Defence and security relations between India and Republic of Korea have been on the rise with regular interactions at multiple levels including at ministerial levels
|The Author is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army|
Suh Wook, Minister of National Defence, Republic of Korea, visited India for three days during March 2021. Earlier, a Ministry of Defence (MoD) media release had stated, “South Korea’s Minister of National Defence to visit India from March 25-27. During the visit, he’ll hold a bilateral meeting with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in Delhi to discuss India-South Korea defence cooperation along with other regional and international issues”, adding that an Indo-Korean Friendship Park will also be inaugurated by Wook and Singh in Delhi Cantonment.
Ahead of his discussions with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on March 26, Republic of Korea’s Defence Minister Suh Wook was accorded a Guard of Honour at Sushma Swaraj Bhawan. Suh Wook held wide-ranging talks with Rajnath Singh on strengthening India-South Korea defence ties plus regional and global issues of mutual interest. Later, an Indo-Korean friendship park was jointly inaugurated by Defence Ministers Rajnath Singh and Suh Wook at Delhi cantonment. The park has been built to commemorate the contribution of Indian peacekeeping force during the Korean war of 1950-53.
Suh Wook held wide-ranging talks with Rajnath Singh on strengthening India-South Korea defence ties plus regional and global issues of mutual interest
Republic of Korea has been a major supplier of weapons and military equipment to India and in 2019, the two countries finalised a road map for cooperation in joint production of various land and naval system. In December 2020, India and Republic of Korea held discussions on issues related to bilateral cooperation and international issues of mutual interest including defence and security cooperation, COVID-19 response and coordination at multilateral forums.
In December 2020, Indian Army Chief General M.M. Naravane made a three-day visit to Republic of Korea. He laid a wreath at the National Cemetery and War Memorial in Seoul, called on the Minister of National Defence, ROK’s Army Chief, Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Minister of Defence Acquisition Planning Administration (DAPA). He also visited the demilitarised zone (DMZ), 30 Armoured Brigade, and the Korea Combat Training Centre and the Advance Defence Development (ADD) at Daejeon.
Republic of Korea has been a major supplier of weapons and military equipment to India and in 2019, the two countries finalised a road map for cooperation in joint production of various land and naval system
During the Korean War (1950-53), India deployed an Army medical unit, 60 Parachute Field Ambulance, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel A.G. Rangaraj. The unit disembarked at Pusan on November 20, 1950, and was initially deployed at Pyongyang on November 29, 1950. It was then divided into two sub units; the 'Forward Element' grouped with 27 British Brigade and the Administrative Element located at Daegu to assist the Korean Army Hospital and also treat civilians. The Forward Element was in the thick of action including a major airlift, Operation ‘Tomahawk’ with the 8th US Army during March 23-31, 1953 in the area of Munsan that involved linkup with 3rd Division US Army and later countering a massive enemy offensive on April 22, 1953. The unit came under command 28 British Brigade on July 1, 1951 with formation of the Commonwealth Division. It then participated in a series of operations until August 23, 1953. 60 Parachute Field Ambulance comprising 627 personnel, suffered three fatal and 23 non fatal casualties during the deployment and treated over 2,22,324 patients including civilians during the Korean War earning numerous awards and widespread commendation.
The Korean War ended with an armistice agreement in July 1953. Members of Neutral Nations Repatriation Commission (NNRC) from Czechoslovakia, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland and India, selected India to head the NNRC and supervise exchange of Prisoners of War (POW). Lieutenant General K.S. Thimmaya was appointed as the Chairman of the Commission. India dispatched one Brigade Group designated as Custodian Forces-India (CFI) comprising 5230 personnel to Korea, under Major General SSP Thorat. 60 Parachute Field Ambulance was merged with the CFI which took charge of over 25,000 POWs and assisted in their repatriation. Lieutenant General K.S. Thimmaya and the CFI won widespread respect of the Korean people by their exemplary and professional conduct.
Defence Minister Suh Wook, accompanied by Army Chief General Naravane, visited 60 Parachute Field Ambulance which had provided medical aid to UN and South Korean personnel during the Korean War of 1950s
On March 27, 2021, the last day of his visit, Defence Minister Suh Wook was accompanied by Army Chief General Naravane to Agra. He witnessed an airborne exercise drop that included combat military free-fall from an altitude of some 12,000 feet, as well as a battalion level airborne drop plus airdropping of heavy equipment. Thereafter he visited 60 Parachute Field Ambulance (presently commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Yaduvir Singh), which had provided medical aid to UN and South Korean personnel during the Korean War of 1950s.
Wook addressed the troops of 60 Parachute Field Ambulance in Korean with an interpreter doing the translation, the gist of which was, “You all have been true friends of our country in its hour of need. I'm aware that you are not only thorough professionals but capable combatants too. I extend my warm welcome and wish to host you if I ever get a chance. General Naravane has already been to Republic of Korea recently. On behalf of my government I express my sincere gratitude and wish you prosperity and luck in all of your future endeavours." He gifted the unit masks and a big Korean clock for the upcoming new key location plan of the unit. Later, he wrote a message in the visitor’s book of 60 Parachute Field Ambulance in Korean, the English translation of which reads, “Thank you for your Noble sacrifice and Dedication. You all are true friend of Republic of Korea. We will remember the heroes of the 60th Para Field Ambulance forever.”
Defence and security relations between India and Republic of Korea have been on the rise with regular interactions at multiple levels including at ministerial levels like the 2+2 Dialogue, bilateral Joint Committee Meeting (JCM) for cooperation in defence industries and logistics, bilateral maritime cooperation, ship visits, regular and active exchanges of bilateral visits by delegations from various military training establishment and the like.
It may be recalled that in July 2018, Republic of Korea’s President Moon Jae-in and Prime Minister Narendra Modi jointly inaugurated the Samsung Electronics smart-phone assembly factory in NOIDA, which is the largest such factory in the world. In February 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a two-day visit to Republic of Korea for strengthening the special strategic partnership between the two countries and also boosting bilateral trade and cultural ties.