|Se Hoon Kim, Director of Captive Nations Coalition of the Committee on Present Danger: China.|In this edition of “Indo-Pacific: Behind the Headlines”, we speak with Se Hoon Kim, the Director of the Captive Nations Coalition of the Committee on Present Danger: China. For the last eight years, he has been advocating for the security of India as well as increased global economic ties with India. Q: How did you become interested in India? A: I’m part of what’s called the Kims of the Gimhae clan—descendants of Queen Suriratna who, around 2,000 years ago, came from India to Korea and married King Suro. They founded a very well-known kingdom that once existed in southern Korea. The first people who told me the story were my mother and my father: “we don’t know much about India, but never forget that this is what you are from.” In Korea, anyone who has heard this story, is extremely fascinated by it. Throughout college, I did more research about India. And I visited—Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, but most of my time was spent in Dharamshala. Everyone was extremely friendly. I fell in love with the country. Not everything is perfect, but one of the key things that I’ve learned from India was its ability to really embrace a lot of people together, working on problems that may arise together. That’s one of the greatest things I was able to witness. At the same time, I was very interested in the human rights situation in China in terms of countries they’ve taken over and occupied. So, in order to really understand the issue itself, I volunteered at the Tibetan administration in Himachal Pradesh—which was another great example of how open and diverse India is—and I was honoured to have experienced it. Q: You’ve done work highlighting security threats to India. How did that start? A: Through my time in Dharamshala, one of the key things I learned was the importance of the security of India, obviously for Tibetans, but they also told me about the seriousness of the Indian border problem with China, not just in Ladakh, but the way it is claiming Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, and what’s going on in Nepal and elsewhere. That helped me to build up a solid knowledge about the importance and seriousness of India’s border situation with China. And, other than my personal liking for the country, I began to ask myself “if this country falls, what’s going to happen to the rest of Asia?” That really motivated me to research a lot more about the security of India and what it means for the rest of Asia, and for the world. And my conclusion was that if India falls, then it’s a matter of time until all of Asia will fall. I’ve seen interviews where some Indian politicians openly defend China. And we’re seeing CCP supporters in some Indian governments. If that support grows, we’re going to see a different India than we see right now. India falling to the Chinese hands means that the biggest democracy in Asia will become another vassal state of China. At the same time, India is being threatened by Wahhabi terrorist organisations that are really good at infiltrating societies on a political and societal level. I can see them becoming a major voice, and working directly with the Chinese as they have done through Pakistan.
Q: Where else have you seen that linkage?
A: Like many around the world, I was extremely upset with the fall of Afghanistan in August 2021. It was particularly upsetting for me to see how India was essentially left to burden an additional threat on top of its problems with Pakistan and China. Not to mention countless innocent lives suffering now under the hands of the Taliban, most especially the Afghan Hazaras.
And if you think about it, before the complete fall of Afghanistan, who recognised the Taliban first? It was the Chinese Communist Party. Wang Yi, the foreign minister, actually met with the Taliban leaders and officially acknowledged them first. And the Taliban haven’t said anything about what the CCP is doing to the Uyghurs. So, obviously, you sense a strong alliance, or at least some sort of partnership between them.
And history has shown that whenever the CCP gets involved with some tyrannical group around the world, their narrative and work, begin to manifest extremely well—they become stronger than anyone had expected.
One of the things it comes down to is the CCP attempting to get rid of any entity that could be a threat to them—and I think India right now is one of the biggest threats that they face.
Q: When you talk about these issues in the US do you get pushback?
A: Definitely. When I was a graduate student at the University of Rochester, for example, a lot of Chinese international students openly attacked me—not physically, but that also was a concern to a certain extent. There were attempts to cancel our events and just basically shut down anything that we wanted to do, even though we invited speakers with different perspectives.
You see two types of hatred growing in universities all over the US, and I believe in Europe and maybe some parts of Asia as well: anti-Semitism and anti-Hindu sentiments. For instance, if you talk about what happened to the Hindus in Kashmir, that’s interpreted as “Oh, you hate Muslims”, and therefore you’re a terrible person. You see this narrative growing exponentially in colleges of different parts of the United States. That’s something that concerns me a lot.
I think that reaction is the product of disinformation, and I’ve heard Pakistan’s ISI has invested in this disinformation to a certain extent. I think there is a growing fear among people to even just bring cases like the Kashmiri Pandits forward. And that fear is caused by everyday people who embrace those other narratives, either online or in conversation with other people, and try to make it the dominant narrative that cannot be challenged.
Unfortunately, it has taken a very, very solid form within society. And that’s probably one of the biggest threats that I’ve seen.
One of the most memorable things I did at university was, in 2014, I held an event called “India versus China”. My point was to tell the world that it’s not China that’s going to be a major superpower but, in my opinion, it’s going to be India that people need to focus on. I invited Gordon Chang and he brilliantly explained how that could be possible, and what are some of the steps and challenges that India must face in order to achieve that goal.
And, of course, I definitely got setbacks from that. But I was particularly proud of that moment, because I knew for a fact that I was telling the truth.
It’s really important for people like myself, outsiders from India—although I have that ancestral connection—to really understand this point. Because if China were to become a permanent superpower, that would mean a disaster for the rest of the world. Whereas if it’s India, an open society that’s also open about its problems—which means it has the potential to mitigate and correct them—I think it’s a lot better for the world than Communist Party-run China. A: Any Japanese, Taiwanese, or any company that’s operating, particularly in China, should consider India as a place where all of their dreams can roll very well, without the type of challenges they face in China. There’s a famous saying, “everyone wants to do business with China, but nobody really benefits from doing it, other than a few people”.
How has anybody truly benefited from doing business with China—they steal our technology, they steal our IP, they bribe people within governments and companies to come work for them. And that’s how they grow. The CCP is literally built on a massive cheating system that hasn’t been seen by the world before.
The reason I say India is the next destination is that it’s a federation, so you can work with different states, there’s plenty of land where industries can be set up, and I think the Indian people particularly will appreciate it a lot. Korean companies can benefit a lot by being in India. India has many young people who are willing to jump into all types of industries, and that’s something Korean companies can easily provide. India is also known for its strong tech industry, and I’m sure if we utilise minds together it could definitely benefit the world, greater than what we can imagine. And we’ve seen spiritual connections, we’ve seen ancestral connections—like myself—all over the world. India can say, “Hey, we welcome you, because we have Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Bahai, all the different ethnic groups, all living together under the Indian flag, it’s not foreign to us.” And that I think could really reassure people that India could be an economic destination that they not only could prosper from, but also that it could become, to a point, a model for the rest of the world. And this is why the security of India should be something that everyone cares about, because it has such great potential for every single one of us on this entire planet. And if it falls into the hands of the Chinese Communist Party, the Wahhabis, or others that want to essentially destroy the country, then a huge hope for the world is lost. Fundamentally, for anyone wondering why they should care about the security of India, my message is simple. If India falls to China, it will be a matter of time until all of Asia falls. India is viewed as one of the biggest threats to China because of its numerous potentials, particularly in its economy. The compromise of India’s security will result in a domino effect where other nations will suffer a similar fate. If you care about the sovereignty of your nation, especially in Asia, it’s logical for you to support the security of India.