By Publisher Lee Kyung-sik with Editors Joy Cho, Kim Hyung-dae, Song Na-ra
President Moon Jae-in and Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi of India had a telephonic summit meeting on April 9 on the COVID-19 to discuss ways to deal with the fast-spreading global pandemic and the challenges it poses to health systems and the economy worldwide.
President Moon thanked the prime minister for Indian support for Korean nationals in India. The Indian leader responded by expressing gratitude to the Korean government for facilitating the supply and transport of medical equipment being sourced by Indian companies.
According to recent reports (May 2020), Korea and India have a special relationship of cooperation and friendship in many areas.
Despite the deadly coronavirus pandemic, Korea-India bilateral trade stood at $5.44 billion in January-March 2020 which increased 4% from the same period last year. Korea’s exports to India declined by 4% to $3.85 billion while Korea’s import from India was increased by 30% to $1.59 billion, leaving a trade surplus of $2.27 billion.
Among Korea’s export items, auto parts increased by 40% from the same period of last year. The main export items to India are automobile parts, telecommunication equipment, hot rolled iron products, petroleum refined products, base lubricating oils, nuclear reactors, mechanical appliances, electrical machinery & parts, and iron & steel products. Also, the import of Naphtha which is a flammable liquid hydrocarbon mixture from natural gas condensates and petroleum distillates jumped as much as 225% from the same period last year.
According to statistics of the Korea International Trade Association
The annual bilateral trade since 2017 has remained over $20 billion and that of 2019 stood at $20.7 billion.
Investment between the two counties is robust and has significantly increased as both the government and private sector have been propelling cooperation. Korea’s FDI flows to India in 2019 stood at $685 million which is lower than $827 million recorded in 2018 when large Korean companies substantially invested in new manufacturing facilities in India.
However, India’s FDI inflows to Korea hiked 50 times to a record of $96.6million in 2019 from $2 million in 2018. The highest inflows were the Mahindra and Mahindra (M&M) investment into SsangYong, South Korean maker of SUVs.
On the Korea-India relations and friendship, the Embassy of India in Seoul has an impressive account. Excerpts follow:
India and Korea (A Vision for People, Prosperity, Peace, and our Future):
President of the Republic of Korea (ROK) H.E. Mr. Moon Jae-in paid a State Visit to India from July 8-11, 2018. During the visit, President Moon and Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi elaborated the following shared vision for peace and prosperity for the people of the two countries:
1. We reaffirmed our mutual desire to further strengthen the ROK-India ‘Special Strategic Partnership’ built on the foundations of deep-rooted historical and cultural bonds and based on shared universal values of democracy, free-market economy, rule of law, a common commitment to a peaceful, stable, secure, free, open, inclusive and rules-based region. We agreed to work towards fostering a ‘future-oriented partnership for People, Prosperity and Peace’.
India sees ROK as an indispensable partner in its ‘Act East’ policy. Similarly, ROK aims to further strengthen bilateral relations with India, which is a central pillar of ROK’s ‘New Southern Policy’. We recognized the value of this bilateral partnership and its contribution to peace, stability, and security in our region. We resolved to work together to add new substance and impetus to bilateral cooperation in all areas of engagement so as to contribute to regional and global peace and prosperity. In this context, we agreed to explore tripartite partnerships for development in third countries, beginning with capacity building programs in Afghanistan.
Recognizing the importance of regular high-level exchanges to consolidate progress in the bilateral partnership, we agreed to intensify leadership-level contact, including biennial visits by the leaders of the two countries. We agreed to expand interaction by regularizing existing dialogue mechanisms as well as by exploring other areas of mutual interest and cooperation.
Emphasizing the cultural and historical linkages between the Korean and the Indian people, we agreed to commemorate our shared historical and cultural heritage and promote people-to-people contacts to increase mutual understanding. We also welcomed new initiatives to foster closer people-to-people ties through youth exchange programs, internships, and facilitation of tourism and business through simplified visa procedures.
Celebrating a shared heritage, we agreed to expedite work to upgrade the monument of Queen Suriratna (Hur Hwang-ok) in Ayodhya as a joint project.
Noting the complementarities between India’s rapid economic growth and its highly-skilled workforce, and ROK’s technological prowess, manufacturing excellence, and developmental experience, our two sides agreed to partner with each other to secure mutual economic growth and contribute to global economic development. In this context, India welcomed ROK’s willingness to partner in India’s flagship initiatives, including ‘Make in India’, ‘Skill India’, ‘Digital India’, ‘Start-up India’, and ‘Smart Cities’.
Resolving to work towards promoting mutual prosperity, we agreed to expand bilateral trade, including through the early conclusion of ongoing negotiations to upgrade the ROK-India Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA). In this regard, we welcomed the finalization of the elements of an Early Harvest Package that would lead towards an upgraded CEPA. We urged the business community from both our countries to leverage opportunities arising from complementarities between the two economies, to enhance investment, to promote joint ventures, and to work towards the goal of raising bilateral trade to US $ 50 billion by 2030.
Recognizing the importance of supporting India’s infrastructure development through Korea’s Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF) and Export Credit, we agreed to continue discussing potential EDCF projects.
Recognizing the important role of the two countries in ensuring peace and stability in the region, including India’s historical association with peace efforts following the Korean War, we agreed to explore further possibilities to coordinate efforts in the defense and strategic spheres in order to benefit from each other’s unique capabilities and experience. In this context, ROK and India will enhance military exchanges, training and experience-sharing, and research and development, including innovative technologies for mutual benefit. We also agreed to encourage our defense industries to intensify cooperation in this regard.
Recognizing the link between prosperity and security, we reaffirmed the importance of freedom of navigation, overflight, and unimpeded lawful commerce. We supported initiatives for peaceful resolution of conflict through dialogue, underlying the centrality of sovereignty and territorial integrity, in accordance with the universally-recognized principles of international law. Appreciating the commonalities in our views on a wide range of current regional and global issues, we agreed to strengthen existing bilateral dialogue mechanisms, including the Joint Commission Meeting led by Foreign Ministers, the Vice Ministerial 2+2 dialogue, and the dialogue between the National Security Councils. In this context, ROK took note of India’s inclusive and cooperative vision for the Indo-Pacific region.
Recognizing the threat emanating from terrorism, violent extremism, and radicalism to world peace and humanity, we strongly condemn terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. Reaffirming that terrorism cannot be justified on any grounds, we are resolved in combating terrorism through coordinated regional and global efforts.
Underlining the pivotal importance of promoting peace and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in our regions for the larger benefit of all humanity, we welcomed the recent positive developments facilitated by the ROK, including the historic inter-Korean summits, as well as the U.S.-DPRK summit. We hope that these developments will contribute to complete denuclearization as well as lasting peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula. We pledged to work together to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and delivery systems, particularly to terrorists and non-state actors.
Recognizing India’s contribution and commitment towards the global non-proliferation efforts, we reaffirmed that India’s membership to the Nuclear Suppliers Group will further strengthen the international non-proliferation regime.
Recognizing the strong complementarities between the two countries in the area of science and technology, we encourage our scientific institutions, academic community and young professionals to work together through joint collaborations in research & development and experience-sharing, to develop technologies for symbiotic development, including in areas such as renewable energy, material science, robotics, engineering, and health sciences.
We expressed confidence that our decision to establish the ‘Korea-India Future Strategy Group’ and the ‘India-Korea Centre for Research and Innovation Cooperation (IKCRI)’ as well as a number of thematic MOUs concluded during this visit will provide an institutional framework for our future-oriented cooperation based on research, innovation, and entrepreneurship. We decided to enhance cooperation through the implementation of specific R&D projects. We expressed confidence that our shared vision will provide a new impetus to the expansion and deepening of engagement between the two countries and will serve as a cornerstone for a new era of India-ROK Special Strategic Partnership.