The Broad Mind | Deepen nuclear partnership with South Korea

By Vineeth Atreyesh

Indian President Pratibha Patil’s visit to South Korea last month carries the momentum of growing relations between the two countries. President Lee Myung-Bak was the Chief Guest for India’s Republic Day celebrations last year. Agreements signed during Pratibha Patil’s visit to South Korea included co-operation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Economic co-operation has been the foundation of India-South Korea relations. India’s exports to Republic of Korea stood at $2.43 billion in 2009-10. There has been a 40% increase in the bilateral trade between the two countries in 2010. Trade between these countries is likely to only improve. South Korean companies – LG, Samsung and Hyundai are household names in India. Hyundai has two manufacturing plants in Tamil Nadu. Investment opportunities in India have been favoured by these companies over the last decade. The climate for India as a manufacturing hub for third countries can only be improved.

India has to utilize a relatively solid geo-economic foundation with Republic of Korea to further its Geopolitical interests. Civil nuclear co-operation agreement synergizes well with India’s ‘Look East Policy’ and Republic of Korea’s ‘New Asia Initiative’. The two countries not only want to stamp their presence in Asia but also, constrict the dominance of China in the region. Energy security is a necessity to sustain growth in both the countries.

Republic of Korea has an excellent record in nuclear energy production and exports. It contributes to nearly 40% of their total domestic electricity consumption. Successes in exports include beating France and a US-Japan consortium to a lucrative nuclear deal of building four nuclear reactors in the UAE. South Korean Ministry of Knowledge Economy has articulated a vision to export 80 nuclear reactors by 2030. It’s an opportunity for India to diversify its nuclear relations. Last year, talks between India and Japan were inconclusive mainly because of Japan’s insistence for India’s commitment to not conduct any nuclear tests. Broadened nuclear ties will provide India an opportunity to not be unnecessarily pressurized into, as an Indian diplomat had the reason for last year’s failed talks with Japan – “unrealistic demands”. Presently, electricity in India from nuclear energy is at 3%. India’s looking at a 70-fold increase by 2052 to increase production of electricity from nuclear energy to 26%. The plans include signing future international agreements as well as building nuclear reactors. Diversified nuclear relations will provide an otherwise energy starved India, a better playing field in negotiating nuclear deals.

Vineeth Atreyesh is a research associate at the Takshashila Institution and a LAMP Fellow at PRS Legislative