Technology Trifecta – U.S., South Korea, and India Forge Strategic Alliance in the Indo-Pacific

PoliCharcha | Updated: April 18, 2024, 11:44 AM

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Technology Trifecta – U.S., South Korea, and India Forge Strategic Alliance in the Indo-Pacific

South Korea’s Foreign Minister Cho Tae-yul and India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar convened their 10th Joint Commission Meeting (JCM) in Seoul, marking a significant milestone in bilateral relations after nearly six years.

This meeting was swiftly followed by a trilateral technology dialogue involving the United States, South Korea, and India, focusing on collaborative opportunities in cutting-edge fields like semiconductors, biotechnology, space, artificial intelligence (AI), and quantum technology.

These developments underscore a deepening strategic alliance between South Korea and India in the Indo-Pacific era. The momentum gained from these interactions signals a shift towards expanding their bilateral cooperation beyond the existing special strategic partnership, paving the way for a long-term alliance spanning the next five decades and beyond.

The bilateral summit between South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the 2023 G-20 meeting further solidified this partnership, particularly in advanced manufacturing sectors like electric vehicles. Recognising the importance of collaboration in critical technological domains among nations sharing common values, both leaders committed to enhancing supply chain cooperation, especially in emerging sectors such as IT and electronics.

Amidst the current geopolitical landscape, the Indo-Pacific region necessitates minilateral frameworks involving like-minded countries to address mutual concerns and pursue common objectives. The establishment of the trilateral technology dialogue stemmed from the inaugural South Korea-U.S.

Next Generation Critical and Emerging Technologies Dialogue held in Seoul in December 2023. Notably, recent advancements also expanded the scope of the India-U.S. Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies (iCET), covering areas like biotechnology, key minerals, rare earths processing methods, digital connectivity, digital public infrastructure, and innovative materials.

Central to this evolving partnership are shared values, including a commitment to democracy and upholding the rules-based international order. The "defining partnership" between the United States and India reflects this dedication, with the U.S. actively supporting India's ascent as a major global power and viewing India as a crucial ally in ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. The participation of both nations in the Quad framework underscores the broader necessity for engaging in minilaterals and trilaterals, underscoring the region's security imperatives.

In 2022, South Korea unveiled its new Indo-Pacific policy, signalling its ambition to emerge as a "Global Pivotal State" and collaborate with like-minded nations in the region to bolster peace and stability. Recognising South Korea's status as a prominent economic powerhouse in Asia, India is keen on expanding cooperation across various domains such as critical and emerging technologies, semiconductors, green hydrogen, human resource mobility, nuclear collaboration, and supply chain resilience.

While India plays a pivotal role in upholding the rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific, South Korea maintains a cautious stance regarding China's response to initiatives like the Quad, despite not being a member. The Quad's focus on infrastructure development, climate action, pandemic management, and technological advancements aligns with Seoul's strategic priorities, hinting at potential areas of collaboration among the United States, India, and South Korea.

India's democratic framework and shared interests in critical technologies make it a valuable partner for the South Korea-U.S. alliance. India's expanding domestic market, aspirations in semiconductor innovation, and its partnership with South Korea based on democratic principles further enhance this strategic alignment.

In a recent development in New Delhi, the United States and South Korea solidified their partnership through the formalisation of cooperation between their international development agencies, USAID and KOICA, aiming to address global development challenges collectively. This memorandum of understanding (MOU) outlines collaborative efforts in areas such as women's economic empowerment, disaster resilience, digital literacy, and fostering trilateral cooperation with the Indian government. The alliance seeks to stimulate innovative collaborations, bolster local trade, and provide digital and entrepreneurial resources to support grassroots development.

The establishment of a new communication mechanism between the U.S., South Korea, and India signifies one of the early diplomatic agreements on technology cooperation by New Delhi. India's participation in the Quad's technological collaborations, including initiatives related to 5G and 6G, further amplifies its engagement in shaping the global tech landscape.

The trilateral technology dialogue holds substantial economic implications, potentially transforming manufacturing dynamics and driving employment growth across these nations. This alliance is poised to stimulate innovation hubs, enhance exports, and attract investments, contributing to advancements in global technology markets.

Moreover, the collaborative efforts in technology could serve as a counterbalance to China's technological dominance, particularly in areas like 5G and artificial intelligence, exerting a notable influence on the global tech competition.

To counter China's influence in the Indo-Pacific, nations like the United States, South Korea, and India are increasingly turning to Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a critical component of their defence and security strategies. Collaborative efforts in AI innovation and data-sharing are seen as essential steps to address concerns about China's growing military capabilities among these partners.

While trilateral cooperation on critical technologies is a positive move for India and South Korea's bilateral ties, it's just one piece of the puzzle. Strengthening strategic trust and evolving into true strategic partners in the Indo-Pacific requires a broader range of cooperative platforms based on mutual interests.

One such area ripe for deeper collaboration is the defence industry. The successful export and local production of K-9 self-propelled howitzers from South Korea to India serve as a positive example. Now, expanding this cooperation to include maritime weapon platforms could significantly enhance their defence capabilities.

Moreover, with the rise of maritime threats like terrorism, piracy, and illegal fishing in the Indian Ocean, leveraging existing regional multilateral platforms and considering joint bilateral exercises can greatly improve maritime security and awareness. This collaboration is not only crucial for India, a key security provider in the Indian Ocean, but also beneficial for South Korea's strategic interests as it relies heavily on sea lines of communication.

The trilateral dialogue between India, the U.S., and South Korea is pivotal in ensuring equitable technology-sharing without compromising India's policy independence. This dialogue should also focus on responsible AI use in surveillance and intelligence sharing, emphasising common data protection standards, cybersecurity enhancement, and supply chain resilience to maximise the benefits of this technology partnership.

By fortifying their alliance and aligning their interests, these three nations can effectively protect their interests and uphold the rules-based international order in the Indo-Pacific region, ushering in a new era of strategic cooperation and technological advancement.