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UPSC EDITORIAL ANALYSIS : Reigniting the flame of India-Korea defense cooperation

 

Source: The Hindu

  • Prelims: Current events of national and international importance(indo-pacific, India-Korea relations, South China Sea etc
  • Mains GS Paper II: Bilateral, regional and global groupings involving India or affecting India’s interests, Significance of Indo-Pacific for India etc

 

ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS

  • The visit of Chief of the Army Staff of India to the Republic of Korea, signifies a critical juncture in the trajectory of India-Korea defense relations.

 

INSIGHTS ON THE ISSUE

Context

India-South Korea Relations

Political:

  • During the Korean War (1950- 53), India played a major role in a cease-fire agreement signed between both the warring sides (North Korea and South Korea) and the ceasefire was declared on 27th July 1953.
  • In 2015, the bilateral relationship was upgraded to ‘special strategic partnership’.
  • India has a major role to play in South Korea’s Southern Policy under which Korea is looking at expanding relations beyond its immediate region.
  • South Korea is a major player in India’s Act East Policy.
    • India aims to promote economic cooperation, cultural ties and develop strategic relationships with countries in the Asia-Pacific.

 

Defense:

  • In 2005, the two sides signed an agreement to cooperate in defense and logistics
  • Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on cooperation between the two Coast Guards in 2006 .
  • Indian and South Korean Coast Guards have conducted five exercises with an aim to enhance interoperability.
    • Recent of these exercises was held off the coast of Chennai, named Sahyog-Hyeoblyeog 2018 .
    • It is proposed establishment of a MoU between the two Coast Guards to improve maritime security in the Indian Ocean Region.
  • In 2021, the Indian Defence Minister and his South Korean counterpart inaugurated the India-Korea Friendship Park in a ceremony at the Delhi Cantonment
    • The park was built to commemorate the contribution of the Indian peacekeeping force during the Korean war of 1950-53.

Challenges:

  • Absence of a shared vision for a new comprehensive defense framework
    • That can provide a robust structure under which both nations can operate and align their policies to construct a novel and sustainable emerging regional order.
  • Resistance on the Korean government side to reassess India’s role in the region.
  • Powerful arms lobbies in India and Korea pose a potential roadblock,
    • emphasizing the necessity to prioritize long-term strategic goals over short-term gains.

Reasons for change in Korean Stand for India :

  • India is the largest consumer of defense products.
  • India stands as a regional power capable of substantial contributions to peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific.
  • The prevailing overemphasis by the Indian government on weapons acquisition and technology transfer from Korea
    • It has tended to overshadow broader strategic considerations.
  • The unwavering focus of the Korean defense establishment on profit-driven weapons sales to India
    • It is devoid of strategic considerations

Need for collation:

  • The emerging coalition of North Korea, China, and Russia poses a new serious challenge to collaborative efforts between the two nations.
    • Divergent stances may arise, necessitating an appraisal of each party’s strategic imperatives.

COS engagements with the leadership of top Korean defense institutions, such as:

  • Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA)
  • Agency of Defence Development (ADD)
  • They are anticipated to further unite the defense communities of both countries.

Technological collaborations:

●      India and South Korea are aiming to collaborate in developing advanced defense systems and equipment.

●      Pivotal role technology will play in future conflicts: the scope for cooperation in this sector is limitless.

○      Such synergy can lead to a mutually beneficial defense technology and industry partnership

○      It will propel both countries to the forefront of innovation and self-reliance.

●      The defense against space warfare, information warfare, and cybersecurity is paramount

○      Both nations can further explore opportunities for cooperation.

●    Korea’s status as an advanced high-tech digital superpower:

○      Opportunities exist in the development of robust security measures in these areas

○      To effectively counter emerging threats in the digital domain

○      It will ensure the security of critical infrastructure and information.

Security collaboration:

  • India and ROK have significant maritime interests in the Indian Ocean.
  • Strengthening coordinated efforts to counter terrorism aligns seamlessly with the shared concerns of India and South Korea.
  • There is potential for collaboration in maritime security, including joint patrolling and information sharing

 

Way Forward

  • The imperative for India and Korea is to transcend the confines of bilateral cooperation
    • embrace a paradigm shift that cultivates a more profound understanding of their roles in the swiftly evolving global scenario.
  • India and South Korea can leverage their United Nations peacekeeping expertise for collaborative efforts.
  • Sharing insights and resources in peacekeeping operations can enhance regional and global stability, underscoring their joint commitment to peace and security.
  • Joint exercises and the exchange of best practices in Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR):
    • It demonstrates the shared responsibility of both nations in addressing vulnerabilities to natural disasters.
  • Mutual growth is found in enhancing joint army exercises, fostering interoperability, and strengthening the capabilities of both armies for effective collaboration in diverse scenarios.
  • COAS ‘visit to Seoul has spurred the extension of cooperation beyond naval focus to other branches of India’s armed forces.
  • Path forward necessitates meticulous navigation through the challenges and the wholehearted embrace of opportunities.
  • A strategic, balanced approach, coupled with adaptability to the evolving geopolitical landscape
    • It is key to unlocking a robust and enduring defense collaboration
    • creating a partnership that fosters peace, stability, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • United, both nations stand ready to navigate the complexities and uncertainties of the future, forging a path toward a stronger and more resilient partnership.
  • Along with Japan and the U.S, ROK has the potential to emerge as a key piece in India’s Indo-pacific strategy.
    • It is important to view the prospects of the India-ROK strategic partnership in the broader context of the recent geopolitical developments in the East Asian region.
  • ROK, with a new strategic outlook, and along with the U.S., Japan and Australia, is uniquely placed to help India advance its interests in the Indo-Pacific.

 

QUESTION FOR PRACTICE

Evaluate the economic and strategic dimensions of India’s Look East Policy in the context of the post Cold War international scenario.(UPSC 2016) (200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)