The Taiwanese foreign ministry on Tuesday said that a recent rise in derogatory social media posts about Indian workers is a “textbook example of cognitive warfare and information manipulation” by China.

The ministry was referring to recent racist posts about Indian labourers on social media. It said that the bulk of such online comments were “strikingly similar” to each other and “posted by fake accounts”. It said this is meant to strain relations between New Delhi and Taipei City.

The remarks were sparked by a report on November 10 that Taiwan could hire as many as 1 lakh Indians to work at factories, farms and hospitals. The deal could be signed in December, according to Bloomberg.

Taiwan-based Chinese language newspaper China Times reported on November 16 that a protest against the entry of Indian workers was being planned in the first week of December. Chinese language news media in Taiwan also reported about some individuals making derogatory remarks online, accusing Indians of being uneducated and raising concerns about the safety of women in Taiwan with the entry of Indian workers.

The Taiwanese foreign ministry said that the country boasts of significant social diversity and has long embraced migrant workers without prejudice, including those from India.“We enjoy flourishing ties with the New Southbound Policy nation and aspire to further enhance our labour collaboration,” it said.

The New Southbound Policy is a Taiwanese government initiative to boost cooperation with 18 countries, including India.

The ministry added: “[China’s cognitive warfare is] a devious move to tarnish our national image and strain Taiwan-India relations, but the attempt to destroy goodwill in the Milk-Tea Alliance won’t prevail!”

The Milk Tea Alliance refers to an informal solidarity movement uniting pro-democracy voices across Asia.

Last week, Taiwan’s Labour Minister Hsu Ming-chun said that Taipei and New Delhi are discussing a deal that would allow Indians to work in Taiwan, but said that the 1 lakh figure is inaccurate.

Hsu said that she suspects intentional manipulation of the number of migrants being allowed to enter Taiwan to create panic. “I urge the general public to not fall into this trap of cognitive warfare,” Taiwan-based Formosa News quoted Hsu as saying on November 16.

On November 9, Arindam Bagchi, India’s external affairs ministry spokesperson, had confirmed that New Delhi and Taipei have been negotiating an employment mobility agreement. However, he did not provide details of what the agreement will entail.

New Delhi does not have diplomatic relations with Taipei but has been exploring deeper economic ties.

With an ageing population, Taiwan needs a supply of labour. This has presented an opportunity for deeper economic cooperation between Taiwan and India. Taipei and New Delhi view China as a common rival.

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