The movie Life of Pi possibly symbolises best the Indo-Taiwanese collaboration and also satiates the perception both these countries nurture of each other.
CK Tien, who has taken over as representative at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Center in New Delhi, believes the film is a perfect example of how both countries can work together and deepen relations.
“Ang Lee, a director from Taiwan, makes a beautiful film with Indian actors based on a story from this country. This is a perfect example of how both countries can cooperate in various spheres,” says Tien who was in the city on Thursday.
Tien has been in India for only a few weeks now and is amazed at how little people know about Taiwan. “For people here, East possibly ends with Singapore or Thailand. My first challenge is to spread awareness about my country here,” he says.
“Even in Taiwan, India is known mostly through Bollywood movies,” says Tien. “Cricket and religion are other things India is known by.”
“Most Taiwanese do not know about Hinduism. But they are aware that Buddhism originated here.”
Bringing these perceptions to light, Tien advocates that cultural exchange programmes, along with deeper economic ties and cooperation in the field of education, particularly medicine, will help people of both countries understand each other better.
“I found India much more advanced than I expected,” says Tien. “There is so much more to this country than what is projected through the movies.”
On trade, Tien says that Taiwan has emerged as an economic force improving from a per capita income of $100 a few decades ago to about $20,000 now.
“India has the resources and we have the know-how. We complement each other and can gain a lot through cooperation.”
Tien says there is a feasibility study being done by both countries in order to work towards a Free Trade Agreement (FTA). “If not an FTA, I believe an Economic Cooperation Agreement would go a long way in cementing trade between the countries,” says Tien.
However, China casts a long shadow when the talk revolves around India or Taiwan. And Tien says that Taiwan is actually the “torch-bearer” of the traditional Chinese culture. “Take for example the Mandarin script,” says Tien. “Mainland China simplified the script a few years back to make it easier for people to learn.
“However in Taiwan, we still follow the traditional Mandarin script. When Mainland China simplified the script, something was lost. Most of the country’s history is recorded in the traditional script.”
Tien says he wants to help Indians learn the Chinese language and is even willing to provide teachers for the purpose.
“I believe Chinese language will play an important role in the future. I am working towards offering the language as a subject to students at the elementary level here,” says Tien.
Tien believes that Taiwan can be the springboard for India which is now following the Look East policy. “Taiwan is the gateway,” says Tien.
The complexity of Taiwan’s issue with China in particular and with the rest of the world in general had tied its hands for a long time. And the representative says that the current President Ma Ying-jeou is keen on maintaining status quo with China and not press for re-unification, independence or use of force.
The impending leadership change in China too brings little hope. China’s President in waiting Xi Jinping has worked for 18 years in the Fujian province, which is situated close to Taiwan.
“Xi Jinping has interacted with Taiwanese people and he possibly understands us a lot better.
However, we are not taking him for granted. I don’t think the issue of sovereignty will be compromised but I do believe that there will be increased understanding of each other,” says Tien.
The disputes over islands in the South China Sea and the East China Sea is not the topic to be talked about now, says Tien. “It is an issue that will not be resolved so easily. We will work towards a solution for that but in the meanwhile we want to progress on other fronts,” he adds.
However, the first thing Tien says he wants to do is educate as many people as possible here about Taiwan and showcase it as a democratic, responsible and, both culturally and economically, a rich place.
“And yes, I want Taiwanese people to see the Indian film — 3 Idiots. It’s brilliant,” he says.