Moon meets Modi: India’s ‘Act East’ and South Korea’s ‘New Southern’ policies back each other
New Delhi, Feb 21: Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached South Korea on a brief state visit to receive the Seoul Peace Prize. This visit happens months after South Korea's pro-peace president Moon Jae-in came to India in July last year.
With the international community's focus set to shift to Korean Peninsula ahead of the second summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in a few days' time, this visit by Modi also assumes importance beyond being a routine bilateral affair.
India looks East to diversify its foreign policy; S Korea eyes South
Modi has emphasised on the 'Act East Policy' ever since he came to power five years ago and visited a number of countries - big and small - to the East to cater to the idea of expanding India's business and security horizons.
With the US not being seen as a too stable an ally and cooperation with China yet to take a solid shape, Southeast Asia and beyond became a natural alternative for New Delhi to look at for meeting its goals in the international fraternity. And among the countries to its East, South Korea - also a democracy - emerged a certain preference.
The friendship between New Delhi and Seoul becomes all the more significant as just like the former, the latter too is ready with its 'New Southern Policy' under the Moon administration to expand its own horizons.
Although South Korea's interest in Southeast Asia and beyond is not new, the Moon presidency has worked doubly seriously to fulfil the potential in the region.
From deployment of a special envoy to ASEAN to the launch of the ASEAN Culture House in Busan to embracing countries like India, Seoul is certainly trying to look beyond its immediate neighbourhood comprising China, Japan and North Korea to serve its aspiration to emerge as a middle-range diplomatic power.
Moon has paid visit to Singapore, a key player in Southeast Asia besides playing a significant role in the US-North Korea rapprochement.
It is not for the first time that South Korea has attached significance to India but factors like economic interest and the China factor have made Seoul and New Delhi rework on their relationships even more.
In 2015, when Modi visited South Korea for the first time after becoming the prime minister, the two countries improved their bilateral ties to a "Special Strategic Partnership" and Seoul decided to help India with $10 billion in matters of priority infrastructure.
Both countries will look to build up on the base further this time.