This week the media brings us two tales of independence that are Taiwan-connected, one from India, one from Kosovo. A reader alerted me to this piece in the International Herald Tribune on the issues that independence for Kosovo creates for China. To wit:

Kosovo may be geographically removed from East Asia but what happens there could have potential implications for Taiwan. Taipei strongly supported the NATO intervention in 1999 and pledged $300 million in aid to Kosovar Albanian refugees. Taiwan’s “dollar diplomacy” has won it recognition as a sovereign state from a small number of countries, mostly in Latin America and Africa, that benefit from Taiwanese investment and aid.

Unemployment in Kosovo hovers at about 60 percent; much of the province’s natural resources cannot be developed without massive infusions of capital. Generous offers of aid from Taiwan might be tempting for Kosovo’s leadership, especially if Russia blocks Kosovo’s membership in the United Nations and other international organizations.

Despite repeated assurances from Washington and the capitals of Europe that the emergence of an independent Kosovo sets no precedent - and the United States continues to publicly object to any unilateral change in the status quo over Taiwan - a unilateral declaration of independence by Pristina would definitely be exploited by independence-leaning candidates in Taiwan’s presidential elections in March, further exacerbating strained relations between China and Taiwan.

So the Kosovo issue could unexpectedly crop up as a real problem in East Asia.

One way to avoid any crisis would be for Beijing to move quickly to recognize Kosovo’s independence, and match any offer made by Taipei. This seems unlikely, however. Beijing has signaled in the past that it would want a new UN resolution to replace UNSC 1244 - something unlikely to occur in the face of continued Russian opposition. And trying to buy Kosovo’s support might be too expensive for China, since Taiwan will undoubtedly make generous aid offers.

Another would be for the United States and the European Union to use their own significant political and financial leverage to persuade the Kosovar leadership to spurn any Taiwanese offer - but Taipei has shown in the past that it is willing to spend a great deal to gain recognition. Moreover, many in Kosovo feel that there is a pro-Serb tilt in Beijing. Why turn down concrete aid if a new UN resolution is not forthcoming?

As noted before in these pages, the US has been supporting independence for Kosovo despite strong objections from Russia. The parallel with Taiwan, where the US has been objecting to independence in concert with objections from another great power, China, is clear. However, I doubt very much that Kosovo will become a serious election issue here in Taiwan.


I blogged before on Indian independence hero Subhas Chandra Bose (Wiki). Bose died in Taiwan in an aircraft crash on Aug 18, 1945. He had raised an army of Indians to fight the British under the Japanese, believing that Gandhi’s non-violent approach would not work.

For many years there had been rumors that Bose hadn’t actually died in the crash, but out of Qatar comes the report of the real story of his final moments, with the release of secret papers from half a century ago:

Under the 2005 Right to Information Act, India has released documents that appear to prove that he died in the air crash on August 18, 1945. They include a report from the Counter Intelligence Corps, which questioned Habib ur Rahman, a close aide of Bose, who was among survivors of the crash.

The report, dated September 29, 1945, quotes Rahman as saying that the aircraft vibrated violently and burst into flames soon after leaving Taihoku (now Taipei), the capital of Formosa (Taiwan). “The seat Bose occupied in the aircraft was beside a petrol tank; at the time of the crash the tank exploded, spreading the burning fuel on Bose’s clothing,” it says.

The documents were released at the request of Mission Netaji, a Delhi-based group of amateur historians. Anuj Dhar, its founder, told The Times that the Government had refused initially, on the ground that the documents could stir unrest in India. He did not doubt the authenticity of the documents but said that the information could have been concocted to mislead the Allies.

The Netaji Research Bureau in Kolkata disagreed. Krishna Bose, 77, the widow of Bose’s nephew and the president of the bureau, said that the documents simply confirmed what Rahman and other survivors had said many times. Bose’s supporters regard him as a pragmatic freedom fighter who tried to evict a foreign power by seeking help from the only available sources.

Bose is another one of those fascinating might-have-beens that make history so interesting….