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Korea and India plan strategic talks

Mar 30,2017
Korea and India agreed to launch a meeting of their vice defense and foreign ministers this year in a move to bolster their “strategic cooperation” in political and security areas.

Seoul’s move to bolster strategic relations with India comes as it seeks more diverse diplomatic approaches amid Beijing’s strong backlash over the deployment of the U.S.-led Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system.

Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Lim Sung-nam held talks with his Indian counterpart, Preeti Saran, and Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh on Tuesday.

In addition to discussing political and security matters through high-level exchanges, the two sides discussed substantive cooperation in trade, investment and development, and increased cooperation on social affairs and culture, including Korean studies and tourism, according to Seoul’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The so-called two-plus-two bilateral meetings of defense and foreign ministers are usually held between countries with friendly relations. Seoul currently holds two-plus-two foreign and defense ministerial talks with the United States and Australia. India will be the first country with which it will hold vice-ministerial level two-plus-two foreign affairs and security talks.

“Vice Minister Lim’s visit to India, a major country in the Pacific region that is emerging as a world power,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement, “is seen to have served as an opportunity to increase substantive economic cooperation, to put into full gear the bilateral ‘special strategic partnership,’ and thereby to expand the Republic of Korea’s diplomatic horizon.”

Such two-plus-two talks were first agreed upon during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Seoul in May 2015, during which the two countries upgraded their bilateral relationship to a special strategic partnership.

Lim also spoke of Korea’s hope to see the revision of the Korea-India Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement come to “a smooth conclusion” and also requested that the Indian government make efforts to resolve challenges facing Korean companies in the country.

On Wednesday, Lim met with Korean entrepreneurs in Mumbai to discuss the challenges they face and encourage expanding Korea’s presence in the country.

“Cooperation with India, the leader of Southwest Asia with a vast market hotly pursuing Beijing, is a means of diplomatic diversification,” pointed out a foreign affairs official in Seoul.

India and China face an ongoing border dispute and just over a half a century ago waged the Sino-Indian War of 1962, which has shaped the strong sense of rivalry and tensions between the two countries.

India has a population of over 1.26 billion as of 2016, according to the CIA World Factbook, compared to a population of over 1.37 billion in China.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]