International

Is South Korea Is New Israel For India?

In March this year, the South Korean defence minister had visited India. It is not the first time that defence minister of South Korea is visiting India. Recently, defence engagement between both these countries is also at its peak considering their past engagements.

South Korea
Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh and South Korea’s Minister of National Defense Suh Wook during Wook visit to India in March this year

Today in this article we will discuss the cooperation between both the countries. Why both countries are important for each other in the field of defence?, What are projects on which both countries are working?, What are likely projects on which both countries can work together? and many more other things……………………… Let’s start……………….

Initial Buildup

The formal establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries occurred in 1973. Since then, several trade agreements have been signed which includes a Free Trade agreement with Korea. Today, their trade stands at around 20 Billion USD. In 2011, India signed a Civil Nuclear Energy Cooperation Agreement with Korea.

The major breakthrough in the field of defence came when New Delhi and Seoul raised the level of their relations to a Special Strategic Partnership in 2015. Since then periodic high-level visits of defence ministers of both countries and consultations between the two sides have maintained the tempo in bilateral ties.

South Korea has been a major supplier of weapons and military equipment to India. In 2019, the two countries finalised a roadmap for cooperation in the joint production of various land and naval systems.

In 2019, both countries have also signed a military logistics agreement to allow each other navies to use their port facilities for mutual support.

In December 2020, Indian Army Chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane visited South Korea. It was the first visit by an Indian Army chief to South Korea, the visit highlighted the bold push that the two countries are giving to their bilateral security partnership.

Why South Korea Is Important For Indian Defence?

South Korea

The potential of defence partnership between both countries is huge. India’s partnership with South Korea is immensely useful in attaining its Atmanirbhar goal. India is one of the biggest importers of defence equipment since the 1950s. In past, our policy was to purchase the best equipment available. Due to our approach, we had always focussed on purchasing the best things rather than developing them indigenously. Being 4th most powerful military in the world, still, our country is struggling to develop its indigenous rifles.

Now our policies and approaches are changing, today we are heading towards Atmanirbhar Bharat. We need partners in achieving our goals. South Korea is that partner, which can help us immensely. Very few countries are there, which are ready to share their research and technology in the field of defence. South Korea belongs to one of those countries, which are ready to become partners of India. South Korea could be the next Israel for India in developing our defence industry.

South Korea is an established player in the field of electronics, semiconductors, remote control systems and cybersecurity. As we are heading towards an automated world, Korea can help us in developing our own ecosystem of the electronic and semiconductor industry. Also owing to continuous Chinese increment in cyberattacks to our important installations, a partnership with Korea will be a good option for India to counter the Chinese.

Just like India’s prime concern is from China, South Korea also facing the same, owing to Chinese ambition in the South China Sea. Korea’s main threat is also from China. All defence equipment that is designed and developed by Korea, is designed to counter China. India is also facing the same problem as Korea, so its partnership with Korea will be useful for India in developing China-specific defence equipment.

Just like India knows everything about, How Pakistan will plan an attack? What could be their means? What are their weakness and strength? etc, We know how to defeat Pakistan psychologically. South Korea knows the same things about China. Its cooperation with India will help us to know about Chinese planning, strategies, their weakness and strength and their military doctrines.

South Korea is also an important part of our ‘Act East Policy’, which aims to integrate East Asian countries to India.

Also read: Explained STOBAR Vs CATOBAR Types Of Aircraft Carrier

Why Korea Needs India?

India could be one of the largest markets for Korean defence export, and Korea knows that. Korea is looking to be a major player in the field of defence and to be enough to counter Chinese activities in the South China Sea and the East China Sea.

Korea is targetting the defence market of Arab and South-East Asian countries. Its partnership with India will open the door for Korean exports to these countries as India is a recognised player for them and shares good relations. India could be a “springboard to export Korean defence equipment manufactured in India to its various friendly countries in South East Asia, Middle Asia, Middle East Asia, South Asia and Africa.”

US soldiers in South Korea

Since Korea’s formation, it is dependent on America for its security and in the name of their security, America gets Billions of Dollars. They are now looking forward to developing their own capabilities to overcome their dependence on America. India could be one of those countries that can help them to buildup their own defence training facilities, India can also help them in the training their defence personnel.

It is an open secret that Pakistan has shared its nuclear and missiles technology with North Korea. South Korean defence is enough to protect their land but North Korean missiles could really pose a major challenge for them. India can help them to develop their own indigenous missile systems as India is a recognised player in this field.

Let’s now discuss about the projects on which both countries are working…………………

K-9 Vajra T

South Korea
K9 Vajra T

It is the first project related to the defence sector, on which both countries are working. In 2015, the manufacturer of K9 Vajra i.e. that is Hanwha defence had signed a contract with Larsen and Toubro of India to produce 100 such units in India.

The K9 is a Korean self-propelled 155 mm Howitzer, being manufactured by Hanwha defence of South Korea. The K9 VAJRA-T, a variant of the K9, specially designed for operation in the desert areas as customised by India.

Originally 10 units were bought from South Korea and assembled by L&T in India. The rest of the 100 units were produced by Larsen & Toubro for the Indian Army. As of February 2021, all 100 units that have been delivered are currently are in service of the Indian Army. Recently, the Indian Army has also deployed the K9 Vajra in the Ladakh region.

Let’s now discuss the likely projects on which both countries are in discussion phase to enter in partnership……….

India had started its hunt for getting new air defence gun systems in 2013.

South Korea
K-30 Biho

Korea and India is looking to finalise the 2.5 Billion Dollars of K-30 Biho air defence gun systems of Korea.

The Indian Navy has for long been looking to acquire mine-counter measure vessels (MCMVs), also known as minesweepers. The minesweepers eradicate the threats posed by naval mines to keep the waterways clear for safe shipping.

India had earlier held talks with South Korea’s Kangnam Corporation to build 12 Minesweeper vessels at India’s state-owned shipbuilding company, Goa Shipyard Ltd in Vasco da Game.

However, despite the talks, the $5 billion deal was cancelled by New Delhi in 2018, due to the “high costs involved and some compliance issues”. But still Indian Navy is considering taking 12 Minesweeper vessels on lease from South Korea.

Conclusion

The future prospects of the relationship between both countries are very good. Both countries have also signed many mutual agreements to undertake co-production and co-development of military hardware, strengthen intelligence collaboration, and step up partnership in space and cyber sectors as part of the broadened defence and security relations. Totally, considering India’s ambitious plan to become Atmanirbhar, South Korean cooperation will be a game-changer for both these countries.

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Aniket Kumar

A defence aspirant, desiring to gain as much knowledge as possible by writing blogs because knowledge increases by sharing.

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