+ India-Korea Relations: 50 Years of Collaboration and Friendship  – CII Blog

In the vast tapestry of international relations, the bilateral ties between India and Korea stand out as a vibrant and dynamic thread. Over the past several decades, the two nations have woven a story of cooperation, economic partnership, and cultural exchange. As we delve into the intricacies of India-Korea’s relationship, it is evident that this alliance, goes beyond diplomacy. Today it is a narrative of shared values, economic collaboration, cultural exchanges, diplomatic ties, and a commitment to mutual progress.  

The roots of the India-Korea relationship can be traced back to 1973, when diplomatic ties were officially established, however, the historical connections between the two go way back, as the evidence of trade and cultural exchanges date back centuries.  

These five decades of diplomatic ties between India and the Republic of Korea (RoK) symbolise a vibrant and enduring relationship that encompasses politics, economics, and culture. Moreover, they hold the promise of a brighter and more sustainable future. 

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of this enduring friendship, it is essential to reflect on the milestones achieved and explore the avenues for further cooperation between these two dynamic nations. 

Diplomatic Milestones

The signing of the Long-Term Cooperative Partnership for Peace and Prosperity marked the beginning of the strategic relationship between India and the RoK. This was elevated to a “Strategic Partnership” in 2010, and further to a “Special Strategic Partnership” in 2015. With an aim of augmenting these ties, India’s Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi revised the Look East Policy to become an Act East Policy in 2014, which focused on expanding business ties with the economies of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) member nations, India and RoK. 

This policy shift signifies India’s commitment to actively engage with the dynamic economies and geopolitical landscape of the Asia-Pacific region, fostering collaboration in areas such as trade, investment, security, and people-to-people ties. 

Recently, in December 2022, under the leadership of President Yoon Suk Yeol, the RoK released its Indo-Pacific policy of “Strategy for a Free, Peaceful, and Prosperous Indo-Pacific Region”, which aims to elevate the unique cooperation with India.  

Economic Milestones

The economic collaboration between India and Korea has been a cornerstone of their relationship. The signing of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) in 2009 marked a watershed moment, opening up avenues for increased trade and investment. The two nations have since witnessed a steady growth in bilateral trade, with sectors such as technology, automotive, and manufacturing leading the way. Today India is the 9th largest trading partner of Korea.  

Since CEPA’s inception in 2010, the India-RoK trade has shown significant fluctuations. In 2010, trade surged by 40% to over $17.11 bn. Indian exports rose by 37% in 2010 while RoK exports increased by 42.7%. Though there was a dip in bilateral commerce in 2020 because of the global pandemic, it eventually recovered to record levels in FY23, totalling $27.8 bn.  

Dated 09/11/2023  | Value in $ Mn 
Cultural Milestones

Cultural diplomacy has played a pivotal role in enhancing the understanding and appreciation between the people of India and Korea. Film festivals, art exhibitions, and traditional performances have created bridges that transcend cultural differences. In India, the Korean wave encompasses not just music and drama, but also language, cuisine and other cultural aspects.  

Around 15,000 Indian nationals live in the RoK as of today, particularly scholars, who are engaged in advanced studies, predominantly in pure sciences.  

Areas of Cooperation 

Area of cooperation between India and Republic of Korea, includes IT and Electronics, Energy, Telecom, Textiles, R&D, Pharma & Healthcare, Biotech, Tourism, Infra, Defence and Agriculture.  

India’s electronics contract manufacturing sector in the country is projected to grow by over six-fold to USD 152 billion by 2025. South Korea’s expertise in hardware manufacturing and India’s software services, if combined, can lead to successful joint development and outsourced projects for third countries.  

There is tremendous scope of collaboration in transportation such as shipping, civil aviation and railways. Korean expertise in the ship-building industry can be accessed for the Indian maritime industry.  

India and South Korea have also deepened their bilateral relations in the defence sector through military exercises and training.  The synergy between Korea’s excellence in manufacturing and technology and India’s strengths in human resources, its vast market, IT, and software presents a compelling foundation for an enduring and mutually beneficial relationship.  

Way Ahead

As we stand at the cusp of a new era, the future of India-Korea relations looks promising. India, with its strategic significance, has evolved into a crucial ally for the RoK in its pursuit of becoming a “global pivotal state” within the new Indo-Pacific framework. This partnership not only bolsters the RoK’s geopolitical standing but also propels its economic aspirations on a global scale. The alignment of interests between the RoK and India strengthens their collective influence, fostering stability and progress in the dynamic Indo-Pacific region.