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Reports on Conference

Name of Event:
  “Regional Architecture for Security and Economic Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific"
           In collaboration with
Institute of Foreign Affairs & National Security (IFANS), Republic of Korea

  21 April 2011

  Sapru House, New Delhi

Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA), New Delhi and Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security (IFANS) Seoul, jointly organised a day-long conference on "Regional Architecture for Security and Economic Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific." The conference saw the participation of scholars from both the countries and deliberation over a wide range of issues concerning security and economic scenario in the Asia-Pacific.

Opening and Congratulatory Remarks

Welcoming the delegates, Shri Sudhir T. Devare, Director General, ICWA, laid out various dimensions of the changing landscape of the Asia-Pacific geopolitics marked by growing economic dynamism and an atmosphere of strategic rivalries and uncertainties. Shri Devare stressed on the existence of strong bilateral ties between the Republic of Korea and India and identified the signing of Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) a result of closer ties between the two countries.

The Chancellor of IFANS, Ambassador Joon-gyu Lee highlighted the historical-cultural linkages between the two countries and its continuation in the 21st century. Ambassador Lee recalled the support of India for the unification of Korea and declared India as an attractive destination both for its economic and political potential.

Shri Sanjay Singh, Secretary (East), Ministry of External Affairs, India, underscored the growing significance of regional architecture for India's strategic interests and the role Asia is going to play in the 21st century. Characterising the visit of the President of Republic of Korea in 2010 as 'historic,' Shri Singh called upon both India and Korea to move towards greater economic integration and stronger cultural, political and strategic ties.

Ambassador Joong-Keun Kim, Republic of Korea's Ambassador to India, highlighted the growing global vulnerabilities and fragile nature of international economic situation. Though appreciative of efforts of regional forums in integrating the region, Ambassador Joong-Keun Kim called for greater bilateral cooperation among countries and economies. In this context, the visit of the President of the Republic of Korea in January 2010 elevated the bilateral relations to the level of strategic partnership. Both the countries need to give stress on the people-to-people contact and therefore 2011 has been designated as the year of India in Korea and the year of Korea in India.

Session 1: Security Environment in Asia Pacific Region

Presenting a Korean perspective on the complex and fluid security environment in East Asia, Prof. Yong-Kyun Park identified key stakeholders in the region and stressed on the evolving US-China relations, marked by cooperation, competition and future tension, as the most important elements in shaping the regional strategic scenario. In his presentation Prof. Park discussed the increasing economic interdependence and integration among major powers, continuing security competition and conflict, shifting Balance of Power and the reshaping of security architecture. Prof. Park raised two important concerns of (a) China's future approach to East Asia in the context of its increased diplomatic, economic and military capabilities, and (b) North Korea as a source of multiple threats including conventional and nuclear ones. In the light of changing security environment, Prof. Park suggested India and Republic of Korea to strengthen bilateral security cooperation and promote multilateral cooperation.

Dr. Vijay Sakhuja, Director (Research), ICWA, discussed the perceptions about prevailing security scenario and future prospects for engagement in the Asia-Pacific. Dr. Sakhuja discussed both traditional (territorial disputes, major power rivalries and their growing material and nuclear capabilities) and asymmetric threats (terrorism, piracy, gun running, drug smuggling, human smuggling). China's growing maritime military modernisation figured prominently in his presentation. In both the contexts, maritime security has emerged as one of the most important challenges facing the region. Moreover, the Non-Traditional Security threats have reinforced the need for an expanded security vision. Dr. Sakhuja identified India as an important stakeholder in the Asia-Pacific since more than 55 per cent of India's trade supplies pass through the Strait of Malacca.

Session 2: Regional Economic Integration in Asia Pacific Region

Prof Seonjou Kang presented the Korean perspective on the process of economic integration in East Asia and India's role and importance in it. She discussed the development of production networks and proliferation of FTAs that has acquired a 'noodle bowl' pattern in the region. While discussing the economic architecture in East Asia, Prof. Kang identified three distinct approaches existing in the region. These are ASEAN+3, ASEAN+6 (now 8) and Transpacific Partnership processes. Prof. Kang argued that any region-wide FTA would immensely benefit India opening market for Indian goods and services (IT), integration into the production network of East Asia, spurt in foreign direct investment and overall balanced and sustainable growth in the region.

Presenting a comprehensive overview on economic integration in East Asia, Dr. Ram Upendra Das identified multiple processes towards integration. He also highlighted parallel growth of multilateral and bilateral FTAs. Dr. Das argued that though it is favourable to have a globalised multilateral integration framework, such an initiative has faced various challenges. As a result, many of the countries in East Asia have been simultaneously pursuing bilateral and regional approaches to integration.

Session 3: India-Republic of Korea Bilateral Relations

Ambassador Seo-hang Lee, Consul General, Republic of Korea Consulate General in Mumbai, India, discussed two important themes in his presentation - the transformation of Korea from a war-torn country in 1950 to a 'global Korea' in 2011 and various dimensions of India-Republic of Korea bilateral relations. Republic of Korea has emerged as 4th largest economy in Asia and 15th largest economy in the world. Moreover, the country has emerged as the number one in the manufacturing of display and automobile technologies and the largest ship-builder in the world. The overall transformation has also introduced a change in the country's perspective from peninsula-centric to world-wide, bringing India into its canvas of strategic engagement.

Ambassador Lee highlighted the historical-cultural links shared by the two countries. Buddhism was introduced into Republic of Korea by an Indian monk and Rabindranath Tagore characterised Republic of Korea as the 'Lamp of the East' in 1929. The relations between the two countries have grown considerably during the last three decades as evident from the signing of two important documents of bilateral relations - Comprehensive Economic Parternship Agreement (CEPA) and India-Republic of Korea strategic partnership. Today, RoK is an important trading and investment partner of India with bilateral trade volume increasing more than eight fold during the last ten years. The two countries also signed two important defence deals in 2010 related to military training and exercises, and joint production of defence equipments. Ambassador Lee also stressed the need to take into account the rise of India and its impact on the region, including on the Indo-Korean relations.

Prof. Pravakar Sahoo, Institute of Economic Growth (IEG), New Delhi, discussed the future implications of India-Korea bilateral CEPA. For India, this is first FTA arrangement with an OECD member country and it fits into New Delhi's "Look East" policy. For Korea, this is first such an initiative with a BRIC country and fits into Seoul's "New Asia" policy. Given the low levels of existing tariff rates in Korea and relatively high level of competitiveness in manufacturing sector, Korea is likely to gain more than India in goods. Nevertheless, India is likely to benefit in product categories like gems and jewellery, cotton and textile, some categories of machinery and transport equipments and iron and steel products etc. Moreover, the CEPA offers opportunities for collaboration between Korean and Indian SMEs in the areas of auto parts, textiles, leather, electronics, IT, semi-conductors, plastics, agricultural instruments, multi-media and ceramic products. Both India and Korea can benefit from the agreement in services sector. In terms of India-Korea investment relations, the CEPA's easing of restrictions on Korean FDI will lead to significant increase in investment in the automotive manufacturing, machinery and electronics sectors, benefitting Indian electronic component industry in the process. Overall, given the differences in economic structure between Korea and India, the benefits of these changes will outweigh the risks of increased competition from one another's countries. Therefore, CEPA is an important and timely step in India-Korea bilateral economic relations.

In conclusion, the participants were of the opinion that India-RoK relations are progressing well and the two partner countries must explore new vistas for cooperation.

Report by:        Nihar Ranjan Das & Vibhanshu Shekhar, Research Fellows, Indian Council of World Affairs