India's Ties with South Korea & East Asia
Ambassador Series Part 3 with Indian Ambassador
SEOUL, March 19, 2013 — Asia Society Korea Center featured H.E. Vishnu Prakash, the Indian Ambassador to Korea, as a guest speaker at the March luncheon lecture entitled “India’s Ties with South Korea and East Asia: Present and Future”. Ambassador Prakash gave a talk on the historical, economic, and bilateral relations of India with Korea, Japan, and China with optimistic views on the future of multilateral cooperation among Asian countries.
According to Ambassador Prakash, bilateral relations between India and Korea have been mainly driven by economic cooperation in recent years. Since the governments of India and Korea negotiated CEPA (Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement) in January 2010, volumes of bilateral trade and investments are growing rapidly, reaching more than $20 billion and $4 billion respectively in 2011. The Ambassador explained that the markets for home appliances, vehicles, and mobile phones are most active with the involvement of major Korean companies such as Daewoo, Samsung, and Hyundai. Last week, KOTRA (Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency) signed an agreement to establish a 250-acre Korean Special Economic Zone in Rajasthan, India.
Korea’s former President Lee’s visit to India in 2010 and India’s Prime Minister Singh’s visit to Korea in 2012 contributed to the elevation of the level of relations to Strategic Partnership and deepened engagement in the Asia Pacific region. Aside from the economic achievements mentioned above, the two countries succeeded in signing the Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement in 2011. Moreover, it is India that has four offices― the Indian Chamber of Commerce, Indian Cultural Center, New Defense Wing, and Centers of Educational Excellence―covering economic, cultural, military, and educational affairs in Korea. Moreover, both India and Korea are active international actors; both are members of G20 and SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) agreed to give Korea observer status.
When it comes to relations between India and East Asian countries, Ambassador Prakash said Japan was the first economic partner among East Asian neighbors to sign the Agreement on Strategic & Global Partnership in 2006, Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation in 2008, and CEPA in 2010. The Ambassador described China as the mightiest neighbor country to compete and collaborate with. According to the Ambassador, China is the second largest trading partner after the U.S. and is currently operating $55 billion worth of infrastructure projects in India. Despite wars and conflicts along the India-China border in the past, China and India have been forging a peaceful and cordial relationship by working together on regional and global issues.
Referring to an article from the New York Times, Ambassador Prakash emphasized that India is a young nation with a hunger not for food but opportunity. The Ambassador pointed out that India has two economic advantages for its future growth: one, a growing population of the young generation, and two, a huge market with huge demand. According to the Ambassador, by 2020, the average age in India, China, and Europe will be 29, 37, and 49 years old respectively and this demographic difference will lead to a huge market with huge demand. The Ambassador added that a large amount of investments in building infrastructure―approximately $150 to $200 billion a year―will be a catalyst for India’s future economic development.
Being asked questions about bilateral relations between India and North Korea, Ambassador Prakash said that India is providing only humanitarian aid through indirect channels and showing great concerns about North Korea’s recent missile launch. Answering another question on whether India stands for an alliance with the U.S. or China, or decides to be neutral, the Ambassador explained that India is only interested in making friends, not alliances, and will focus on expanding convergences and narrowing down divergences with other countries.