Video Summary

[RSTV The Big Picture] India-South Korea: Strategic Partners

India need to work with South Korea on new generation core technologies while consolidating the existing relationship at the same time.
By IT's Video Summary Team
March 28, 2019


  • Introduction
  • Superior relations between India and South Korea
  • Newer south Korean foreign policy
  • Indo-Pacific strategy in India-South Korea Relationships
  • Indian Indo-Pacific strategies
  • Economic opportunities
  • Economical Hurdles
  • Diplomatic perspective
  • Conclusion

[RSTV The Big Picture] India-South Korea: Strategic Partners

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  • During South Korean president’s visit to India in July, 2018, South Korea has highlighted its New Southern Policy which focus on strengthening its economic and strategic relations with India as well as emphasized India’s Act East policy for fostering common prosperity of Asia.
  • Relations between India and North Korea have made great stride in the recent past and have now become multidimensional owing to mutual good will, high level exchanges and convergence of interests.
  • India is among 10 trade partners of South Korea and 6th largest destination for Korean goods. Korean investments in India have reached a cumulative figure of almost 6 billion dollars.

Superior relations between India and South Korea:

  • During South Korean president’s visit to India in July, 2018, South Korea has signaled that it wants a strong strategic relationship with India.
  • Under the new Southern Policy of South Korea, it diversified its security relationships with US and even with Japan despite the history of long difficult relationships between the two nations.
  • It also focuses on relationships with India specifically in Indian ocean region. For instance, South Korea and India had first Indo-Korean Naval exercise in 2018 to strengthen cooperation between the two armies. However, South Korea is wary about how they can fit into the Indo-pacific region.
  • South Korea is considering India as a strategic partner partly due to investment and Trade, Military cooperation.
  • In May 2018, South Korea proposed USD 10 Billion infrastructure fund for India. Also, overseas agencies of South Korean are willing to cooperate with India.
  • South Korean policies are much protected in terms of bilateral relationships with any nation. For instance, while developing relationships with Japan, South Korea was too cautious.
  • However, it does not find any major problems in India that can affect South Korean nation adversely. This ‘problem-free equation’ is a great bond for them in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • The bilateral dialects and compatibility of systems of both the nations are superior which results in holding of second summit between both nations in February, 2019.

Newer south Korean foreign policy:

  • Earlier, South Korean foreign policy was largely focused towards great powers of world – U.S., China and Russia.
  • Now with new government, through new southern and new northern policy, South Korea is trying to diversify their foreign relationships.
  • Consequently, in case of some problems in their alliance system, this diversification of policies will help South Korea.
  • India-South Korean relation can be one of the important pillar of this diversification.

Indo-Pacific strategy in India-South Korea Relationships:

  • China is important for India and South Korea as both the country shares close proximity with it.
  • In spite of being part of QUAD and Indo-pacific strategy, India wants Inclusive approach to this strategy which is non-combative to China in nature. Similarly, South Korea also wants to deal with china without confronting china.
  • The relationship between two nations stabilizes the Indo-pacific region by implementing same strategic perspective without posing potential threat against any nation.
  • South Korea and India intend to find a third way to look at Indo-Pacific strategy which is focusing on middle powers rather than super powers of world, the other two ways being china specific Indo-pacific strategy and Counter – China Indo-pacific strategy.
  • However, apart from having common concerns of both the nations in China, India and South Korea are not in full agreement of Indo-Pacific strategy.

Indian Indo-Pacific strategies:

  • India runs 3 Indo-pacific strategies. One is Indo- Japanese strategy which is completely designed to counter China.
  • Second is trilateral run of India, U.S. and Japan known as Malabar exercise.
  • The third is QUAD – Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD) between India, United States, Japan and Australia. It is the weakest Indo-pacific strategy.

Economic opportunities:

  • Economic imperatives are very strong between India and South Korea which has not been realized till now.
  • India is deficient in production of core technology. Hence, cooperating with South Korean can create a new space for both nations to work.
  • India is increasingly worried about presence of Chinese electronics in India such as Chinese smart phones and soft wares, implementation of 5G system from China etc. There are very few countries across the world that build smartphone and one of them is South Korea.
  • Hence, this bilateral relationship is largely seen as prospective economic benefit for India it is up to India now whether or not it can encourage, for example, manufacturing of smartphones using South Korean companies. The implicit behind this is to reduce or replace Chinese electronic market footprint in India.
  • In the implementation of Smart cities project in India, lot of the hardware will be South Korean with the implicit understanding that they would design to keep the Chinese out of the picture.
  • In July 2018, Samsung’s (a South Korean multinational conglomerate) largest mobile phone factory was inaugurated by Prime Minister of India and South Korean President furthering the “Special Strategic Partnership” between the two countries.

Economical Hurdles:

  • In 2009, Under The Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) agreement, India had a Free trade agreement with South Korea. Unfortunately, bilateral trade has not grown since then except in last two years.
  • In spite of economic complementary nature of both the nation, one of the basic problem is lack of trust between the business of two nations.
  • The South Korean companies in India don’t take enough Indian partners in their business due to lack of trust.

Diplomatic perspective:

  • Prime Minister of India in his recent speech of Shangri la dialogue, emphasized on the inclusive viewpoints between the two nations to become center stage of diplomacy discussions.
  • However, South Korean interventions in multilateral forum including ASEAN regional forum (ARF) and diplomacy with the North Korea shows that they want to became a peace maker country.
  • US has stayed very close to South Korea. South Korea, in the highest level meeting with India, showed concerns about US president willing India to deal with North Korea.
  • The most important demand from South Korea to India is to request U.S. not to withdraw military presence from Korean peninsula, as doing so will create disastrous results as far as balance of powers in Asia is concerned.


  • The bilateral relationships between South Korea and India has been strong and there are several aspects on which it can be further built up on.
  • India and South Korea need to hold regular summit meetings which will give directions of foreign policy making to the businesses and industries in both countries.
  • India need to work with South Korea on new generation core technologies while consolidating the existing relationship at the same time.
  • South Korea is most advanced nations after Japan in technology, hence generating sustainable ties with South Korea will boost India’s ability to become a more powerful nation.


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