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Contours of a Bilateral Relationship


Vyjayanti Raghavan

INDIA AND THE REPUBLIC OF KOREA: ENGAGED DEMOCRACIES
By Skand R. Tayal
Routledge, New Delhi, 2014, pp. 294, Rs. 795.00

VOLUME XXXVIII NUMBER 7 July 2014

When, in 1977, I got a Korean Govern- ment scholarship to study Korean at the Seoul National University, everyone in the family wanted to know where it was. A map was consulted and silence followed. There literally was nothing to be said.   Since then Korea has come a long way, of course, from being a war-torn country with a GDP of less than USD 100 in the late 1950s to one with over USD 25,000 in 2014; from a small country which confined its foreign policy to only the region to one that has started playing an active and assertive role in global affairs; from one which was not even consulted by the big powers when decisions regarding its future was being discussed in the Cairo and Yalta Conferences to one which holds the G 20 and Nuclear Summit Meeting.   In spite of the huge and extraordinary social, economic and political changes that Korea had wrought in just a generation and half, it has remained a minor player in India’s eyes. But now India is seeking its support in various fora, including APEC, ASEAN and for India’s candidature in the UNSC. Korean white goods dominate the Indian market, as do its electronics and cars.   As a regular visitor to that country for the last 37 years, it is clear that South Korea’s view of India has also undergone a lot of change. Until not so long ago, India was admired mainly for being the land of Sakyamuni Buddha and for the references by Rabindranath Tagore to the exceedingly harsh Japanese colonial rule (1910-45) in Korea, and Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Nehru. But its policy of maintaining equidis-tance between North and South Korea and its policy of nonalignment did nothing to further the relationship. India and Korea remained distantly friendly. But that, too, has changed now. Bilateral relations are not marred by bad historical memories, territorial disputes or even economic competition. This has helped the two countries to forge several common interests.   Korea has invested several billion dollars here and will soon be investing billions more. Trade between the two countries has gone from $2 billion in 2000 to $14 billion in 2013. The two countries signed a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement in 2011. Defence cooperation between them has been increasing. Korea has been especially active in the field of education in India, funding literally hundreds of scholarships for Indian students to Korea for courses of different durations. This ...


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