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Of Two Sets of Relationships

Sudhir T. Devare

By P.R. Chari and Vyjayanti Raghavan
Routledge, New Delhi, 2015, pp. 268, Rs. 795.00


India-South Korea interaction which has been on a continuous increase in the recent years recognizes several factors—a growing strategic partnership marked by improving politico-security understanding in the Asia-Pacific region, expanding economic complementarities and opportunities, mutual technological needs and cultural compatibility. The relationship which began to rapidly evolve about three decades ago has today developed into a dynamic and ever-widening one. Not much is, however, talked about the China factor which is common to them. As the authors state at the outset, ‘China looms large in the perceptions of India and South Korea. There are adversarial dyads comprising India and Pakistan, North Korea and South Korea in which China intrudes, influencing their foreign and security policies in different ways.’ Geographically, India and South Korea are located at the two ends of the Asian continent. Historically, the experience of the two with respect to China is different. While Korea remained for centuries a tributary state of China, India, across the Himalayas was looked upon in China with veneration as the land of the Buddha. Today the level of economic integration and interdependence as also people-to-people contacts between China and South Korea is very high which cannot be compared with that between China and India and it is the China influence which is weighing heavily both in Seoul and New Delhi. There are growing apprehensions in South Korea about China’s aggressive postures vis-à-vis Japan and the former’s coercive policy with Southeast Asian countries on the South China Sea issue. South Korea which had no major territorial or maritime boundary dispute with China is increasingly vexed by China raising a claim on the ancient Gorguryeo kingdom of Korea since a decade ago. South Korea is also deeply concerned that China’s ambitious and offensive designs could lead to instability and insecurity in Northeast Asia and the western Pacific thereby severely harming South Korea’s core interests. India’s concerns vis-à-vis China are well known. The longstanding border dispute with China does not show any sign of resolution even as China’s push in the Indian Ocean and in India’s neighbourhood creates growing tension. A study analysing India’s and South Korea’s relationship with China in the context of the evolution of their own bilateral relationship was therefore particularly necessary. P.R. Chari and Vijayanti Raghavan have focused precisely on this generally understudied and less recognized subject in ...

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