- South Korean President Moon Jae-in is on four-day state visit to India, where the India and South Korea signed MoUs and agreements between them.
- Praising South Korean President for his role in talks with North Korea, PM Modi said India is also a stakeholder and beneficiary of the Korean peninsula peace process.
Highlights of MoUs:
- Both countries agreed to improve business and investment ties including taking bilateral trade, and to increase trade to more than double its current levels of $20 billion to $50 billion by 2030.
- India has been worried about its trade deficit with South Korea that stood at $12 billion last year, while Korean businessmen have complained about problems in the ease of doing business.
- In addition to the agreements, they held talks on upgrading their economic partnership CEPA, trade remedies, railway safety research, cyber strategy, and cultural exchanges.
Development projects in third countries:
- Close on the heels of a similar announcement between India and China, India and South Korea agreed to collaborate on development projects in third countries, beginning with Afghanistan.
- They agreed to take capacity building programmes (training of personnel) in Afghanistan followed by other development projects.
Joint vision statement:
- India and South Korea signed a joint vision statement on strategic ties in the region. They agreed to encourage defence industries to intensify cooperation in this regard.
- RoK and India will enhance military exchanges, training and experience-sharing, and research and development including innovative technologies for mutual benefit.
- Referring to disputes in the maritime sphere, both leaders recognized the link between prosperity and security and reaffirmed the importance of freedom of navigation, overflight and unimpeded lawful commerce.
- The bilateral vision document also committed to building a “peaceful, stable, secure, free, open, inclusive and rules-based region,” incorporating President Moon slogan of “3Ps: People, Prosperity and Peace”.
Terrorism and NSG:
- India and South Korea also pledged to work together to prevent proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and delivery systems, particularly to terrorists and non-state actors.
- The two leaders also reaffirmed that terrorism cannot be justified on any grounds and sought coordinated regional and global efforts.
- The Korean side also supported India’s bid to become a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
Next level of relationship:
- India and South Korea agreed to take the bilateral relationship to the next level by focusing on defence and security cooperation.
- Both sides announced central roles for each other in India’s “Act East” policy, and South Korea’s recently announced “New Southern” policy.
India as a stakeholder:
- PM Modi said that proliferation linkages between North-East Asia and South Asia is a matter of concern to India, in a veiled reference to China and Pakistan, who had helped build North Korea’s nuclear programme.
- India has repeatedly reminded the international community that any settlement of the dispute over North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme must keep in mind India’s concerns over proliferation.
- India has been pressing for a probe into North Korea’s nuclear proliferation linkages with Pakistan and demanded that those responsible for it should be held accountable.
- Therefore, India is also a stakeholder in the peace process and India will do her bit to ensure peace.
Optimism about the denuclearization talks between US-North Korea:
- Referring to the recent summit between North Korea and South Korea and talks between US President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, the two leaders hoped that these developments will contribute to complete denuclearization as well as lasting peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula.
- Mr. Moon said that he was confident about the final outcome of the peace process even though some “bruises and bumps” might come in the way.
India’s “Act East policy”:
- India’s Act East Policy focus on the extended neighbourhood in the Asia-Pacific region. The policy which was originally conceived as an economic initiative, has gained political, strategic and cultural dimensions including establishment of institutional mechanisms for dialogue and cooperation.
- The Objective of ”Act East Policy” is to promote economic cooperation, cultural ties and develop strategic relationship with countries in the Asia-Pacific region through continuous engagement at bilateral, regional and multilateral levels thereby providing enhanced connectivity to the States of North Eastern Region including Arunanchal Pradesh with other countries in our neighbourhood.
- India has upgraded its relations to strategic partnership with Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan, Republic of Korea (ROK), Australia, Singapore and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and forged close ties with all countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
South Korea’s “New Southern Policy”:
- The “New Southern Policy” aims to better connect South Korea to the Southeast and South Asia nations, as the North Asian economic powerhouse seeks to curb its reliance on traditional trading partners like China and the United States.
- The policy will mirror President Moon’s “New Northern Policy” which aimed at expanding cooperation with China, Japan, Russia, and Mongolia.
- Traditionally Korean diplomacy in Asia has been more toward Japan, China and Russia. And President Moon said he was aiming for a more “balanced diplomacy,” which would include Russia, ASEAN countries, and members of the European Union.
Act East and New Southern Policy:
- The geographical importance of the Indo-Pacific region covering both Korea and India is increasing. Hence there is great potential complementarity between Korea’s New Southern Policy and India’s Act East Policy.
- With Chinese assertiveness in the region and also a developing US-China trade war, both amounting to new challenges on both diplomatic and economic fronts. It is in their mutual interest for India and Korea to meet these challenges together.
- On the economic front India offers Korea a more predictable business environment as it seeks to diversify beyond its biggest export destination.