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Reports on Conference/Seminars

Name of Event: Visit of a delegation of Senior Editors from Republic of Korea (RoK) and the Philippines to ICWA
Date: September 18, 2012
Venue: Sapru House, New Delhi

Opening Remarks: Shri Sarvajit Chakravarti, Deputy Director General, ICWA
Shri Sarvajit Chakravarti welcomed the senior journalists from RoK and the Philippines. In his opening remarks, he introduced the activities of ICWA. He also threw light on the historical significance of the institute and its present importance in India’s foreign policy research.

Chair’s Remarks
Shri J S Sapra, former Ambassador to RoK and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)
Shri Yogendra Kumar, former Ambassador to the Philippines

Shri Sapra underscored the growing India-RoK relations since early 1990s. He highlighted the role of India’s Look East policy in strengthening their bilateral relations and acknowledged the importance of the visit of the Indian Prime Minister, Shri Manmohan Singh to RoK in March 2012.

While sharing his rich experience in the Philippines, Shri Yogendra Kumar underscored that India-Philippines relations had strengthened over the years as a result of major thrust coming from India’s Look East policy. According to him, both countries are natural partners since they are democracies, market economies and also multicultural societies. He also highlighted the growing interests of top business houses of the Philippines in India. The Indian machinery has played an important role in the revival of sugar industry in the Philippines.

The discussion revolved around four key issues

India-Korea Relations
India-Korea relations have received impetus from their historical and cultural connections and the launch of India’s Look East policy. India played a major role during the Korean War and sent medical aid to the war victims. The bilateral relations, though initially confined to economic issues, have now acquired strategic salience with both the countries emphasizing on a multi-polar Asia. The two countries signed strategic partnership in 2010 but their strategic partnership is not directed against any third country. The economic relations between the two countries have grown and they have decided to achieve the bilateral trade target of US$40 billion by 2014.

Relationship between the two Koreas
People of both the Koreas have shown their willingness for integration but their different ideologies and politico-economic systems have prevented it. Since 2010 the relationship between DPRK and RoK has been deadlocked. Some people view this stalemate a result of the policy of the RoK government. The Lee Mung Bak government of RoK announced that it would raise the North Korean per capita income to US$3000 provided the latter opens up its economy and terminates its nuclear programme. DPRK has refused to implement these suggestions.

An opinion was also expressed that the inter-Korea relations have been primarily dependent on the US-DPRK relations and the progress on the Six-Party Talks. Currently, RoK politics is in transition and some progress can be seen after the country elects its new President in six months.

India-Philippines Relations
There is growing convergence of strategic interests between the two countries over several issues, such as maritime security, and counter-terrorism. The two countries signed several agreements during the visit of the President of the Philippines, H.E. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The participants expressed hope that the bilateral economic relations would grow in the coming years with the ratification of the India-ASEAN FTA in goods by the Philippines. The visiting delegation acknowledged the importance of bilateral exchanges between India and the Philippines and underscored the need for further cooperation in maritime security.

It was also highlighted that though the Look East policy had strengthened India-Philippines relations in different aspects, it failed to generate the same level of momentum in the relationship as it had done in the case of India’s relations with Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and others. It was observed that geography had obstructed the full growth of India-Philippines relations as the latter lies in the Pacific. The two sides highlighted the need of reviving academic interests in India in the study of the Philippines and vice-versa.

Indian Perception on recent Developments in the South China Sea
India has watched very closely the developments taking place in the South China Sea. It was highlighted that India continues to support the peaceful resolution of the dispute and believes in the freedom of navigation in the region. The participants observed that the two countries could further strengthen their relations by developing cooperation in the IT sector.

Report by:      Vibhanshu Shekhar is Research Fellow and Sudhakar Vaddi is Research Intern at ICWA