South Korea Defence Minister heads to India; Indo-Pacific, Minesweepers, cyberspace, military drills on the agenda

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March 23, 2021 7:48 PM

Sources have confirmed to Financial Express Online “The defense Minister of South Korea is arriving in New Delhi on Thursday (March 25, 2021). Accompanied by senior officers of his ministry the visiting dignitary will meet his Indian counterpart Rajnath Singh, for a ministerial level meeting.”

This has been developed by the Indian Army and is in association with the Embassy of the Republic of Korea (ROK) in India and the Korean War Veterans Association.

The Defense Minister of South Korea Suh Wook is visiting India later this week to discuss Indo-Pacific, Quad, military to military cooperation, and deeper cooperation in defense production. The two sides will also discuss regional security and multilateral cooperation, and Korean Peninsula.

Sources have confirmed to Financial Express Online “The defense Minister of South Korea is arriving in New Delhi on Thursday (March 25, 2021). Accompanied by senior officers of his ministry the visiting dignitary will meet his Indian counterpart Rajnath Singh, for a ministerial level meeting.”

He is going to be here on a three day visit during which as per sources he is the chief guest at a ceremony which has been planned for the inauguration of the “Indo-Korean Friendship Park” in New Delhi. This park has been established as per the agreement between the two countries in 2019. Due to the global lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic everything had to be pushed back, including the visit of the minister.

Indo-Korean Friendship Park

This is a monument which has been created to mark the sacrifice and commitment of Indian troops during the 1950-53 Korean War. According to the data of the government of Korea, during the war, India had sent its 60th Parachute Field Ambulance Platoon of 627 medics. And these medics played a very critical role in taking care of around 220,000 soldiers and civilians. This has been developed by the Indian Army and is in association with the Embassy of the Republic of Korea (ROK) in India and the Korean War Veterans Association.

India-South Korea Defense Cooperation

Bilateral relations were elevated to Special Strategic Partnership in 2015. And both countries have been in discussions for several military platforms and weapons, especially naval shipbuilding. While South Korea considers India as a key partner in the region, India looks at South Korea a major partner under the `Act East Policy’.

The two countries have already inked a logistics agreement. This agreement helps the Indian Navy while operating in the Indo-Pacific Region and in interoperability.

When Indian Army Chief visited South Korea

Last year on December 28, 2020, the Indian Army chief Gen MM Naravane visited South Korea. It was a three day visit where he held talks with the top defence brass of the country, and focussed on exploring ways of expanding bilateral military cooperation.

In South Korea Gen Naravane had met the country’s minister for national defence, army chief and chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, and had met South Korea’s minister of defence acquisition planning administration (DAPA) too. He had also visited the Korea Combat Training Centre in Gangwon province and Advance Defence Development (ADD) facility at Daejeon.

Interesting Factoid: His visit to that country took place two weeks after concluding a six-day tour of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia.

The South Korean minister is already in UAE on a four day visit, and he will travel from there to India.

The visit of the minister from South Korea comes following the recently concluded visit of the US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who had visited that country before heading to New Delhi last weekend.

Will South Korea be QUAD Plus?

Quad had recently concluded the first ever Leaders Summit which was called by the US President Joe Biden. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison, and Prime Minister of Japan Yoshihide Suga joined the talks virtually.

Read Quad leaders’ virtual summit: Where Does India Stand?

This grouping of countries has sent a strong signal to China and has enhanced cooperation among the major maritime powers in the Indo Pacific. And according to experts has worked effectively in an expanded framework of Quad plus (with the inclusion of Vietnam, South Korea and New Zealand) to coordinate policies and responses in dealing with the global pandemic.

Members of the Quad have been focussing on working with the ASEAN keeping ASEAN centrality in mind.

As has been reported earlier by Financial express Online, in recent months there has been interest from countries like the UK, France, and Germany who have come up with their own versions of an Indo Pacific strategy to work together with like minded countries of the Quad in maintaining a rules-based, free and open Indo Pacific.

Quad + ASEAN: They will work towards Blue economy, white shipping agreements, coastal surveillance, offshore patrolling capabilities, maritime drills, Hydrographic services, and information sharing for increased maritime domain awareness.

Defence Projects to be discussed

Once again the South Korean delegation is expected to discuss the $ 3 billion Self Propelled Air Defence Gun Missile System (SPAD-GMS) deal. This was a deal in which South Korea’s Hanhwa Defense had emerged as the lowest bidder after beating the Russian competitor.

Also there could be discussions on the Mine-counter measure vessels (MCMVs) which Indian Navy is keen to procure to fill gaps in the navy’s mine warfare capability.

Highly placed sources had recently told the Financial Express Online that it is also open to the idea of leasing the MCMVs to fill the gap until they are built at the Indian Goa Shipyard through Transfer of Technology (ToT), under the `Make in India’ initiative.

Read Wait for Made in India minesweeper gets longer for the Navy: sources

These minesweepers are considered vital for keeping the sea lanes safe and are deployed by the navies to help secure the harbours by locating and destroying underwater mines.

Read Army Chief visits South Korea; SPADGMS, minesweepers and other possible joint ventures on agenda

India’s Act East Policy

As reported earlier, in 2019, when the defence minister Rajnath Singh had visited South Korea he had invited the top defence majors to participate in various defence projects in India. The companies specializing in military platforms in South Korea are allowed to Transfer Technology as there are no laws to stop the transfer.

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