During the past five years, India and South Korea have experienced considerable divergence in their respective national objectives.
- There was a clear drift by South Korea away from multilateral security initiatives led by the United States, such as the Quad (the U.S., Australia, India and Japan); meanwhile, India has been actively participating in them.
- In the last few years, India and South Korea have faced serious blockades to their economic ties.
- Trade between the two countries was sluggish and there was no major inflow of South Korean investment into India.
- No upgrade in CEPA: India and South Korea were also trying to upgrade their Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) agreement, but to no avail.
Change in Korean foreign and security policies and opportunities for India:
- Opportunities for India: South Korea’s new willingness to become a global pivotal state and play an active role in regional affairs is bound to create multiple opportunities for a multi-dimensional India- Korea partnership.
- Defence cooperation: Advanced defence technologies and modern combat systems are the new domains for the next level of defence cooperation between the two countries.
- A Roadmap for Defence Industries Cooperation between the Republic of India and the Republic of Korea (ROK) was signed in 2020.
- Maritime security: South Korea’s participation in additional maritime security activities in the Indian Ocean, such as the annual Malabar and other exercises with Quad countries, will further strengthen India’s naval footprint in the Indo-Pacific region.
- Chinese pressure: The Chinese leadership is adversely impacted by policy changes brought in by the Yoon administration.
- The real challenge for global geopolitics is this: can South Korea withstand the inevitable Chinese pressure and stick to its new alignment?
- Tension with North Korea: South Korea’s peace process with North Korea has completely collapsed.
- In the coming days, as North Korea conducts more missile and nuclear tests, it may lead to regional tension. Any breakout of hostilities on the Korean Peninsula can derail South Korea’s Indo-Pacific project.
- Strategic partnership: India has evolved excellent strategic partnerships with Japan, Vietnam and Australia.
- South Korea could be the fourth pillar in India’s Indo-Pacific strategy along with Japan, Australia, and Vietnam. This can bring about a paradigm shift in India’s position and influence in the region.
- With South Korea’s emergence as a leader in critical technologies, cybersecurity and cyber-capacity building, outer space and space situational awareness capabilities, South Korea can contribute immensely to enhance India’s foundational strengths in the Indo-Pacific.
- India can help South Korea withstand Chinese pressure and North Korean threats.
- This new partnership can have a long-term positive impact for both countries and the Indo-Pacific region.
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