Tag Archive | "India"

India: The Other Emerging Power’s Reaction to Kim Jong Il’s Death

By Nicholas Hamisevicz

In Asia much of the pressure and focus from the transition in North Korea after Kim Jong Il’s death is now on China, its neighbor and chief benefactor. As a rising power that provides both economic and national security assistance North Korea needs to survive, China is in a difficult situation with new leadership emerging in North Korea and new leadership scheduled to take over China in October. For the other major emerging power, however, India possesses more ability to monitor the situation in North Korea and react in its best interests to any changes on the Korean peninsula.

Ties between India and North Korea are growing. The two sides had a few diplomatic connections in 2011 that suggested an improvement in bilateral relations. Pak Ui-chun, North Korea’s Foreign Minister, visited India’s embassy in Pyongyang on January 26 for India’s Republic Day event. India’s ambassador to North Korea was then invited to a dinner with North Korean officials. India also provided food aid to North Korea by donating $1 million to the World Food Programme. Moreover, prior to donating food aid, India’s ambassador to North Korea was permitted to visit some of the countryside between Pyongyang and Nampo to see areas in need of economic assistance. The Indian ambassador then toured Nampo. North Korea also sent a delegation to India in May 2011 to examine India’s history with special economic zones. Although engagement with North Korea is often along these smaller interactions, the momentum in India – North Korea relations seems to have a positive trajectory.

Yet India’s relations with North Korea are still hampered by India’s concerns over North Korea’s relations with Pakistan, and to a lesser extent, Burma. Both of India’s neighbors have a history of dangerous interaction with North Korea. Pakistan and North Korea previously traded missile and nuclear technology. Moreover, North Korea’s insistence on keeping its nuclear weapons reminds the international community of A.Q. Khan, one of the fathers of Pakistan’s nuclear program and his network of illegal transfers of nuclear material, especially the connections to North Korea. North Korea represents the negative example of a country outside the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, in contrast to the positive image India is trying to project for itself to the international community. For India, the rumors over North Korean assistance for Burma’s own nuclear weapons program, along with previous military cooperation, feed a sense of insecurity in the region. During her recent visit to Burma, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Burmese leaders that they must end their illicit activities with North Korea as part of the reforms they are trying to undertake.

North Korea provides some more immediate security concerns for countries recently enhancing their relations with India. South Korea, Japan, and the United States are more immediately impacted by the leadership transition after the death of Kim Jong Il and whose own policies can also more directly influence the outcomes on the Korean peninsula.

India has a strategic partnership and important economic relations with each of these countries. These new connections, along with India’s emergence as a rising power, will bring issues regarding transition in North Korea more deeply into India’s strategic portfolio. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda of Japan was in India the last week of December and called on India to support and understand Japan’s position on North Korea’s abductions of Japanese citizens. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell testified in March 2011 that the U.S. has discussed issues regarding North Korea with India. South Korea will also likely use its strategic partnership  with India to discuss approaches to North Korea in the near future.

The China factor is an important aspect in India’s foreign policy calculations. China’s reactions and responses to North Korea’s new leadership will demonstrate its confidence level toward Pyongyang. China would prefer a stable North Korea to prevent the burden of an uncertain government in Pyongyang and the possibility of major action toward North Korea during China’s own leadership transition in 2012. India probably would not mind if the uncertainties in North Korea kept China more preoccupied; some even suggest North Korea moving away from China would be beneficial to India as well.

India will have some benefit of not being directly impacted by the leadership transition in North Korea. However, the transition to Kim Jong-un will have an affect on India’s neighbors and its growing relationships with its strategic partners. India will be looking to see how the new North Korean leadership will approach their interactions with Pakistan, Burma, and China. South Korea, Japan, and the United States are likely to concentrate their efforts on the Korean peninsula, but will look to India for support as a regional and emerging world power. With the ascendance of Kim Jong-un, India’s development as a rising power will likely include more connections to issues regarding North Korea and the future of the Korean peninsula.

Nicholas Hamisevicz is the Director of Research and Academic Affairs for the Korea Economic Institute. The views represented here are his own.

Photo from Sonal And Abe’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

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South Korea – India Relations: Missed Opportunity in an Emerging Relationship?

By Nicholas Hamisevicz

In the last year, South Korea and India have upgraded their relationship to a “strategic partnership.” The increased ties between the two countries were kicked off with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak’s state visit to India in 2010 and followed up by delegations from both countries that built upon economic and cultural ties.  However, some of the main meetings that usually help to define the “strategic” aspects of bilateral relations have yet to occur this year.

The joint statement of 2010 elevated South Korea-India relations to a strategic partnership and designated 2011 as the ‘Year of Korea’ in India and the ‘Year of India’ in South Korea. In 2011, both sides have sought to build upon those ties. Indian President Pratibha Patil visited South Korea and, despite the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, South Korea and India continued to develop their nuclear partnership with the conclusion of the Agreement for Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy. In addition, South Korea’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Kim Sung-hwan met with India’s Secretary of their Department of Atomic Energy, Srikumar Banerjee during the signing of the nuclear cooperation deal. Both of these visits were important and may help in the strategic aspect of India-South Korea relations, but the meetings didn’t provide the comprehensive framework needed for developing the relationship that meetings between the foreign or defense ministers would accomplish.

Have both South Korea and India missed an opportunity to augment the “strategic” aspect of their “strategic partnership” by not having the foreign or defense ministers of their respective countries meet in 2011? Both ministries are intimately connected to the core strategic elements of foreign relations and additional discussions between the two would help to continue to define and expand an important emerging relationship in Asia. With the year almost over, the opportunity may have slipped away, though some reports still suggest that South Korea’s Defense Minister may visit India this year.

Both South Korea and India are expanding their respective regional and global influence, while dealing with security concerns regarding their turbulent neighbors, North Korea and Pakistan. Obviously much of these efforts will fall on the foreign and defense ministries, making it difficult to have yearly meetings. However, in the joint statement from President Lee’s visit, both sides placed political and security cooperation first in the list of elements for the future relationship. India and South Korea have a Joint Commission that is chaired by the foreign ministers, and the joint statement “acknowledged the necessity of holding the Joint Commission on an annual basis.” So far, the Joint Commission has yet to meet this year.  Moreover, during his visit to South Korea last year, India’s External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, India’s equivalent of the foreign ministry, gave a speech at the Institute for Foreign Affairs and National Security in Seoul, laying out six steps to building stronger relations between India and South Korea. His first step was to use high level exchanges to “consolidate and strengthen” the “political partnership” of the two countries.

As mentioned, high level meetings have taken place this year between South Korea and India. Yet the strategic planning and implementation of policy often falls to the defense and foreign ministers. If the two countries can get a meeting in this year, it would be beneficial.  But with the year quickly coming to a close, the second best option would be for South Korea and India to have their foreign ministers meet at a ROK-India Joint Commission meeting in early 2012 along with defense minister visits as well. Opportunities to define and enhance the South Korea-India strategic partnership should not be missed but seized upon to strengthen this important growing relationship in Asia.

Nicholas Hamisevicz is the Director of Research and Academic Affairs for the Korea Economic Institute. The views represented here are his own.

Photo by Christian Haugen

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Important Issues in Asia’s Future Connect South Korea and India

By Nicholas Hamisevicz

Much of the focus this week has been on the enduring U.S.-ROK relationship and how these countries envision a future Asia as South Korean President Lee Myung-bak arrives in Washington for a state visit. However, beyond the U.S.-South Korea alliance, Korea’s emerging relationship with India can also be an important aspect in the development of Asia in the 21st century.

Despite the distance, pressing security issues for both countries with antagonistic neighbors, and their limited prior interaction, the issues that initially connected South Korea and India and led to a rapid growth in ties are also important aspects in the future progression of Asia.

Economics and trade have often been drivers of relations in Asia, and Asian countries will continue to look for policies and partnerships that will enhance their economic growth. Building off of their economic reforms in the 1990s, India developed its “Look East” policy partly to augment the reforms it was undertaking at home with economic relations with East Asian countries. Although initially focused on Southeast Asia, India’s Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao did visit South Korea in 1993. More recently, South Korea and India signed a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement in 2009, and after coming into effect last year, trade between the two countries has surpassed $17 billion.  Additionally, the Indian government finally approved POSCO’s $12 billion steel investment plan this year, making it the largest foreign direct investment project in India.

The quest for energy to drive economic growth is also interrelated in Asia. South Korea imports most of its energy needs from the Middle East, meaning those shipments must pass through the Indian Ocean on their way to Korea. However, as South Korea has sought to offset its energy demands by using nuclear power, it has also begun to increase its nuclear power export capabilities. In the aftermath of the U.S.-India nuclear agreement paving the way for India to import nuclear technology and the recent Agreement for Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energybetween Korea and India, both sides are expected to increase their cooperation on nuclear energy.

Ironically, it is nuclear issues that originally brought India and South Korea closer on security relations as well. In combination with North Korean assistance to Pakistan on its missile technology, Pakistan also provided nuclear weapons technology and information to North Korea in the 1990s through A.Q. Khan, one of the important fathers of Pakistan’s nuclear program. In addition to proliferation concerns that still worry both countries, security cooperation for both India and South Korea extends to energy security and open sea lines of communication (SLOC). Important trade and energy needs traverse through the Indian Ocean; thus, India and Korea have begun cooperating on maritime security and emphasized “the need for greater cooperation” in these areas in the joint statement from President Lee Myung-bak’s state visit to India last year. South Korea also hopes India’s desire to enhance its military capabilities will have India looking toward Korea’s world class shipbuilding industry for additions to its navy as well as purchasing some of Korea’s new fighter trainers.

China’s rise has also become an underlying factor in South Korea-India relations. China continues to support both nations’ troublesome neighbors, North Korea and Pakistan, and furthermore, this support is often to the detriment of the goals of South Korea and India. For Korea, relations with India might help it deflect some of the pressures that come from its interaction with China as well as any perception of U.S. decline.

While both India and China are seen as rising powers in Asia, they are also competitors for influence in the region. For many in India this competition is viewed through China’s “string of pearls,” the evolving influence of China with India’s neighbors that could affect the SLOC around the Indian Ocean. Many in China share a reciprocal concern that India’s “Look East” policy is just another way to hem China in and prevent its natural rise. In the long-run, maintaining productive relations with both nations will likely be an imperative for Korea’s continued economic growth.

The growth of relations between South Korea and India has centered on converging ideas and requirements for the future prosperity of Asia. Economics, energy, security, and the role of China will all be major factors for the future development of the region, but also important connections for two democracies on opposite ends of Asia trying to enhance their regional and global profiles. The upgrading of their relationship to a “strategic partnership” signifies the value South Korea and India place on their relationship and the importance of them working together on vital issues in Asia’s future.

Nicholas Hamisevicz is the Director of Research and Academic Affairs for the Korea Economic Institute. His views are his own.



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