A Delhi-Tokyo-Seoul trilateral in the making - Hindustan Times
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A Delhi-Tokyo-Seoul trilateral in the making

By, Pratnashree Basu
Mar 18, 2024 08:06 AM IST

A New Delhi-Seoul-Tokyo trilateral collaboration provides a flexible and dynamic framework for adapting to emerging challenges and opportunities.

During his back-to-back visits to Seoul and Tokyo recently, external affairs minister, S Jaishankar, set the tone and agenda for future cooperation with two of India’s major partners in the Indo-Pacific. The visit was part of the 10th India-Republic of Korea Joint Commission Meeting (JCM) where Jaishankar met with Cho Tae-yul, minister of foreign affairs of the Republic of Korea, and the 16th India-Japan Foreign Ministers Strategic Dialogue where Jaishankar engaged in discussions with the foreign minister of Japan, Yoko Kamikawa. Also on the agenda was participation in the first Raisina Roundtable@Tokyo organised jointly by the foreign ministries of India and Japan which brought together business leaders, think tanks, and academia, as part of Track II efforts to deepen bilateral ties and strengthen regional cooperation.

Tokyo, Mar 8 (ANI): External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar meets with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, in Tokyo on Friday. (ANI Photo)(Dr. S. Jaishankar-X) PREMIUM
Tokyo, Mar 8 (ANI): External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar meets with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, in Tokyo on Friday. (ANI Photo)(Dr. S. Jaishankar-X)

While India’s relations with both Japan and South Korea have been important with the steady deepening of ties over the years, bilateral cooperation has witnessed a definitive upswing in recent times with an expansion in the scope of partnerships with both countries, laying the foundations of a potential trilateral framework of cooperation. Key aspects of New Delhi’s partnership with Seoul include semiconductors, green hydrogen, nuclear capabilities, and critical and emerging technologies. With Tokyo, the focus is on defence and digital technologies, clean energy, high-speed rail, industrial competitiveness, and connectivity. Semiconductors and supply chain resilience are common aspects of cooperation that New Delhi wants to build upon.

Japan and South Korea play pivotal roles in India’s Indo-Pacific outreach, contributing significantly to the region’s strategic landscape across various dimensions. Japan, as a longstanding economic partner, has been integral to India’s economic development in critical aspects such as infrastructure development and technology transfer, and investments contributing substantially to India’s growth trajectory and aligning with its vision for sustainable development in the Indo-Pacific. Japan has been a key player in India’s economic development with a long-term focus on infrastructure projects. Both countries share similar concerns about regional stability and advocate for a rules-based order. The Quad partnership, which includes Japan, aligns with India’s broader outreach goals, emphasising the importance of upholding international norms, ensuring freedom of navigation, addressing security challenges, and fostering economic growth. Japan’s participation in Quad strengthens the collective voice advocating for a free and open Indo-Pacific, reinforcing India’s position in the region. Collaborative endeavours between the two in maritime security enhance India’s capacity to address challenges in the Indian Ocean and strengthen the participation and efforts of New Delhi and Tokyo on multilateral platforms in the Indo-Pacific.

South Korea, while not part of Quad, holds strategic importance through its regional influence and diplomatic ties. Economic collaboration with South Korea, driven by its advanced technological capabilities, contributes significantly to India’s economic and technological advancements in the Indo-Pacific. The New Southern Policy of South Korea, initiated in 2017, emphasises enhancing ties with Southeast Asian nations and India, showcasing the growing importance of India in South Korea’s regional engagement. Most importantly, with the adoption of its own Indo-Pacific strategy, Seoul has demonstrated its intent to partner with other democratic and like-minded countries in the region under the broad architecture of the Indo-Pacific narrative.

Arguably, the most significant takeaway from Jaishankar’s visits is the emphasis he placed on the building and developing of contemporary opportunities during his meetings in both Seoul and Tokyo. His focal point underscores a forward-looking approach that recognises the rapidly evolving global landscape and the need for nations to proactively shape their trajectories. The emphasis on contemporary opportunities serves as a testament to India’s commitment to adapting to emerging challenges and harnessing the potential for collaboration in key areas indicating the positioning of India as an important player in the global arena, ready to capitalise on emerging trends and navigate the complexities of the 21st century. It underscores a commitment to innovation, technological collaboration, and a proactive approach in shaping the future trajectory of India’s relations with South Korea and Japan.

Over the course of 2022 and 2023, Tokyo and Seoul have undertaken gradual, yet intentional, steps to look beyond the difficulties that have strained their bilateral ties for decades. This shift reflects a recognition of the need to work together more effectively and collectively respond to regional opportunities and concerns signifying a maturing of diplomatic relations. From India’s perspective, this evolving synergy holds immense significance as a more cohesive and cooperative East Asia translates into a more conducive environment for India. It opens the door for a revival of trilateral cooperation among the three countries, an idea that originated first in 2011 but had thus far been dormant. As the geopolitical landscape in the Indo-Pacific continues to evolve, a New Delhi-Seoul-Tokyo trilateral collaboration provides a flexible and dynamic framework for adapting to emerging challenges and opportunities.

Harsh V Pant is vice president, studies and foreign policy, Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi and professor of international relations with King’s India Institute at King’s College London. Pratnashree Basu is an associate fellow, Indo-Pacific, at Observer Research Foundation, Kolkata. The views expressed are personal

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