The Taiwan visit last week by US lawmakers led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was intended to make sure what happened in Ukraine - invaded by Russia - was not repeated with China invading Taiwan, says Raja Krishnamoorthi, a member of the US House of Representatives.
In an exclusive interview, Krishnamoorthi, who had accompanied Pelosi, says the Chinese "tried to interfere with our trip, even while we were in the air".
The lawmaker, who was born in Delhi, also said while there is disappointment in the US with India's refusal to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it will affect "our desire to work more closely with the Indians".
Excerpts from the interview:
Q: Good to be back, Congressman?
A: Yeah, thanks.
Q: How long were you there in Taiwan?
A: Less than 12 hours; may be a lot less than that. I forgot.
Q: Did you feel unsafe at all during those hours that you all were there?
A: We were in the excellent hands of the United States Air Force and US Navy personnel.
So I felt very, very good about our safety.
Q: Do you think the Chinese could go ahead and do something unfortunate or something stupid at any stage?
A: I can't get into details but they absolutely tried to interfere with our trip, even while we were in the air. But thankfully, as I mentioned, our United States Armed Forces personnel are incredibly adept at dealing with this type of mischief with the PRC's actions, and so we were able to arrive safely.
Q: Congressman, what was the purpose of this visit?
A: Two reasons. One is, especially in light of what we've seen in Ukraine to make sure that what happened with Ukraine doesn't happen with Taiwan. So it's all the more reason why we have to stand shoulder to shoulder with our friends and partners and allies in their hour of me as they face Chinese Communist Party aggression. And then the second reason we were there was to expand our economic ties with these countries, including Taiwan, especially in light of the passage of the CHIPS Act (it seeks to incentivise US production of semiconductors), which really encourages semiconductor manufacturing here in the United States. It turns out those countries are very excited about this particular law. And, for instance, Taiwan has already pledged to invest $20 billion in manufacturing facilities here in the United States.
Q: I'm not sure if it came up during a trip to Taiwan or Asia, but in a similar situation, as you know, the Chinese have been very aggressive on the LAC (Line of Actual Control) with India. Any thoughts?
A: I think that that's just another example of Chinese Communist Party aggression. It's throwing its elbows militarily in the neighborhood.
We see that in the South China Sea with regard to several of its neighbours, whether it's Philippines, it's Vietnam, whether it's Malaysia. Of course, we all know about Taiwan.
And the same is true with regard to India. And I think that is absolutely the reason why, you know, we have to make sure that countries comply with an international rules-based order where their disagreements are. solved peacefully, resolved peacefully, not through the use of force.
Q: India-China tensions along the LAC have not received as much attention in the US as Taiwan's China problem. Do you think more is needed to be highlighted?
A: Well, as you as you know, I actually included language within the last NDAA that was signed into law - the National Defense Authorization Act (US defense budget for 2021), talking about the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and the aggression that is taking place toward India on that line. (The Act has expressed significant concerns over the border clashes and urged India and Chin to resolve their differences peacefully).
You are correct. I think that most most people who follow these issues believe that India is an incredibly strong country, and it is fully capable of dealing with the People's Republic of China in a way that, for instance, Taiwan, which is a tiny country of 23 million people compared to the 1.4 billion-strong PRC, is not. It is well positioned.
All that being said, I do think that what is happening with regard to India is part of a much bigger pattern of behavior that needs to be dealt with. And I'm hopeful that over time, we'll get to a better place.
But in the meantime, I think the Quad initiative with us -- Japan, Australia, United States and India -- along with what's happening on our other initiatives with (South) Korea and Japan, ASEAN countries will will bear fruit in reducing tensions.
Q: Congressman, one last question. Do you think India's refusal to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine has kind of impacted its credibility in the US and that its ability to call on for help if, for instance, China were to get more aggressive. A lot of people in the US are a little disappointed with it (India's position on Ukraine)?
A: I think the short answer to your question is I think that what India has done relative to Ukraine does influence people's thoughts about where India stands in connection with countries that are potentially attacked by (Russian President Vladimir) Putin or other authoritarian dictators.
However, in the case of the People's Republic of China, and the Chinese Communist Party, I don't think that the position on Ukraine affects our desire to work more closely with the Indians and the others in the neighborhood to deal with this aggression and to contain it and to hopefully, as I said, get to a better place, achieve an international rules based order in the Indo-Pacific region, as we wish in the entire world, because that is essential, you know, for the peace and prosperity of the planet.
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