Relations between India and South Korea have taken an upward trajectory ever since President Moon Jae-in took over the reins of the East Asian country in 2017, with defence being one major area of cooperation that saw the Indian Army induct the top-notch K9 Vajra 155mm self-propelled howitzers from Seoul last year.
The K9 Vajra is an Indian variant of South Korea’s K9 Thunder, developed by Samsung Techwin for that country’s armed forces, and is manufactured by Hanwha Land Systems. In India, the gun is being built by Larsen & Toubro (L&T) and South Korea’s Hanwha Tech Win (HTW) in Hazira, Gujarat.
In January, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a ride on a K-9 Vajra self-propelled Howitzer in Hazira when he inaugurated the Armoured Systems Complex of L&T.
According to the makers, these guns meet the requirements of 21st-century warfare by the Indian Army and will majorly boost its firepower.
Through his “strategic reimagining” of the bilateral ties, President Moon has sought to make India one of the mainstays of his “New Southern Policy” and bring convergences between it and India’s Act East Policy, said South Korean Ambassador Shin Bongkil here.
The New Southern Policy aims to build relations with the 10-member ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and India as key partners in the region.
Though India and South Korea became Special Strategic Partners in 2015, the two were not able to tap the full potential of the relationship. “South Korea did not figure in the foreign policy calculus of India. Ties with South Korea did not receive the due focus it deserved,” said the envoy.
But with Prime Minister Modi at the helm, the phase of neglect is past, and both leaders have “injected new dynamism” into the relations, he said.
Before Moon came to power, ties with India did not get the due leverage it deserved in Seoul. But Moon, keeping the geo-strategic and geo-realities of the region in mind – amid the backdrop of China’s growing assertion – has actively pursued ties with India.
Since he took office in May 2017, President Moon has expanded Seoul’s diplomacy beyond the US, China, Japan, and Russia to include India.
The policy stands on the guiding principles of “3P” — building a community of people, prosperity and peace.
“South Korea’s Southern policy is in sync with India’s Act East policy and if we are able to tap its potential, we would be able to harness the convergences and build a much more robust partnership,” the envoy said at a talk on ‘Towards building a more robust India-Korea partnership’.
Stressing on the close cultural ties between the two nations, which go back more than 2,000 years, South Korea’s first lady, Kim Jung-sook, visited Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh last Diwali and participated in the celebrations dressed in a saree.
According to Korean legend, the Princess of Ayodhya, Suriratna, went to Korea in 48 AD and married King Kim-Suro. A large number of Koreans trace their ancestry to this legendary princess, who is known as Queen Heo Hwang-ok.