U.S.-Taiwan Relation


Recently, The President of the United States made a controversial statement, during a joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister.

  • He gave an affirmative reply to a question on whether the U.S. will come to the aid of Taiwan militarily in case of an invasion by China.


GS II- International Relations (Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and agreements involving India)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is the Taiwan issue?
  2. How has the U.S’s stance on the Taiwan question evolved vis-à-vis China?
  3. Why is the issue significant today?
  4. Why is Taiwan so important to China?

What is the Taiwan issue?

  • Taiwan is an island territory located off the coast of mainland China, across the Taiwan Strait.
  • After their defeat to the communist forces in the Chinese civil war (1945-1949), the ruling Kuomintang (Nationalist) government of China fled to Taiwan.
  • They transplanted the Republic of China (ROC) government in Taiwan, while the Communist Party of China (CPC) established the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in the mainland.
  • Since then, the PRC considers the island as a renegade province awaiting reunification by peaceful means, if possible.
  • Meanwhile, the ROC retained its membership at the United Nations and its permanent seat at the UN Security Council (UNSC).
Relationships during the Cold War:
  • The cross-strait relations became strained as a result of the Cold War, with the PRC allying itself with the Soviet Union (USSR) and ROC with the U.S.
    • This resulted in the two Taiwan Strait crises of the 1950s.
  • However, with the shifting geopolitics of the Cold War, the PRC and the U.S. were forced to come together in the 1970s to counter the growing influence of the USSR.
  • This led to the US-China rapprochement demonstrated by the historic visit of then U.S. President Richard Nixon to PRC in 1972.
  • The same year, the PRC displaced ROC as the official representative of the Chinese nation at the UN.
One China Principle:
  • Diplomatic relations with the PRC became possible only if countries abided by its “One China Principle” — recognising PRC and not the ROC as China.
  • Taiwan transitioned from a single party state to a multi-party democracy at the same time that China reformed its economic system under Deng Xiaoping, and by the end of the Cold War they became economically entangled; nevertheless, they continue to compete for international recognition and preparing themselves for the worst possible scenario.

How has the U.S’s stance on the Taiwan question evolved vis-à-vis China?

  • The very foundation of the U.S. rapprochement as well as its recognition of the PRC is a mutual understanding on the Taiwan question.
  • This has been outlined in three documents —
    • Shanghai Communique (1972)
    • Normalisation Communique (1979)
    • 1982 Communique
  • According to the 1972 communique, the U.S. agreed to the ‘one China principle’, with an understanding that it “acknowledges” and “does not challenge” that “all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain that there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China.”
  • As per the 1979 communique, the U.S. recognised PRC, but stated that it merely “acknowledges the Chinese position that there is but one China and Taiwan is part of China”. It also established unofficial relations with Taiwan through this communique in the name of the people of both the countries.
  • The 1982 communique assuaged Chinese concerns of the possibility for continued arms supply to Taiwan by the U.S. provisioned in the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) of 1979 which enabled it to resume supply of “defensive” arms.

Why is the issue significant today?

  • As Taiwan’s democracy flourished, the popular mood drifted towards a new Taiwanese identity and a pro-independence stance on sovereignty.
  • The past decade has seen considerable souring of ties across the Strait, as the Democratic People’s Party (DPP) became the most powerful political force in Taiwan, sweeping two consecutive elections in the past decade. The DPP government, led by Tsai Ing Wen has been catering to the pro-independence constituency in Taiwan and seeks to diversify economic relations away from China.
  • This has made China wary of Tsai.

Why is Taiwan so important to China?

  • China has always seen Taiwan as a territory with high geopolitical significance.
  • This is due to its central location in the First Island Chain between Japan and the South China Sea, which is seen as the first benchmark or barrier for China’s power projection.
  • U.S. military outposts are scattered throughout this region, and hence, taking control of Taiwan would mean a significant breakthrough as per China’s geostrategic calculus.
  • Moreover, its reunification will formally bury the remaining ghosts of China’s “century of humiliation”.
  • China under President Xi Jinping seems to have lost its patience and currently sees very slim chances of a peaceful reunification.
  • This has been demonstrated in the growing frequency of rhetorical spats between Beijing and Taipei, and China’s military drills and patrols across the Strait, as well as the record-breaking aerial transgressions by China of Taiwan’s Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ).
  • Also, this build-up of tensions is happening simultaneously and drawing parallels with the Russo-Ukrainian conflict.

Pre-Monsoon Devastation in Assam


While the Monsoons are yet to arrive, Assam has already been beset by Floods and Landslides that have left 15 people dead and more than 7 lakh affected.

  • The hill district of Dima Hasao, in particular, has been ravaged by flash floods and landslides, with connectivity to the rest of the state snapped.


GS III- Disaster management

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Factors behind this Unprecedented Devastation
  2. What is Causing the Landslides During Pre-monsoon?
  3. What are Landslides?
  4. Two Primary varieties of Landslides in India
  5. Why are Landslides more frequent in the Himalayas than in the Western Ghats?
  6. Geographical distribution of floods in India

Factors behind this Unprecedented Devastation

  • The average rainfall in Assam from March 1 to May 20 is 434.5 mm, however the equivalent figure for this year is 719 mm, a 65 percent increase.
    • In the neighbouring state of Meghalaya, the excess was considerably higher, at 137 percent.
  • Climate Change is responsible for the timing and scale of rainfall.
    • There are more and more concentrated rain and heavy rainfall episodes as a result of climate change.

What is Causing the Landslides During Pre-monsoon?

  • “Undesirable, unpragmatic, unplanned structural intervention on the sensitive terrain of hills” is to blame.
  • Not only has there been significant deforestation for the construction of the railway line and the four-line highway over the years, but there has also been rampant riverbed mining, which is frequently done in conjunction with district authorities.
  • Many highways are being built across streams and springs, and hastily completed infrastructure development work in Assam and neighbouring states has resulted in a surge in landslides in recent years.

What are Landslides?

Landslides are physical mass movement of soil, rocks and debris down the mountain slope because of heavy rainfall, earthquake, gravity and other factors.

Why do Landslides Occur?
  • Base of the huge mountains eroded by rivers or due to mining activities or erosion agents resulting in steep slopes.
  • Increased industrialisation leading to climate change and weather disturbances.
  • Change in river flow due to construction of dams, barriers, etc.
  • Loose soil cover and sloping terrain.

Two Primary varieties of Landslides in India

I- Himalayas

  • India has the highest mountain chain on earth, the Himalayas, which are formed due to collision of Indian and Eurasian plate, the northward movement of the Indian plate towards China causes continuous stress on the rocks rendering them friable, weak and prone to landslides and earthquakes.
  • The Northeastern region is badly affected by landslide problems causing recurring economic losses worth billions of rupees.

II- Western Ghats

  • A different variety of landslides, characterized by a lateritic cap (Laterite is a soil and rock type rich in iron and aluminium , and is commonly considered to have formed in hot and wet tropical areas), pose constant threat to the Western Ghats in the South, along the steep slopes overlooking the Konkan coast besides Nilgiris, which is highly landslide prone.

The problem needs to be tackled for mitigation and management for which hazard zones have to be identified and specific slides to be stabilized and managed in addition to monitoring and early warning systems to be placed at selected sites.

Zone Map

Himalayas of Northwest and Northeast India and the Western Ghats are two regions of high vulnerability and are landslide prone.

Why are Landslides more frequent in the Himalayas than in the Western Ghats?

In the Himalayas, Landslides are very frequent because:

  • Heavy snowfall in winter and melting in summer induces debris flow, which is carried in large quantity by numerous streams and rivers – which results in increases chances of Landslides.
  • Himalayas are made of sedimentary rocks which can easily be eroded – hence, erosions contribute to more landslides.
  • Drifting of Indian plate causes frequent earthquakes and resultant instability in the region.
  • Man-made activities like grazing, construction and cultivation abet soil erosion and risks of landslides.
  • Himalayas not yet reached its isostatic equilibrium which destabilizes the slopes causing landslides.
  • Diurnal changes of temperature are much more in northern India than in southern slopes – weakening the rocks and increasing mass wasting and erosion.

In the Wester Ghats, Landslides are comparatively less frequent because:

  • Western Ghats are eroded, denuded, aged, mature, worn out by exogenic forces and have a much lower height – hence, occurrence of Landslides is lesser.
  • The Western Ghats are on more stable part of Indian plate, hence, there is a lesser occurrence of earthquakes and landslides.
  • While steep slope on western side with high rainfall creates idea condition for landslide but gentle eastern slope with low rainfall and rivers in senile stage, counters the condition.
  • Moving of Indian plates doesn’t affect the Western Ghats much (as they are old block mountains), hence the reduced number of landslides.
  • Small & swift flowing streams of western side and big matured rivers on eastern side (like Krishna, Godavari, etc) cannot carry large amount of debris.

Geographical distribution of floods in India

  • Rashtriya Barh Ayog (National Flood Commission) identified 40 million hectares of land as flood-prone in India.
  • Historically, Bihar has been known to be India’s most flood-prone State. The Flood Management Improvement Support Centre (FMISC), Department of Water Resources, Government of Bihar estimates that 76% of the population in north Bihar faces the recurring threat of flood devastation.
  • Assam, West Bengal and Bihar are among the high flood-prone states of India.
  • Most of the rivers in the northern states like Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, are also vulnerable to occasional floods.
  • States like Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana and Punjab are also getting inundated in recent decades due to flash floods. This is partly because of the pattern of the monsoon and partly because of blocking of most of the streams and river channels by human activities.
  • Sometimes, Tamil Nadu experiences flooding during November – January due to the retreating monsoon.

China is Building a Second, Bigger Bridge on the Pangong Tso lake


The Ministry of External Affairs has confirmed that China is building a second bridge on the Pangong Tso lake, not far from the site of one of the most intense friction points in the border standoff that began in May 2020.


GS II- International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Where are these bridges located?
  2. How will these constructions help China?
  3. Why this location?
  4. What has been India’s response?
  5. What is the current situation in the standoff?

Where are these bridges located?

  • After building the first bridge – about 400 metres long and 8 metres wide – on the Pangong Tso close to the friction areas on the north bank of the lake and the Chushul sub-sector on the south bank, China started constructing a broader bridge next to it.
  • The site of the bridge is around 20 km east of Finger 8 on the lake’s north bank – which is where the Line of Actual Control (LAC) passes, according to India.
    • However, the actual distance by road is more than 35 km between the bridge site and Finger 8.
  • The construction site is just east of an old ruin called Khurnak Fort, where China has major frontier defence bases.
  • China calls it Rutong Country. It has a frontier defence company at the Khurnak Fort, and further east, a water squadron deployed at Banmozhang.
  • Although it is being built in territory that is under China’s control since 1958, the exact point is just west of India’s claim line, which means India considers it its own territory.
  • Pangong Tso is a 135-km long landlocked lake. India has around 45 km of Pangong Tso under its control, while China has more than two-thirds. The site of the new bridge is near the halfway mark of the boomerang-shaped lake.

How will these constructions help China?

  • The main objective of the bridges is faster movement of troops, including mechanised forces, heavy weapons, and military vehicles.
  • The bridges are at one of the narrowest points on the lake, close to the LAC.
  • The constructions are a direct outcome of the ongoing standoff that began in May 2020, which catalysed the construction of infrastructure by both sides across the entire 3,488-km long LAC.

Why this location?

  • The location has to do with an operation by the Indian Army in August 2020, which allowed India to gain some leverage in negotiations to resolve the standoff.
  • Indian troops out manoeuvred the People’s Liberation Army to occupy the heights of Kailash Range in the Chushul sub-sector on the south bank of Pangong Tso.
  • The positions allowed India to dominate the strategically significant Spanggur Gap, which could be used to launch an offensive as China had done in 1962.
  • Also, India got a direct view of China’s Moldo Garrison. This was a cause of immense concern for the Chinese.
  • After this operation, the Indian Army also readjusted on the lake’s north bank to position themselves above Chinese positions.
  • The north bank was one of the first friction points to have come up in May 2020.
  • During this jostling, warning shots were fired for the first time by both sides, a first in over four decades.
  • Also at certain areas on the south bank, troops and tanks were positioned just a few hundred metres apart, creating a dangerous eyeball-to-eyeball standoff.
  • The two sides finally agreed to pull back troops from these areas in February last year after spending a harsh winter on those heights.

What has been India’s response?

  • India has said that the site of the bridge is under illegal occupation of China, and that it is monitoring all Chinese activity closely.
  • India has never accepted such illegal occupation of our territory, nor accepted the unjustified Chinese claim or such construction activities.

What is the current situation in the standoff?

  • While several friction points have been resolved, discussions are on regarding three remaining areas.
  • India and China pulled their troops back from Patrolling Point (PP) 14 in Galwan Valley in June 2020, after the fatal clashes.
  • Then they disengaged from the north and south banks of Pangong Tso in February 2021, and from PP17A near Gogra Post in August. But negotiations have been stuck since then.
  • The Corps Commanders from both sides have met 15 times since the standoff began, and the last meeting was in March.
    • The dates for the next round of talks are still awaited.
  • China has a Platoon-sized strength of PLA troops on the Indian side of the LAC at PP15 in the Hot Springs area. Also, some so-called “Chinese civilians” have pitched tents on the Indian side of the Charding Nalla, which marks the LAC in Demchok.
  • Further north, closer to the Karakoram Pass, Chinese troops continue to block Indian soldiers in an area called the Bottleneck in Depsang Plain, disallowing them to access India’s traditional patrolling limits at PP10, PP11, PP11a, PP12 and PP13.


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