World Health Organization Photograph:( AFP )
India will lead the executive board for three years and on Monday it will have to pick a side
In two days' time all eyes will be on India as the world health assembly kicks off on Monday.
In normal circumstances it would have been the annual gathering of the world's highest body that sets health policy, however, this time, it is being tracked closely due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The world wants accountability and solutions and focus will be on India since the country will take over as chair of the WHO executive board - the highest decision making body of the WHO.
India will lead the executive board for three years and on Monday it will have to pick a side. There will be a vote on Monday and India will have to make its position clear.
The vote will be on Taiwan's inclusion in the WHO. Taiwan has been campaigning to attend the world health assembly with China opposing it, however, many countries now support Taiwan but India is keeping its cards close to its chest at the same time Delhi is in talks with the bloc that's backing Taiwan.
Foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla has participated in at least seven group calls. He has been speaking to his counterparts in the US, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and Vietnam since March 20 once every week.
Four out of these seven nations have been backing Taiwan along with the United States, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. They have signed a demarche asking the WHO to allow Taiwan's return as an observer with other countries who have signed the demarche including Canada, France, Germany and the United Kingdom.
So far, India has stuck to the "One-China" policy but New Delhi has several reasons to shift its long-standing position.
Firstly, a look at the list of countries that back the demarche on Taiwan shows at least four countries - the United States, Japan, Germany and Australia as top trading partners of China but they are willing to take a stand despite the risk of repercussions. Beijing says this bloc is trying to "kidnap" the world health assembly but India shouldn't fall for the rhetoric from Beijing.
India must back Taiwan in its own national interest. At a time, when faulty Chinese supplies pushed back India's fight against the pandemic, Taiwan's support has been steady. It donated one million masks for medical personnel in India. The other reason why India must back Taiwan is China's repeated violations of India's sovereignty.
The border violations and the repeated attempts to block Indian initiatives at the United Nations just to keep Pakistan happy. On Monday, the world health assembly will hold a vote on whether Taiwan should be allowed as an observer at the WHO, India's vote could very well decide the fate of Taiwan.