South Korea, India, and the Emerging Quad Plus Calculus

Wednesday 7 February 2024 / 08:30 - 10:00 / Zoom

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Did you miss this webinar? The full recording is available on ISDP’s YouTube channel.

South Korea’s release of its Indo-Pacific policy, under the leadership of the Yoon government, was a clear indication of the country’s turn toward the Indo-Pacific. It marked a transition from a rather ambiguous foreign policy approach under former President Moon to a much more tacit approach that recognizes the liberal values-based Indo-Pacific architecture and expresses Seoul’s desire to engage with it. Alongside this embrace of the Indo-Pacific construct, the South Korean government also emphasized its vision of the country as a Global Pivotal State – that is, one that advances the liberal democratic values of freedom, peace, and prosperity through cooperation. While not an entirely novel idea in South Korea’s foreign policy, the articulation of this vision represented Seoul’s intention to pursue the agenda with greater motivation, ambition, and activism.  

Against this background, there have been several discussions and debates on how South Korea can engage more holistically with the Indo-Pacific construct and emerge as a valuable player in the region. In this regard, one vector that requires greater scrutiny and exploration is the ROK’s budding strategic partnership with India. Over the last few years, India has firmly established itself as a leader in the Indo-Pacific. Its strategic location in the Indian Ocean has made it a critical pillar upholding the ‘Indo’ in the ‘Indo-Pacific’. In particular, Delhi’s cooperation with regional powers like the US, Japan, and Australia via the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) has been notable. The Quad has quickly become a central pillar in the Indo-Pacific security architecture. Accordingly, South Korea’s explicit interest in working with the group – and how far the bilateral connection with India can facilitate such an arrangement – requires greater attention.  

This webinar (supported by the Korea Foundation) aims to look into the prospects of India-South Korea cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region through a Quad Plus format. It aims to address the following questions: 

Key Questions:

  1. Where does Seoul’s engagement with the Indo-Pacific stand and where does the Quad feature therein? What are South Korea’s reasons for seeking greater cooperation with the Quad?  
  2. What shape would South Korea’s cooperation with the Quad take? Would it emerge as a new ‘Quint’ platform or as a more flexible and ad hoc ‘Quad Plus’ format? 
  3. What are the prospects for India-Korea cooperation in the Indo-Pacific? Considering their bilateral cooperation, what are the prospects for both countries to promote and enhance minilateral formats of cooperation in the region, particularly about the Quad? 
  4. How can we envision a strategic convergence between India and South Korea in Indo-Pacific minilateral frameworks? In other words, what other minilateral forums could set this example for quad-plus format cooperation? 


Dr. Choong Yong Ahn is currently a Distinguished Professor at the Graduate School of International Studies, Chung-Ang University Seoul. He was a Co-Chair of the Korea-India Strategic Dialogue organized by the Seoul International Forum. Previously, he was Chairman, Korea Commission for Corporate Partnership (KCCP: 2014-2018) to induce voluntary collaborations between Korea’s big businesses and SMEs, and also Chairman of the Board, Korea Electric Power Corporation. Before taking the KCCP post, he served as presidentially appointed Foreign Investment Ombudsman (2006-2014) for foreign direct investors in Korea. He is also the former Chairman of the Presidential Regulatory Reform Committee (2010-2012). While on sabbatical from Chung-Ang University, he also served in several posts such as the President of the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy (2002-2005); Chair of the APEC Economic Committee (2002-2005); Chair of the Board, Choheung Bank; consultant to the World Bank; UNIDO Chief Technical Advisor to the Economic Planning Unit of Malaysia to design Malaysia’s industrial master plan; and served as President of several academic societies in Korea including the Korea International Economics Association, Korean Association of Trade and Industry Studies, and the Korea Econometric Society. He is the author of the forthcoming book South Korea and Foreign Direct Investment: Policy Dynamics and the Aftercare Ombudsman (Routledge, 2023). Dr. Ahn is the co-investigator of the Korea Foundation funded ISDP project “Framing an India-South Korea Connect in Indo-Pacific: Minilateralism to Multilateralism”.

Dr. Pooja Bhatt is the author of the book titled Nine-Dash Line: Deciphering the South China Sea Conundrum (Knowledge World 2020). Pooja was a part of the prestigious Indian Navy History book A Decade of Transformation: The Indian Navy 2011-21 released by the Hon’ble President of India on Navy Day 2022. Previously, she taught as an Assistant Professor in the School of Defence and Strategic Studies at Rastriya Raksha University, Gandhinagar. She was also Consultant with Ministry of External Affairs. Dr Pooja Bhatt received her doctoral degree from the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Currently Visiting Research Fellow at Centre for Air Power Studies, New Delhi.

Portrait photo of Mahima DuggalMs. Mahima Duggal is a a doctoral fellow at the GIGA in Germany, and an Associated Research Fellow at the Stockholm Centre for South Asian and Indo-Pacific Affairs (SCSA-IPA) at the Institute for Security and Development Policy (ISDP), Sweden. Additionally, she is an Editorial Assistant to the Series Editor at Routledge Studies on Think Asia. Her research is focused on the security issues and changing balance of power in the Indo-Pacific region, with an emphasis on India’s foreign policy, China, and South and East Asia. Ms. Duggal holds a master’s degree in international security from the University of Warwick, where she was awarded the Highest Overall GPA amongst her cohort. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in international relations from the University of London and a second bachelor’s in journalism and public Relations from the University of Newcastle, Australia. She has been an active volunteer for women’s rights and worked for several non-governmental organizations in India and Singapore in various capacities. She has been widely published in both academic journals and national and international media outlets, such as World in One News (WION), Eurasia Review, Human Rights Law Network, and ISDP, and has also authored several single and co-authored chapters in edited volumes.

Dr. Stephen Nagy is a Professor at the International Christian University in Japan. He received his PhD in International Relation/Studies from Waseda University in 2008. He is also a fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute (CGAI); a visiting fellow with the Japan Institute for International Affairs (JIIA); a senior fellow at the MacDonald Laurier Institute (MLI); and a senior fellow with the East Asia Security Centre (EASC). He also serves as the Director of Policy Studies for the Yokosuka Council of Asia Pacific Studies (YCAPS) spearheading their Indo-Pacific Policy Dialogue series.

Dr. Brendon J. Cannon is an Assistant Professor of International Security at Khalifa University, Abu Dhabi, UAE. He earned a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Utah, USA (2009) and held previous academic positions in Tokyo and Nairobi. His research is at the nexus of international relations, security studies, and geopolitics. He has published on topics related to regional security and geopolitics, the arms industry, and shifting distributions of power across the Indo-Pacific. Cannon’s articles appear in Defence Studies, Small Wars and Insurgencies, Asian Security and Third World Quarterly. His new book, edited with Kei Hakata, is Indo-Pacific Strategies: Navigating Geopolitics at the Dawn of a New Age (Routledge, 2021).


Dr. Jagannath Panda is the Head of the Stockholm Center for South Asian and Indo-Pacific Affairs at the Institute for Security and Development Policy, Sweden. He is also a Senior Fellow at The Hague Center for Strategic Studies, The Netherlands, and an International Research Fellow at the Canon Institute for Global Studies in Japan. Dr. Panda has testified to the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission at the US Congress. He is also the Series Editor for Routledge Studies on Think Asia. As a senior expert on China, East Asia, and the Indo-Pacific affairs, Dr. Panda’s research focuses primarily on India’s relations with Indo-Pacific powers (China, Japan, Korea, USA); China-India Relations, EU-India Relations; and EU’s infrastructure, connectivity and maritime initiatives in Indo-Pacific. Dr. Panda is the principal investigator of the Korea Foundation-funded ISDP project “Framing an India-South Korea Connect in Indo-Pacific: Minilateralism to Multilateralism”.