On April 30, 2019, GWIKS and the Sejong Society of Washington D.C. co-sponsored a lecture series with Sumona Guha, Vice President of Albright Stonebridge Group, on East Meets South: South Korea – India Relations. The moderator Garrett J. R. Redfield, the Programming Director of the Sejong Society and Asia-Pacific Analyst at the Institute for Defense Analyses, began with a brief introduction of South Korea and its significance. While most discussions about the Korean Peninsula revolve around North Korea and its security issues, South Korea presents equal importance in its development because it is the 11th largest economy in the world, despite its small size. In November 2017, President Moon called for the “New Southern Policy,” which focuses on the 3P’s: people, prosperity, and peace. Among the three, President Moon aims to achieve success through mutually reciprocal economic cooperation. India is an essential pillar of this policy because it shares Korea’s core values of democracy and a liberal market economy, and views India as an emerging global growth engine. South Korea seeks to enhance its economic relations with India by upgrading the ROK-India comprehensive economic partnership agreement and supporting India’s flagship initiatives.
Guha began by commenting that India’s foreign policy is changing and listed a few points about India and South Korea relations. India had long attempted to situate itself in Asia through its “Act East Policy” to form linguistic and cultural ties with East Asia. Under Prime Minister Modi, India has taken initiatives to branch out and develop diplomatic relations with other countries, including South Korea. Prime Minister Modi’s global leadership agenda was also a way to attract foreign investment to India and expand India’s involvement in world affairs. Under Modi, India has deepened its ties with ASEAN and reformed its economic plan, modeled after China’s economic growth. Prime Minister Modi and President Moon have visited each South Korea and India and taken initiatives to deepen cooperation and bilateral relations with each other. Balancing China is also another essential agenda for India through strengthening institutions that many countries operate in, rather than direct confrontation. As India grows, Guha expects to see more South Korean commercial companies involved in India. Unlike ASEAN that hold regular meetings, South Korea and India may face challenges in that their cooperation is not regular.