Antony’s Visit To South Korea TO Boost Defence Co-operation

 Antony is set toundertake a two-day visit to the East Asian nation  South Korea  in a bid to “boostdefence co-operation between the two countries”.

Antony, who willbegin his visit on 2 September, will be accompanied by defencesecretary Pradeep Kumar, defence adviser Sundaram Krishna and seniorarmy and navy officials.

“The visit is part of India’s ‘Look Eastpolicy’ and a wide range of issues, including defence and bilateralco-operation in research and development for manufacture of militaryequipment, will figure prominently during the visit,” the defenceministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

The visit comes in thebackdrop of reports of a massive Chinese military presence in theGilgit-Baltistan region in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and a recentPentagon report that details the Chinese build-up. “Antony was supposedto visit South Korea later this year but the fact that he is going now,so close after Krishna’s visit, indicates that there is some urgency incountering China’s military build-up by forging stronger military andstrategic ties with South Korea,” said Rajaram Panda, senior fellow atthe Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (Idsa). Since May,Antony has visited Oman and Seychelles and is scheduled to visit the USin late September and Vietnam in October as part of a summit of theAssociation of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

Panda said Indiais looking to effectively counter the Chinese “string of pearls”strategy and Antony’s visit should be looked at in a larger context.“We could safely say that these are the beginnings of an India-SouthKorea-Japan axis as a counterpoise to the Pakistan-China-North Koreaone,” he said. China’s “string of pearls” strategy is designed tocontrol maritime interests in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR)) bybuilding bases or partnering with countries such as Pakistan, Sri Lankaand Myanmar in securing sea routes to move cargo and oil.

Indiaand Japan have been holding negotiations toward concluding a civilnuclear deal and analysts point out that India would actively look topursue a similar deal with South Korea. “Although chances of anIndo-Japan civil nuclear deal appear bright, Japan does have domesticpolitical issues which could come in the way. In South Korea’s case,though, there is no such issue,” said Panda.

“Japan has alwaysbeen on India’s strategic grid but not South Korea, which, because ofits technological prowess, has a potentially large stake in India’sdefence market,” said defence analyst Commodore C. Uday Bhaskar. “Theseback-to-back visits and bilateral exchanges are a tacit acknowledgementof that fact.”
Analysts say India would also seek to tap intoSouth Korea’s strong capabilities in ship-building technology. “SouthKorea has marched ahead of Japan in naval ship-building technology, soit makes sense for India to build synergies with that country,considering the fact that our naval ship-building yards have theirhands full,” added Bhaskar.

In recent years, India has increased its military, especially maritime, engagement with countries in the IOR.
The Indian Navy has been involved in anti-piracy operations off the Gulf of Aden.
“Boththe South Koreans and the Japanese are equally dependent on the IOR astheir maritime trade routes run via the IOR. Considering the fact thatIndia is the predominant naval force in the IOR, co-operation withIndia becomes inevitable,” Bhaskar said.

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