent street named Sun Yat-sen street in an old Chinatown in Calcutta (now known as Kolkata).
Partially to enlist India's aid against both Japanese and Western imperialism in exchange for the ROC's support for Indian independence, Chiang Kai-shek visited India under British rule in 1942 and met with Jawaharlal Nehru, along with Mahatma Gandhi and Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Despite pledges of mutual friendship and future cooperation between the two peoples, Chiang argued that while Gandhi's non-violent resistance was not necessarily invalid for the Indian people, it was an unrealistic worldview on a global context; Gandhi, who had at the time insisted on India refraining from participating in any war in any circumstances, in turn later noted that, "I would not say that I had learnt anything, and there was nothing that we could teach him." In their meeting in Calcutta, Jinnah tried to persuade Chiang, who had pressed Britain to relinquish India as soon as possible, of the necessity of establishing a separate nation for Muslims in the subcontinent, to which Chiang, who apparently recognized Congress as the sole nationalist force in the Raj, replied that if ten crores of Muslims could live peacefully with other communities in China, then there was no true necessity as he saw it of a separate state for a smaller population of nine crores of Muslims living in India.
A division of the KMT's forces entered India around this time as the Chinese Army in India in their struggle against Japanese expansion in Southeast Asia. Dwarkanath Kotnis and four other Indian physicians traveled to a war-torn China to provide medical assistance against Japanese forces.
Representatives of the Indian independence movement later invited Tibetan delegates to the 1947 Asian Relations Conference hosted in New Delhi at which the Tibetans were allowed to display their flag. According to Tibetologist A. Tom Grunfeld, the conference was not government-sponsored, and so Tibet's and the Tibetan flag's presence had "no diplomatic significance". Nonetheless, the ROC, also present at the conference, protested Tibet's showing, and in response, the Tibetan flag was removed and conference organizers issued a statement that Nehru invited the Tibetan delegates "in a personal capacity".
Like the People's Republic of China, the Republic of China claims Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh, currently administered by the Republic of India, as part of its sovereign territory. While the PRC and Pakistan managed to largely resolve their former territorial dispute in 1963 through the Sino-Pakistan Agreement, neither India nor the ROC officially recognizes this treaty, and as such, India claims PRC-occupied parts of Kashmir and the ROC claims Pakistan-administered parts of Kashmir in addition to the disputed territories with India.
Although his government also viewed Tibet as part of China, after the 1959 Tibetan Rebellion, Chiang Kai-shek announced in his Letter to Tibetan Friends (Chinese: 告西藏同胞書; pinyin: Gào Xīzàng Tóngbāo Shū) that the ROC's policy would be to help the Tibetan diaspora overthrow the People's Republic of China's rule in Tibet. The ROC's Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission sent secret agents to India to disseminate pro-Kuomintang (KMT) and anti-Communist propaganda among Tibetan exiles. From 1971 to 1978, the MTAC also recruited ethnic Tibetan children from India and Nepal to study in Taiwan, with the expectation that they would work for a ROC government that returned to the mainland. In 1994, the veterans' association for the Tibetan guerrilla group Chushi Gangdruk met with the MTAC and agreed to the KMT's One China Principle. In response, the Dalai Lama's Central Tibetan Administration forbade all exiled Tibetans from contact with the MTAC.
India officially recognised the PRC on April 1, 1950, and was supportive of its stand that it was the only state that could be recognised as "China" and that the island of Taiwan was a part of Chinese territory, thus voting in favour of the PRC's bid to join the United Nations and replacing the ROC as the sole legitimate government of China in the UN Security Council; the Republic of India recognized the ROC from 1947 to 1950, while Pakistan recognized the ROC until 1951. Despite its somewhat strained relations with the PRC after the border war of 1962, India has continued to recognise the PRC's "One China" policy.
Even as India's own relations with the PRC have developed substantially in recent years, India has sought to gradually develop better commercial, cultural and scientific co-operation with Taiwan, albeit whilst ruling out the possibility of establishing formal diplomatic relations Taiwan has also viewed India's rising geopolitical standing as a potential counterbalance to the PRC's dominance in the region.
As a part of its "Look East" foreign policy, India has sought to cultivate extensive ties with Taiwan in trade and investment as well as developing co-operation in science & technology, environment issues and people-to-people exchanges. Both sides have aimed to develop ties to counteract Chinese rivalry with both nations.
The India-Taipei Association was established in Taipei in 1995 to promote non-governmental interactions between India and Taiwan, and to facilitate business, tourism, scientific, cultural and people-to-people exchanges. The India-Taipei Association has also been authorised to provide all consular and passport services. The Taipei Economic and Cultural Centre in New Delhi is ITA's counterpart organisation in India. A Taipei Economic and Cultural in Chennai was established in 2012. It represents Taiwan government's interests in the southern states of India, as well as Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
In 2002, the two sides signed the Bilateral Investment Promotion & Protection Agreement and are discussing the possibility of entering into agreements related to Double Taxation Avoidance and ATA Carnet to facilitate participation in each other's trade fairs. In 2007, Ma Ying-jeou, the leader of the Kuomintang, Taiwan's largest political party, and a major candidate in the 2008 presidential elections made an unofficial visit to India. Effective 15 August 2015, Republic of China passport holders can avail of India's e-Tourist Visa facility.
Both governments have launched efforts to significantly expand bilateral trade and investment, especially in the fields of information technology (IT), energy, telecommunications and electronics. India’s trade with Taiwan in the calendar year 2008 registered a total of US$5.34 billion, an increase of 9.5% as compared to 2007. In 2007, bilateral trade between the two sides had risen 80% to reach US$4.8 billion. In 2008, Indian exports to Taiwan declined year-on-year at a rate of -7.8%, to touch US$2.33 billion as compared to US$2.53 billion in 2007.
Taiwanese exports to India in 2008 grew at a rate of 28.41% to reach US$3 billion. In 2008, India recorded a trade deficit of US$669 million with Taiwan, as against a trade surplus of US$159 million in year 2007 Major Indian exports to Taiwan include Waste Oil and Naptha, Cereals, Cotton, Organic Chemicals, Copper, aluminum and Food Residues.
Major Taiwanese exports to India include integrated circuits, machinery and other electronic products. India is also keen to attract Taiwanese investment particularly in hi-tech and labour-intensive industries. More than 80 Taiwanese companies and entities currently have a presence in India.
Some of the companies include Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (FoxConn), Sanyang Corporation, Gigabyte Technologies, Continental Engineering, CTCI, Apache and Feng Tay (shoes), Wintek Corporation, Delta Electronics, D-Link, Meita Industrials etc.
While bilateral trade has experienced significant growth in recent years, Taiwanese investment in India has been affected by cultural and linguistic barriers and reticence on part of Taiwanese businesses.
While the ROC and India are two of Asia's leading democracies, both with fairly close ties to the United States and Europe, both sides continue to lack formal diplomatic relations. However, the two governments maintain unofficial ties with each other.
According to some sources, Buddhism is the most widely practiced religion in Taiwan, usually alongside elements of Daoism, and Bollywood films have in recent years gained a reasonably popular following, along with other aspects of Indian culture such as yoga, cuisine and Indian dance.
The Taipei Economic and Cultural Center in Chennai; Chinese: 駐清奈辦事處; pinyin: Zhù Qīng Nài Bànshì Chù) represents the interests of Taiwan in the southern states and territories of India, functioning as a de facto consulate in the absence of diplomatic relations. It was established in 2012. It is headed by a Representative, currently Tien Chung-kwang.
The Center is also responsible for relations with Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
There is also a Taipei Economic and Cultural Center in India in New Delhi. This is responsible for relations with Nepal and Bhutan, and has joint responsibility for Bangladesh with the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Thailand in Bangkok.
Its counterpart body in Taiwan is the India-Taipei Association in Taipei.