The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Taiwan has lodged a protest against Air India over its decision to change the country’s flight destinations from Taiwan to “Chinese Taipei.”

Ministry spokesperson Andrew Lee said that Taiwan’s representative office in New Delhi asked the airline to reverse its decision last week and will monitor developments to ensure “the independent sovereignty and dignity of Taiwan.”

MOFA has also urged the Indian Ministry of External Affairs’ International Trade and Civil Aviation department to reject “political meddling by foreign governments in the independent operations of Indian enterprises.”

air india chinese taipei
Photo: Air India screenshot.

Air India is the latest airline to bow to pressure from Beijing to distance itself from the island. Other companies include Air Canada, Qantas Airways and Emirates.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) sent letters to 36 international airlines in April asking them to remove references to Taiwan, Macau and Hong Kong as independent regions. It said it violated the government’s One China policy. The CAAC warned that potential repercussions could include blocking airline websites in China. It originally told airlines to comply by May 25; after only 18 airlines did so, it moved the deadline to July 25. The United States termed the demand “Orwellian nonsense” in May.

Air India confirmed to local media that the name change was approved by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs.

People’s Daily China – a state-run newspaper – said on Twitter that the move shows how Indian carriers consider Taiwan to be an integral part of China. In response, MOFA called the tweet “ironic” – referencing their use of a website that is censored in China.

Taiwan – officially known as the Republic of China (ROC) – has self-ruled since its split from the mainland after the 1949 civil war. However, Beijing claims that it is a province of China and does not recognise it as an independent country under its One China policy.

India does not have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan. The latest countries to cut diplomatic relations were Burkina Faso and the Dominican Republic in May.

The protests come after an international democracy conference held in Taipei last Monday, where Taiwan’s former Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu also called upon nations to resist bullying from China. Taiwanese nationals took to the streets of Brussels last week to protest China’s treatment of Taiwan.

HKFP has contacted Air India for comment.

Jennifer Creery is a Hong Kong-born British journalist, interested in minority rights and urban planning. She holds a BA in English at King's College London and has studied Mandarin at National Taiwan University.