Event ReportsPublished on Aug 28, 2014
Given the emerging geo-political tensions in the region, the need of the hour for India, South Korea and other nations is to integrate and stay united, according to Mr. Anil Wadhwa, Secretary, Government of India.
Need of the hour for Asian nations is to stay united
Given the US pivot to Asia, recalibration of policies in Japan, rise of China and ASEAN community, geo-political tensions have begun to dominate and cast a spell on good relations in the Asian region and therefore the need of the hour for India, South Korea and other nations is to integrate and stay united in the region, according to Mr Anil Wadhwa, Secretary (East), Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India.

Mr. Wadhwa said this while delivering the keynote address at the one-day international dialogue on "The Converging Strategic and Economic Interests of India and the ROK in the Asia-Pacific" at the Center for India and Southwestern Asian Studies, Institute of East and West Studies, Yonsei University, Seoul, South Korea on August 28, 2014.

The dialogue was organised jointly by Observer Research Foundation and Yonsei University, Republic of South Korea. The aim of the dialogue was to strengthen the existing framework for India-Korea trade and investment relations and expand it to other areas of cooperation as well.

Mr. Wadhwa said multiplicity of dialogues truly supplement economic and security arrangements. For example the East Asia’s leaders’ summit interests both India and South Korea.

Mr. Wadhwa’s speech was read out by Mr. Vishnu Prakash, India’s ambassador to South Korea, as he could not attend the meeting due to sudden official engagements.

Mr. Wadhwa highlighted how South Korea is an important technological power in the region and that both the countries enjoy a bright, pleasant and a sunny relationship which is evolving every day. He spoke about how India, Korea and other countries in the region have contributed to the Asia pacific region being one of the most dynamic regions in the world. Progress and cooperation in the Asia pacific region has been strengthened by the good relations shared between India and Korea.

He emphasized on the need for an open, transparent, inclusive and evolutionary dialogue between the two countries. He also highlighted cooperation between the two countries in the areas of plurilateral agreements, piracy, smuggling, cooperation in tourism and agriculture, joint ministerial collaboration, strong interface with defence etc. In sum, he emphasized on expanding India ROK collaboration but said that the relationship needs re-structuring in the background of geo-political tensions.

Earlier, giving the welcome address, Yonsei University Provost. Prof. Hyun Yoon Shin emphasized on the need for a better understanding about the mutual interests between the two countries to enhance relations based on strong foundations in border cooperation, defence, space and nuclear technology.

In the first session, titled "Changing Dynamics of the Asia-Pacific region", the discussion moved towards how the region needs to adapt itself to the changes taking place in the region itself and changes in the international political, economic and security environment. This session was chaired by Prof. Yoing-Ryeol Park of Yonsei University. The first speaker was Prof. K V Kesavan from ORF, New Delhi. He spoke about the importance of regional integration to the region by citing how there has been an increase in the number of free trade agreements in recent times.He highlighted the emergence of various plurilateral agreements and indicated how countries like India, China and Japan are building land, sea and air connectivities running through the region enhancing regional transport networks and thereby regional integration. He emphasized that though there was integration going on the in the region, one should also take cognizance of certain contradictory trends within the region. He focused on issues related to North Korea and its nuclear and missile programmes, problems connected with history and how it has come in the way of China-Japan-ROK trilateralism, territorial and sovereignty issues affecting relations among East Asian countries especially with respect to the disputed islands Senkaku/Daiyou, Takehima/Dokdo etc. His presentation also highlighted the China factor and the role of US in the region and the role of intra-regional security and defence agreements in the region. He said that the future economic and strategic architecture will be determined by two factors: 1. Can the region continue to enjoy the economic prosperity as in recent years? And 2. Will it continue to experience the same degree of strategic stability in the coming years? The answer to the first question would depend on several factors involved in the domestic dynamics of the countries such as the role of the state, need for political and economic reforms, impact of the global economy, etc. As for the second, much would depend on the geo-strategic changes that are likely to occur in the region. The second speaker in the first session Prof. Yeonho Lee of Yonsei University and Director of IEWS and Yonsei-SERI Economic Centre spoke about the evolution of regional integration in the region. He explained how regional integration in the East Asian region is less institutionalised and informal.He pointed out that most countries in the region are keen to hold on to political sovereignty and therefore integration is less institutionalized. He emphasized on Prof. Kojima’s theory of promoting trade and economic cooperation and not regional integration. He traced the history of regional integration in the region by citing examples of US, Japan, APEC, ASEAN+ 3, ASEAN+ 7, BRICS, and TPP vs RCEP, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank led by China, etc. He also commented on the future of regional integration and said that the two countries would need to capitalize on geographical proximity and get over a weak common background, lack of common culture, absence of regional leadership and differences in ideas to move ahead.

The second session focused on India-South Korea Political and Security Cooperation. This session was chaired by Prof. Young-Ryeol Park of Yonsei University. The first speaker in this session was Prof. Jong-Yun Bae from Yonsei University. He said that despite changes in International environment, hostility for South- Korea still prevails in North-Korea and the existing structure has only dominated the strategic thinking of North-Korea which is likely to continue. To put an end to this everlasting rivalry would require giving up ’military first’ strategy by North Korea. This will eventually lessen the political legitimacy. The second speaker in this session, Ambassador Skand Tayal traced the history of India-Korea dialogue and highlighted how there is a mutual convergence between the two countries with respect to democracy, liberal values and human rights and the importance given to a secure and peaceful dialogue for economic environment.

The third session focused on trade and investment issues and was chaired by Prof. Kesavan from the ORF. The first speaker, Dr. Geethanjali Nataraj from ORF, focused on India-Korea trade relations and highlighted the increasing role of plurilateral trade agreements which are going to change the way the global economy functions in the future. Her presentation not only focused on the barriers to trade and investment between the two countries and the CEPA but also indicated future areas of cooperation between the two countries.

Prof. Doowon Lee in the same session emphasised how India- Korea trade relations are important as India is the 15th largest trading partner to Korea while Korea being the 13thlargest partner to India. The estimates from the Gravity model projected the potential trade between both countries to be at $22 billion as compared to actual $. 19 billion. Few of the major exports from Korea include Nuclear, electronic equipment’s, organic chemicals etc., India’s major exports to Korea include mineral fuels, cotton, Iron and steel etc.

The fourth session had the theme "Opportunities in India for investment and manufacturing". This session was chaired by Prof. Kesavan. The first speaker in this session was Dr. Swaminathan from ORF. He highlighted the fact that India is going to surpass US by 2043. He said that big opportunities lie in investment and manufacturing as manufacturing is expected to contribute nearly 25% to the GDP by 2025 from the present 17% and is likely to create 100 million new jobs. However, currently the sector is contributing to only 12% of the total employment and has immense potential to offer more jobs. To achieve the target of providing 100 million new jobs, the sector requires growing at 2% and good planning, systematic consensus and high endtechnological innovation as the key driver to growth. The second speaker Prof. Young Ryeol Park of Yonsei University said India has immense opportunity in investment and manufacturing. It will become the 2nd most competitive destination for manufacturing by 2018. Presence of English speaking labor pool, strong domestic demand, competitive wages and its favourable geographic location make it number four currently according to Global Manufacturing Competitiveness Index. However, India is also having barriers in business environment and therefore strategic planning is required to address this issue.

In the final wrap up session, Prof. Yeonho Lee of Yonsei University thanked all the Chairpersons, speakers and participants in the dialogue and urged that the dialogue be held every year given the need to further enhance India-Korea relations. Prof. Kesavan also thanked the organisors Yonsei University and the Government of India for their support to the dialogue and hoped that it would be held every year.

(This report is prepared by Dr Geethanjali Nataraj, Senior Fellow, ORF, Delhi)

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