Over the years, India and South Korea have shared close bilateral relations
instituted on mutual interests and goodwill. Convergent interests and shared
value of democracy have strengthened the relationship. India’s Act East Policy
and South Korea’s New Southern Policy have further accelerated the economic
and strategic relations between them. Energy cooperation, maritime security,
regional and economic cooperation remain the major areas of mutual interests.
Developing ties with South Korea is important to New Delhi to expand its
influence in Northeast Asia.
Multiple bilateral agreements have been signed by India and South Korea and
relations have made strides in recent years.
At a time when India was nearing Independence in the late 1940s, it played a
crucial positive role in negotiating with the two Koreas, both before and during
the war years. India played a neutral role and believed in the reunification of the
peninsula with no geopolitical interests. It had even sponsored a UN resolution
calling for a ceasefire during the Korean war.South
Korea appreciated India’s intervention during the time of conflict.
Consular ties between the two countries were established in 1962 and upgraded
to ambassador level in 1973.
Leaders from both the countries have time and again reposed friendship and
trust in each other. In 2006, a visit to Seoul by the then President of India, Dr.
A.P.J. Abdul Kalam pushed the creation of a bilateral Comprehensive Economic
Partnership Agreement (CEPA). In 2015, this agreement was given the status of
a ‘special strategic partnership’. The CEPA has given momentum to economic
relations and both the countries have emerged as trading partners. Major exports
from India include foodgrains, mineral fuel, iron and steel. Imports from South
Korea include automobile parts, telecommunication equipment, electrical
appliance, machinery, iron and steel products. South Korean conglomerates like
Samsung, LG and Hyundai have significantly invested in the Indian markets.
‘Korean Plus’ is an initiative, proposed by Prime Minister Modi in 2016 to facilitate
Korean investments to India.
Defense cooperation between India and the Republic of Korea is essential
against China’s growing influence in the region and threats posed by it in the
maritime commons. Considering the Indian Ocean as South Korea’s energy
import route, it is important for Seoul to enhance operations with India.
The two nations even have a deep cultural connection which is the spread of
Buddhism from India to East Asia. Agreements have been undertaken by the
countries to further people-to-people exchange. For instance, many Indian
universities now offer Korean studies and language programmes. Similarly,
Korean universities have initiated courses on yoga, Ayurveda, philosophy and so
on. Student exchange programs have been taking place on an annual basis.
Air connectivity between the two countries has improved and become more
Cultural affinities have deepened people-to-people relations. Kpop, Kdramas and
Korean cuisine have gained immense popularity among the Indian youth in the
last decade. Bollywood movies like 3 Idiots, My Name is Khan, The Robot have
garnered mass viewership in South Korea.
There is massive scope in expanding the bond between the two nations. Bilateral
political and economic relations are important for people-to-people exchange,
cultural interaction and harnessing democracy.
Sharon R. Thomas
Jesus and Mary College