China on Thursday said that it approves of Air India's decision to refer to Taiwan as 'Chinese Taipei' to comply with a demand from Beijing.
Air India joined several foreign air carriers to comply with China's demand to no longer refer to Taiwan as a separate region on their websites. Air India's website, which as of last month mentioned 'Taiwan' now refers to it as 'Chinese Taipei'.
Several air carriers, including Singapore Airlines, Japan Airlines and Air Canada among others have amended their websites to not refer to Taiwan as a separate country, following an April 25 order by the Civil Aviation Authority of China.
China considers Taiwan as a breakaway province, although Taiwan has been administered separately with its own government since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949. India does not have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan although it has extensive economic and cultural links.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Thursday welcomed the decision. "Our position on this issue is quite clear. The Indian side and other countries must be clear about our position on this issue," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said.
"Air India is respecting the basic fact that there is one China and Taiwan is part of China. We approve of that," Lu said. "Respecting China's sovereignty and territorial integrity and obeying Chinese law is a basic principle that foreign companies need to follow in China."
Air India which has its office in Shanghai in China, received a letter from the Chinese Civil Aviation Authority (CAAC) which gave it time till July 25 to remove the reference to Taiwan.
The CAAC had warned of repercussions, starting with referring the websites to China's cyberspace administration which could take the decision to block the airlines websites in China.
In a warning to Air India, a commentary on Wednesday in the Party-run Global Times said: "Some Indian media outlets and scholars believe India has no reason to list Taiwan as part of China, unless China recognizes India's territorial claims. They argue that India's communiqués with China do not mention or support the one-China policy and Indian leaders did not speak explicitly about this policy; therefore, Indian companies do not have to abide by it.
The CAAC notice is the latest move to pressure foreign companies to reflect Chinas territorial and sovereignty claims.
Air India had said it would refer the matter to the Ministry of External Affairs. Whether this move will create a precedent for allowing China to pressure Indian companies to take a stand on political matter remains to be seen.