Context: Recently External Affairs Minister of India attended a seven-nation virtual meeting of Foreign Ministers, convened by U.S. Secretary of State, which appeared to be part of US’s efforts to gain support for its move to effect changes at the WHO.

More about the meeting:

  • The seven-nation meeting was attended by the foreign ministers of Australia, Brazil, India, Israel, Japan, and the Republic of Korea.
  • The conversation covered issues such as pandemic response, global health management, medical cooperation, economic recovery, and travel norms.

About the dispute between the US and China to accord Taiwan observer status

  • US stand:
    • The recent meeting was held on the same day the U.S. Senate passed an Act (S.249) to “direct the Secretary of State to develop a strategy to regain observer status for Taiwan in the World Health Organization”.
  • China’s stand: China's position on Taiwan region’s participation in WHO activities, including WHA, is clear and consistent. According to China, it must be handled according to the ‘One China’ principle.

Why is this cause of concern for India?

  • India is set to take over as the next Chairperson of the World Health Organisation’s decision-making body in May 2020.
    • WHO is headed by the Director-General, who is appointed by the Health Assembly on the nomination of the Executive Board.
    • The chairperson’s position will come to India was decided last year when the WHO’s South-East Asia group unanimously proposed New Delhi to the executive board for a three-year-term.
    • The group also nominated India for the chairperson’s post held by rotation for one year among regional groups.
  • The timing of India’s appointment is crucial, given the worldwide debate on the role of the WHO during the pandemic, and criticism of the current WHO Director-General.
    • The U.S. has also already accused the WHO of acting as a “PR agency” for China during the pandemic.
  • India is faced with a major choice on whether to support a U.S. move to reinstate Taiwan’s observer status at the World Health Assembly (WHA) or to support China’s opposition to it.
  • Officials have confirmed that India’s nominee will take over as the Chairperson, replacing Japan.
  • India is likely to hold the post for the next three years. 

One China Policy

  • Any country wishing to establish diplomatic relations with Beijing must acknowledge there is only “One China” and sever all formal ties with Taiwan.
  • The One China policy is also different from the "One China principle", which is the principle that insists both Taiwan and mainland China are inalienable parts of a single "China" 


About World Health Assembly

  • The World Health Assembly is the decision-making body of WHO. 
  • It is attended by delegations from all WHO Member States and focuses on a specific health agenda prepared by the Executive Board. 
  • The main functions of the World Health Assembly are to 
    • determine the policies of the Organization, 
    • appoint the Director-General, 
    • supervise financial policies, and review and 
    • approve the proposed program budget. 
  • The Health Assembly is held annually in Geneva, Switzerland.


  • The World Health Organization is governed by two decision-making bodies: the World Health Assembly and the Executive Board. 
  • The World Health Assembly is the supreme governing body of the WHO and is comprised of delegations from all 192 Member States.


Image source: WHO