India and South Korea :Strategic ‘Partners’ With Long term Goals

India and South Korea share remarkable common interests – all the more remarkable considering how far apart they are geographically, in area, popula­tion, average income, living conditions and climate. And then consider how different are Indians and Koreans in ethnic and linguistic backgrounds, religious beliefs and influences. It’s hard to imagine two such important na­tions and societies with so little in common, yet so close­ly bound by security and economic considerations.

Yes, appearances can be extremely de­ceiving in a fast-moving high-tech world in which potentially cataclysmic military pressures, on top of domestic political power struggles and the need for trade and commerce, outweigh so much else. After considering all the differences, just look at all India and South Korea have in common.

Democratic forms, while significant, are far from the only reason for India’s grow­ing ties with South Korea. Perhaps more important in this period of confrontation and crisis throughout Asia is the common denominator of concern about China. De­spite the enormous importance of South Korea’s commercial relations with China, the South has to worry about China’s sup­port of its protectorate, North Korea. China may not have been happy about North Ko­rea’s latest nuclear test and may be trying to dissuade North Korea from provocations that will ruin the “stability” of the Korean peninsula. Nonetheless, no one doubts the Chinese would be on the side of the North Koreans in the event of the dreaded Second Korean War, just as they were in the first Korean War.

So why should India share a parallel concern about China? Historically, China as the huge power to the North has always been a threat. The Chinese nipped off por­tions of India’s northernmost frontier re­gions in bloody incursions in 1962, and resentment smolders not only over those unresolved clashes but also over much more recent Chinese incursions into Sik­kim. Chinese influence, moreover, is para­mount in Nepal, which forms a buffer be­tween Tibet and India. As China tightens its grip over Tibet, it is also spreading its writ over Nepal, where communist forces, often conflicting with one another, have been in power since the bloody demise of the monarchy.

Worries about rising Chinese influence on India’s northern frontiers are com­pounded by China’s strong ties with Paki­stan, the recipient of Chinese military sup­port and economic aid. China is providing Pakistan with aircraft as well as tanks and other armaments and is even cooperating with Pakistan on its nuclear program. As a result, India is under intense pressure to beef up and modernize its own forces along the Pakistan border just as it has done along its northern frontiers.

The nuclear issue is especially crucial con­sidering the cooperation extended by A. Q. Khan, the “father” of the Pakistan atomic bomb, to both North Korea and Iran. The ad­age, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” may seem exaggerated but helps explain India’s ties with South Korea. Clearly both South Korea and India share common cause vis-à-vis China despite the best efforts of lead­ers in both Seoul and New Delhi to tempo­rize with China, to achieve a modus vivendi within which all powers can live and let live.

On the same day that the article ap­peared, India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh came to a remarkable understanding with South Korea’s President Lee Myung-bak on a wide range of issues with empha­sis on the “Strategic Partnership” agreed on during Lee’s visit to New Delhi in January 2010. The wording suggested a bond almost as tight as a military alliance.

The Indian prime minister and the South Korean president, meeting this time in Seoul, “agreed to continue high-level exchanges between the defense establishments of both sides, undertake activities as mutually agreed upon for deepening bilateral defense relations and to explore the possibilities of joint ventures in research & development and manufacture of military equipment, in­cluding through the transfer of technology and co-production.” Lee, with an eye clearly on commercial as well as military benefits, “underscored that the ROK side wanted to in­crease cooperation with India in military and defense industry including, inter alia, naval ships, aircrafts, and ship-building.”

Buried lower down in the joint com­muniqué was a summary of what may, in retrospect, have been the most portentous aspects of the Singh-Lee summit when viewed in the glow of North Korea’s subse­quent successes in putting a satellite into orbit and then in conducting its third un­derground nuclear test.

The two leaders, said the communiqué, “pledged to enhance cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space” in accordance with a memorandum of understanding be­tween the Indian Space Research Organi­zation and the Korea Aerospace Research Institute.

“The leaders,” it said, “noted that the technical experts from both sides met in Bangalore, India, in March 2011 and identi­fied priority areas of cooperation.” In fact, they “proposed that the concerned agencies of both countries study the possible coop­eration in future space activities, including launching a nano-satellite developed by Ko­rean students on an Indian launch vehicle.

A critical element in the “strategic part­nership” undoubtedly is the India-Korea Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, which came into force in Janu­ary 2011. Under the agreement India has cut or gotten rid of tariffs on 85 percent of imports from Korea while Korea has done the same for 90 percent of imports from India. At the same time, most of Korea’s biggest companies are investing heavily in India. Most spectacularly, and perhaps con­troversially, POSCO, Pohang Iron and Steel, is investing US$12 billion in a steel plant in Orissa despite the impassioned pleas of local people forced to give up their homes. Indian authorities are totally committed to provid­ing space for the plant, which represents by far India’s biggest foreign direct investment.

Visions of India as a growing market for Korean products and technology extend to virtually all areas of enterprise. Ambassador Kim believes “India’s strong software capa­bilities and Korea’s hardware manufactur­ing prowess are ‘complementary strengths’ of the two countries.” LG and Samsung be­tween them account for between two fifths and three fifths of the market in electronic gimmicks and gadgets while Hyundai Mo­tor, producing vehicles in Chennai, now ac­counts for 20 percent of the cars on Indian roads. Korean companies have been check­ing out the possibilities of manufacturing ships in West Bengal, of building roads and highways, oil pipelines and refineries as well as petrochemical plants. Not all the invest­ment is from Korea into India. The other way around, some of India’s biggest companies, including Tata Motors, Novelis, and Mahin­dra have also invested in South Korea.

Ambassador Kim waxed euphoric about the potential for collaboration on energy projects, particularly in the expanding nu­clear field. “Korea’s world class civil nuclear capabilities in nuclear power plant con­struction, management, maintenance and safety practices could be an area of poten­tial cooperation,” he said. And “with cutting edge technology in wind power turbine and solar cell, Korea can help India develop its renewable sources such as solar, wind and hydro power.” Korea is eager to “partner with India in joint ventures, technical co­operation, R&D and co-production,” Kim concluded. “There is tremendous scope for cooperation in science and technology, par­ticularly in areas such as nano-technology and biotechnology.”

Full article: India and South Korea :Strategic ‘Partners’ With Long term Goals (Asia-Pacific Business & Technology Report)



One response to “India and South Korea :Strategic ‘Partners’ With Long term Goals

  1. I agree with what you say. 100%. I love China, and I have lived there 5 years. Yet, I know that China is a threat. The Chinese Government only cares about China. A world dominated by China can be scary