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India-Korea Science and Technology Cooperation

Monday, September 17th, 2012

Recent announcements following the Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh’s official visit to South Korea further highlight the leaps and bounds taken by these two countries with regard to collaboration in the Science and Technology front along with several other fields. Though companies like LG and Samsung nowadays are household Korean names in India, friendly relations between Korea and India date back in history to the year 48 AD. An Indian princess, Queen Suro, traveled to Korea from the Kingdom of Ayodhya following the path revealed to her by a dream. She set sail in search of a heavenly king carrying precious metals, a tea plant and a magical stone to calm the sea.

The arrival of the queen, known as Princess Heo Hwang-ok in Korea, brought the two countries closer in trade and other engagements which continue to this day. Besides trade connections, cultural and religious links were fostered by Buddhist monks. In the year 723, for example, Hyecho, a Korean monk, visited India to acclimatize himself with the birthplace of the Buddha.

The past three decades have witnessed rapidly closer ties between the two nations with the signing of the Agreement on Trade Promotion and Economic and Technological Cooperation; the Agreement on Cooperation in Science and Technology; a Convention on Double Taxation Avoidance; and a Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement. It is felt that positive relations with India is a critical need for Korea both economically and politically. Also South Korea is the fifth largest source of investment in India.

Most recently, in January 2010 India and Korea inked an S&T cooperation deal to augment bilateral cooperation. An MoU was signed to chalk out ways and means to improve space communication, enhance remote control probes’ capabilities and encourage study and research of space-related sciences. Collaboration between India’s software capabilities and Korea’s IT industries is expected to benefit both countries. Korean contributions in filling up technology requirements in Indian households, the burgeoning automobile sector and technology transfers in infrastructure projects such as the national highways development project and the purchase of Daewoo Commercial vehicles by Indian company Tata Motors further emphasizes greater co-operation.

The comfort level between the two nations is riding an all time high, thanks to efforts by the India-Republic of Korea Joint Commission for bilateral cooperation. The Indian Cultural Center in Korea, established in April 2011, and the Festival of India which started in June 2011 have further enhanced relations.

In South Korea the 7500 strong Indian community is comprised of businessmen, IT professionals, scientists, research fellows, students and manual workers. About 150 businessmen deal with textiles alone. Recently nearly 1000 IT professionals and engineers have reached Korean shores working for companies like LG, Samsung, Hyundai and others. Then there is the growing population of Koreans in India in major cities, owing to the launch of new infrastructure projects.

The first India-Korea Science and Technology Ministerial Steering Committee has also played a significant role. In May 2011 the ministerial steering committee, led by the Union Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Science & Technology and Earth Sciences, Shri Pawan Kumar Bansal, stressed greater cooperation with Korea in S&T. His Korean counterpart, the Minister of Education and Science & Technology, Mr. Lee Ju-Ho, highlighted recent S&T policy trends and future envisaged developments. The next Ministerial Steering Committee this year will be in India and plans are afoot to hold similar meetings every two years alternately in the two nations.

In order to enhance research capabilities in science and technology, exchange programs were launched for students pursuing Masters studies in engineering and medical sciences, with research students, faculty and scientists in selected functionalities. It was agreed upon to encourage human resource exchange along with joint research programs in the latest Science and Technology areas. An idea for the “India-Korea Great Innovation S&T Challenge” contest was discussed, and it is expected that the first contest will be organized in India in 2012. To keep in step with written promises, the Indo-Korean Workshop on Energy and Environment was conducted successfully in May 2011 in Seoul. More workshops in Chemistry and Biochemistry technologies and in Health and Medical Science technology were planned. Workshops will be conducted two times a year for the next five years.

The second workshop, Chemistry and Nanomaterials & Nanotechnology Conclave, covering chemistry and nanotechnology topics, was held in Chennai, India in November 2011. According to Dr G Sundararajan, Director, International Advance Research Centre for Powder Metallurgy and New Materials (ARCI), Hyderabad, the nanotechnology sector is ripe for joint application and product development for Korea which has a technology advantage, and for India, which has a huge market.

With technology converging to nanoscales, high performance materials and processes like electrospun polymer nanofibres for medical and automotive filtration, as well as Sol-Gel nanocomposite coatings and Nano Oxide Dispersion, are preferred. Nanotechnology benefits materials, electronics, biotechnology, drug and pharmaceuticals, healthcare, cosmetics, agriculture, and sporting goods sectors. With both countries making rapid advancements in setting up research institutions and starting research projects, optimum results, are expected, opined experts.

The third S&T workshop will be held in Seoul in August 2012. Besides improving collaboration between the two countries, economic ties will be strengthened. This will set in motion the formation of a global research network. These workshops are supported by the Department of Science and Technology of India and the Ministry of Education, Science & Technology of South Korea, along with other prominent institutions in both countries.

As for the present scenario, announcements that India will launch South Korean satellites and Korea’s offer to build nuclear reactors in India have taken collaboration to the next level; namely, outer space and alternative energy sources.

The Indian Prime Minister attended a four-day Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul in March 2012. He met the South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak and discussed options concerning space cooperation for peaceful applications in outer space which were spelled out in the MoU on cooperation between the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI).

Following earlier discussions between technical experts from Korea and India, critical areas for cooperation were earmarked. India took part in the international open bidding for launching Korean satellites. Space endeavors like launching a nanosatellite (developed by Korean students) by an Indian launch vehicle were considered, according to officials.

Both nations agreed to the sprucing up of the Joint Committee on Science and Technology to the ministerial level, which is expected to give a fillip to mutually beneficial agendas. The joint Research and Development fund of US$10 million has already powered several joint research projects, human resource exchanges, workshops and other S&T cooperation programs.

Also, educational and academic exchanges will be given more encouragement which will enhance student exchanges in the fields of language, information technology and science. Both countries have also agreed to cooperate in matters pertaining to the safety and security of nuclear plant operations. India may allocate a site to install Korean reactors, as requested by the Korean president. A bilateral civil nuclear cooperation agreement was chalked out during the state visit of the President of India, Mrs. Prathiba Patil, to South Korea in July 2011.

The 2011 disaster in Japan following an earthquake and tsunami planted serious doubts about nuclear power safety among the world populace. In an effort to put to rest such concerns, India has already resolved issues with its nuclear plant in Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu, which was built in collaboration with Russia.

Going a step further, India will house a nuclear reactor built by Korea. India recognizes Korea has proved its worth in this field by procuring a contract to build reactors in the United Arab Emirates, overtaking French expert Areva. As prolonged delays are not preferred, Korean reactors race ahead of Japanese reactors, Indian experts say.

India has a transparent policy in awarding infrastructure projects, said the Indian Prime Minister, who encouraged Korea to participate in bidding processes for the construction of airports, bridges, highways, ports, metros and power plants. This technology cooperation is expected to go a long way in fostering S&T ties between the countries.

In February 2012 the Korea-India Cooperative Defense Research and Development Committee meeting was co-hosted by the Korea Defense Acquisition Program Administration (KDAPA) and India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) for promoting collaboration in defense science and technology. The Indian delegation paid visits to Korean defense industries such as Samsung Techwin.

India’s defense science and technology capabilities are favoured by Korea in aerospace, IT and software fields pertaining to advanced fundamental skills which, along with Korean capabilities, will enhance defense S&T preparedness. This will also reduce development time and increase defense exports cost effectively.

The Indian Prime Minister spoke about improving collaborations between scientists and technicians and on how to put into optimum use a joint Science and Technology fund of US$10 million. The Indian and Korean leaders discussed other aspects of peace and security in Asia and the re-establishment of the Nalanda University in India. To increase the momentum for joint endeavors, both nations have decided to celebrate the 40th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations in 2013. India looks forward to providing pharmaceutical and agricultural products and IT enabled services to Korea in future. High-level defense exchanges and research and development joint ventures and manufacture of military equipment with technology transfers and co-production are also expected.

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