Event ReportsPublished on Jul 04, 2018
A brain-storming before South Korean President’s visit to India

Korea India Strategic Partnership | Inaugural Session


India-ROK relations have had long historical ties, and the strategic partnership formulated in 2010 between the two nations has given a major boost to their bilateral relations. The daylong conference on ‘Development of peace and prosperity for the Korea-India strategic partnership’ organized by ORF on June 20 in collaboration with the Yonsei university, ROK, as their fourth annual dialogue, revolved around the evolving strategic partnership of the two nations and the future prospects of their bilateral cooperation.

Yong Suhk Pak, Director of the Institute of East and West studies, Yonsei University, in his opening remarks, emphasised on the importance of the Indo-Pacific region and the need for public diplomacy for the development of the relations between the two nations. Sunjoy Joshi, Chairman, ORF, in his welcoming remarks, talked about the historical roots of the bilateral ties by referring to  the fascinating example of the princess Suri Ratna, who travelled to Korea to marry the Korean  king, Kim Su-Ro in 1580. He remarked that South Korea has made significant efforts for peace not just in the Korean peninsula, but also in the larger Indo-Pacific.  Joshi added that, “President Moon’s southern policy is a logical corollary to the major peace initiative he has launched and it would contribute to strengthen   relations between India and South Korea”. The engagements between the two nations have expanded significantly to cover a wide spectrum of interests including nuclear disarmament, nuclear non-proliferation, regional economic cooperation, maritime security, counter terrorism and UN Reforms. He remarked that both countries, as vibrant democracies, are interested in ensuring a rule-based security architecture in the Indo-Pacific region and have a common commitment to freedom of navigation and overflight in the high seas for pursuing lawful commercial activities. The two nations conduct dialogues at various levels regularly and are keenly interested in promoting greater regional integration and   cooperation.

South Korean Ambassador to India, Shin Bongkil, agreed with Joshi’s observations  and explained the importance of public diplomacy for promoting  mutual understanding between the two countries.

In  her  keynote address, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs for India, ROK, Enna Park, praised the peace process initiated by President Moon Jae-in, Chairman Kim Yong UN and President Donald Trump. She laid great emphasis on the peaceful coexistence and prosperity of the two Koreas. In particular, she referred to the whole dialogue process  that included the inter- Korean dialogue and the Singapore joint statement by  Moon and Kim. She said that, “Korean peninsula issue is not just a problem of the two Koreas, and peace and prosperity of Korean peninsula will be a great victory for every one of us and for the peace of the world”. She then referred to the importance of India and said that “we call India as incredible India and rank India as a must visit country”. She remarked that President Moon’s southern policy strengthens the southern partners, especially India. Korea desires to build a close partnership with India and the Indian people, where Koreans and Indians are strongly connected “heart to heart”. She was confident of building a sustainable partnership based on the genuine understanding of the two nations. She added that, “Many people around the world are waiting for India and Korea to light the lamp of peace and prosperity.”

The first session, chaired by, Prof. K.V. Kesavan, distinguished fellow, ORF, focused on the  contribution of the two countries for a peaceful regional order. The session had three panelists: Dr.Jiyoon Kim, Dr.Woo Yeal Paik (Division of business administration, Yonsei University) and Dr. Jagannath Panda (Researcher at IDSA).  Prof. K.V. Kesavan remarked that the Trump-Kim summit would have tremendous implications for the entire Asia. Modi’s visit to the South Korea in 2015  was a turning point in  their relations. He believes that South Korea is an indispensable  partner in India’s act east policy. Dr. Kim’s  presentation, revolved around Northeast Asia  and she pointed out how North Korea changed its policy and started the peace initiative in 2018. President Moon believes that there ought to be peace first  on Korean peninsula before it could achieve unification.. She talked about the importance of the Inter-Korean summit and how it exercised  its impact on  the younger  generation.. Dr. Woo’s presentation  concentrated on India’s ‘Act East policy’ and its synergy with Moon’s southern policy. He remarked that ‘Moon’s southern policy is based on the ASEAN and India, and other South Asian countries’. Dr. Panda, on the other,  emphasised on the new developments in the  Indo-Pacific.

The second session, chaired by Dr.Yong Suhk Pak, revolved mainly around bilateral economic cooperation. There were two panelists: Young Ryeol Park (Yonsei University) and Dr. Bhanu Murthy (Delhi University). The session dealt with the prevailing economic conditions in India and South Korea. Mr. Park said, “The most imperative plan to strengthen Korea-India  partnership  is to find approaches to execute communication, cooperation and connection between the two nations."  While Dr. Murthy added that importance should be given to the intra-industry trade, tariff reductions and the global supply chains

The final session, chaired by Amb. Pinak Chakravarty, distinguished fellow, ORF, was focused on how to develop heart to heart relationship between the two peoples. There were two panelists: Dr. Byungwon Woo (Hankuk University for foreign studies) and Amb. Vishnu Prakash. Both stressed the imperative need to recognise the role that cultural diplomacy could play to foster closer understanding. Given their fascinating historical backgrounds, more serious and systematic efforts should be made to enhance the cultural dimensions of their diplomacy.  It is very essential to encourage mutual interest in a range of subjects like language studies, pop music and films,  yoga, native medicines, Buddhism-related tours,  and sports.

In the concluding session, both  Prof. Yong Suhk Pak and Prof. K.V. Kesavan expressed hope that the upcoming official visit of President Moon will give a new impetus to the India-South Korea partnership which has already become an important element in the shaping of  a   free, open and rule based regional architecture.

The report was prepared by Simran  Walia, Research Intern, Observer Research Foundation

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