Scale up the India-South Korea bilateral partnership
- Seoul has the potential to become fourth pillar in New Delhi’s Indo-Pacific strategy
- In last five years, India and South Korea have experienced divergence in their national objectives.
- Seoul Drifted away from multilateral security initiatives led by US, such as Quad while India is actively participating in them.
- Trade between them was sluggish and there was no major inflow of South Korean investment into India.
- Both were trying to upgrade their Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) agreement, but to no avail.
Correcting a China tilt
- South Korea: Strategic policy shift away from China will bring new economic opportunities for both countries.
- Trade target: $50 billion by 2030.
- New areas of cooperation: Public health, green growth, digital connectivity, and trade.
- South Korea’s new defence orientation, new avenues of cooperation for defence and security have emerged.
- Advanced defence technologies and modern combat systems are new domains for defence cooperation.
- Maritime security: Activities in Indian Ocean will strengthen India’s naval footprint in Indo-Pacific region.
- Shift in policies: Enable strong India, South Korea and Japan defence policy coordination that could forge new joint regional security policies.
- South Korea: leader in critical technologies, cybersecurity and cyber-capacity building, outer space and space situational awareness.
- Emerging alignment may be short lived if proper attention is not paid to multi-dimensional challenges it faces.
U.S. factor and North Korea
- Republicans are gaining strength in domestic politics in U.S.
- Last Republican President(Trump) wasn’t convinced about relevance of the U.S.-Korea partnership.
- Discussed withdrawing U.S. forces from South Korea.
- South Korea’s peace process with North Korea has collapsed.
- Any hostilities on Korean Peninsula can derail South Korea’s Indo-Pacific project.
- India can help South Korea withstand Chinese pressure and North Korean threats.
- An independent, strong, and democratic South Korea can be a long-term partner with India, that will add significant value to India’s Indo-Pacific strategy.
- New partnership can have long-term positive impact for both countries and the Indo-Pacific region.