India and South Korea on 26 March decided to take the bilateral defence partnership between both countries deeper by expanding cooperation in several areas and exploring ‘new domains.’
While reaffirming support to multilateral initiatives to promote peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region, Defence Minister of South Korea Suh Wook met his Indian counterpart, Rajnath Singh during the former’s visit to India from March 25 to 27.
South Korean Defence Minister Suh Wook’s visit to New Delhi came soon after US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin visited India, Japan and South Korea to strengthen ‘alliances and partnerships.’
The bolstering talk on Defence tie-ups seems crucial given how the international relations in South East Asia are evolving in the present times.
Jointly, both the Ministers inaugurated India’s First Indo-Korean Friendship Park on 26 Mar 2021 at Delhi Cantonment, which is significant not only as a symbol of strong India-South Korea relations but also for India’s contributions as part of 21 countries which participated in the Korean war 1950-53, under the aegis of the United Nations.
When India stood for Korea’s Peace
India was actively involved in negotiating peace in the Korean peninsula by engaging all the major stakeholders – the US, USSR and China during the inter-Korean war that lasted for three years between 1950 and 1953.
By successfully building a consensus – which precipitated in the “Armistice Agreement”, India fostered the establishment of a Neutral Nations Repatriation Commission (NNRC) which was constituted for Prisoner-of-War (POW) settlement.
The NNRC arrived in Korea on 27 July 1953 under the chairmanship of the Indian Army Major General K S Thimayya (while India was Chairing the organisation) along with the other member counties – Switzerland, Sweden, Poland and Czechoslovakia, to support the POWs.
Korea Plus – India bolsters ‘Look East Policy’ and “Act East Policy”
Although bilateral consular relations between India and Korea were established in 1962 and upgraded to Ambassador-level in 1973 wherein in course of time, RoK’s open market policies started to resonate only with India’s economic liberalization mainly “Look East Policy” (1991) and “Act East Policy” (2014).
This relationship got notched up into a partnership when an initiative ‘Korea Plus’, as proposed by Prime Minister Modi, got launched in June 2016. This has been aimed to promote and facilitate Korean Investments in the domestic markets after the bilateral relations between India and South Korea were upgraded to “Special Strategic Partnership”.
In 2019 the Prime Minister of India further launched India-Korea Startup Hub to increase cooperation in the field of research, innovation and entrepreneurship.
The Glimpses of South Korean Defence Minister Suh Wook’s Visit
At the delegation-level meeting between Suh Wook and Defence minister Rajnath Singh on Friday, the two countries reiterated the need to ensure a rules-based order for free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific Relations.
They also talked through ways to boost bilateral military exchanges and cooperation in sectors like cybersecurity, space and maritime security in addition to an interaction between Defense Industries.
Moreover, both the Ministers planted a sapling each to mark the momentous occasion post which Minister Suh Wook felicitated Korean War Veterans Association of India General Secretary Shri Anil Malhotra.
During the meet, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh iterated that the bilateral relations between the two countries are set to grow further, with the meeting on Friday giving it the necessary impetus to take them to the next level.