Tag Archive | "India"

The Challenges of Forming Deeper Ties with India for Both Koreas

By Nicholas Hamisevicz

The past few weeks have not been a good for India’s relations with the Korean peninsula as it recently went through a minor diplomatic rough patch with both North and South Korea. Though relatively undamaging, these situations indicated some of the difficulties in dealing with India.

For South Korea, its embassy in New Delhi was trying to purchase a facility that would house its cultural center; however, a property dealer cheated the embassy by promising them the building despite having already rented the facility out to someone else. This trouble will further delay a promise by South Korea to build a cultural center in New Delhi, which President Lee Myung-bak emphasized during his visit to India in 2010. The joint statement from the March 2012 meeting between President Lee and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also said the Korean cultural center “would be operational in New Delhi in the course of the year.”

A recent KIEP report and survey shows Indians having a decent understanding of Korea; however, in multiple instances, feelings toward Japan were greater than those toward Korea, including in preference for pop culture exchanges. For countries separated by the tyranny of distance and in the beginning of their strategic partnership, familiarity with one another among the general population is vital for the enhancement of relations.

For India, this unfortunate incident plays into the perception of India being a difficult place for business and having a large amount of corruption. The 2012 Ease of Doing Business Report ranked India 132nd out of 183 countries and 97th in the category of registering a property.  This problem is delaying an avenue for increased ties between South Korea and India.

At the same time, the process for India’s next ambassador to North Korea has also created a negative perception. Rumors abound that no one wanted the job. Eventually, Ajay Sharma, a former stenographer and aide, was named the ambassador to North Korea. India’s foreign service has three different groups: directly recruited officers called the IFS(A), a secretarial group called the IFS(B), and the stenographers. IFS(B) level officials and others complained; they felt a person from their group should have been picked, that Sharma had not moved through the process to join the IFS(A), and that a stenographer would not have the skills necessary to run an embassy.

In recent years, diplomatic ties between India and North Korea have been growing, as well as North Korea’s interaction with the Indian embassy in Pyongyang. These ties could be hindered by a potentially unskilled diplomat and could inhibit North Korea’s approach to India as a possible partner to help them offset some of their dependence on China.

This issue has highlighted some key problems for India. First, in comparison with its population, India has a low number of people in its foreign service. Reports suggest India has around 800 diplomats to help serve over 150 missions and consulates. Second, this incident becomes another piece of evidence toward the perception of an inefficient bureaucracy in India. Lastly, not having anyone choose to serve in Pyongyang suggests a lack of incentive to work in a country like North Korea; moreover, it suggests a lack of understanding of where North Korea fits in to India’s foreign policy and its Look East policy.

The problems in India are highlighted as countries from around the globe attempt to improve their relations with a rising power. These problems, especially corruption and difficulty in business affairs, have occurred before. The challenge for India is to try to address these issues and perceptions while still trying to sustain its rise as a regional and global power as well as engage in new relations with numerous countries. Unfortunately, India recently had a bad stretch where some of these problems emerged. It is even more unfortunate that they affected India’s growing interactions with North and South Korea.

Nicholas Hamisevicz is the Director of Research and Academic Affairs for the Korea Economic Institute. The views represented here are his own.

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Pushing the Korea-India Strategic Partnership Forward

By Nicholas Hamisevicz

On the day before South Korean President Lee Myung-bak hosted numerous leaders and heads-of-state for the Nuclear Security Summit, he met bilaterally with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India to discuss enhancing the two countries strategic partnership. Looking to build on the intensity and frequency of the high-level meetings that followed President Lee’s visit to India in 2010, the two leaders signed a joint statement emphasizing high-level visits and additional cooperation on specific strategic sectors like defense collaboration, nuclear issues, positive trade and investment, and other important items that respectively enhance each country’s regional and global influence.

As the two countries seek to deepen their connections, they will increasingly face sensitive and difficult issues that can slow down the progress of growing this partnership, some of which have already cropped up. However, South Korea and India must be able to consistently work together through the mechanisms already set up for the strategic partnership and push to find increased areas of cooperation for both sides. This will help South Korea and India form a strategic partnership that gives them the tools, connections, and influence to prosper in the Asia-Pacific century.

As previewed before the meeting, the Joint Statement between Prime Minister Singh and President Lee started off with political and security issues. The two sides rightly “reaffirmed” that the India-South Korea Joint Commission, co-chaired by the respective foreign ministers, should meet every year. Looking to rectify the failure of their defense ministers to meet last year, the two sides agreed to have South Korea’s defense minister visit India later this year.  South Korea and India missed an opportunity by not having these meetings in 2011, but prioritizing a yearly Joint Commission meeting and regularizing meetings of defense ministers will help the two countries define and implement the “strategic” aspects of their strategic partnership.

Despite the strategic partnership, India and South Korea have often seemed uneasy getting more involved in each other’s most important security concerns, Pakistan and North Korea respectively. Having recently announced that it will launch a satellite in celebration of Kim Il-sung’s birthday in April, North Korea’s actions are seemingly contrary to the understanding North Korea and the United States appeared to have on February 29, 2012, and a launch will be in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions. India has offered statements in the past on North Korean provocations against South Korea, and although North Korea has only announced it will launch a satellite, India and South Korea included wording in the Joint Statement that the two sides “urged that nothing should be done which increases tensions in the region and violates the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.”

When two countries in the Asia-Pacific talk about improving their strategic ties, China always looms large. In fact, it was the second question at the media briefing by India’s Foreign Secretary Sanjay Singh following the meeting between Prime Minister Singh and President Lee. Foreign Secretary Singh mentioned India’s “excellent” relationship with both China and Korea and noted that India tries to base all of its bilateral relationships on the quality of the relationships themselves and not on outside factors. Appropriate for a government official to say, but there is concern in India regarding China’s “string of pearls,” the theory that China uses better relations with countries like Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Burma, and Bangladesh to strategically block India’s options for maneuvering in the Indian Ocean and in the broader Asian region. Chinese officials counter by illustrating how India’s improving relations and development of strategic partnerships from ASEAN up to Japan and South Korea can appear to be encirclement, blocking China’s own maneuverability. As South Korea and India deepen their strategic relationship, the China factor will always be there. Thus, these regular high-level meetings will be important for the two sides to develop talking points and explain the benefits of the strategic partnership as South Korea and India move forward.

As the South Korean and Indian relationship broadens in scope, there will be more situations where the two sides will be asking the other for action, commitment, or support on issues that one of the country’s feels is in their specific national interest. This has already started to occur, and those issues stuck out during these meetings between India and South Korea. South Korea has been looking to enhance its defense export industry and was hoping it would be a good match with the Indian military’s desire to modernize and import defense equipment to help it do so. South Korea hoped this would occur last year, but its KT-1 fighter trainers lost the bid to supply India’s air force with 75 new trainers. Thus, the Joint Statement states President Lee emphasized that South Korea wanted to increase cooperation with India’s military and defense industry.

South Korea is also looking to build upon its success in nuclear cooperation with India. Having signed a nuclear cooperation deal last year, South Korea included in this Joint Statement that President Lee requested India set aside specific allotment for South Korean nuclear reactors. South Korea has seen India do this for the larger nuclear powers like Russia, France, and the United States, and would like similar treatment.

For India, though not in the statement, press reports suggested Prime Minister Singh asked President Lee for South Korea’s support for India’s membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the Missile Technology Control Regime. Concern that India has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, received special treatment in its nuclear cooperation with the United States, along with other difficult issues has kept India outside of these groups. Already having secured the U.S.’s support for India’s membership during President Barack Obama’s last visit to India, Prime Minister Singh was hoping to get South Korea behind India’s membership as well.

Lastly, both countries are trying to maintain economic growth. Prime Minister Singh’s office prepared for this meeting by discussing the latest developments on POSCO’s delayed steel project investment in the Indian state of Orissa. At a meeting with the CEOs of Korean companies in Seoul, Prime Minister Singh tried to reassure them that delays in the POSCO project were the exception to the rule and that other Korea companies like Hyundai had succeeded in India, and furthermore, that future Korean companies and investment will profit from being in India. These economic concerns connect with worries that the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) the two countries signed is not benefitting everyone. The two countries have been quietly trying to renegotiate some aspects of the agreement, yet President Lee and Prime Minister Singh were trying to demonstrate the CEPA’s overall benefit to increase trade for both countries.

The meetings and events tied to the bilateral summit provide encouraging signs for enhancing the South Korea–India strategic partnership. The emphasis on needing multiple layers of high level interaction as well as connections between the people of South Korea and India, as seen in the visa agreement that was signed, will help push this strategic partnership forward beyond the administrations of Lee and Singh. Even having the two countries push each other on sensitive issues is a good sign that both South Korea and India understand the benefit of having the other’s support in regional and global contexts and have a desire to work together on tough issues. Now the two countries must act on and implement these agreements and understandings. Meetings between Singh and Lee have encouraged development of this strategic partnership in the past. It will be important again for South Korea and India to use the momentum from this meeting  to push the bilateral relationship into one of the more active and influential strategic partnerships in the Asia-Pacific century.

Nicholas Hamisevicz is the Director of Research and Academic Affairs for the Korea Economic Institute. The views represented here are his own.

Photo from Himanshu Sarpatdar’s photo stream on flickr Creative Commons.

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Singh-Lee Meeting: Strategic Partnership Building Before Nuclear Summit

By Nicholas Hamisevicz

Next week, President Lee Myung-bak and South Korea will host numerous leaders and heads-of-state from around the world for the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit. On the sidelines of the summit, President Lee will host approximately 27 bilateral meetings with various counterparts, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India. After a year dedicated to Korea-India relations that included significant cultural exchanges but is still growing substantively, the upcoming summit meeting between President Lee and Prime Minister Singh represents an important opportunity to further strengthen the strategic ties of two of Asia’s rising economies.

In 2010, Korea and India pledged to elevate their relationship to a strategic partnership. With India’s rapid economic growth and growing international role, Korea’s future prosperity will increasingly be tied to India’s own prosperity. As two of Asia’s leading democracies, they also make natural foreign policy allies who share common interests across a wide range of issues.

This meeting between President Lee and Prime Minister Singh can begin to lay the groundwork for the future of the strategic partnership between South Korea – India. Together the two leaders could develop goals that encourage and emphasize to their respective ministries to meet and work toward cooperative projects that build the strategic relationship.  Beyond laying the groundwork for future meetings, the two allies have much to discuss.

Early descriptions from the Indian and South Korean governments suggest the two sides understand the significance of the meeting. India’s Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai previewed the meeting, indicating an agreement on visas will be signed and a Joint Statement will be issued. Foreign Secretary Mathai suggested meetings of the Joint Commission co-chaired by the Foreign Ministers of South Korea and India as well as South Korea’s Defense Minister visiting India will take place in 2012. The Joint Statement from this meeting and the previous Lee-Singh statement will be key starting points for these ministerial meetings. South Korea and India have already had a Director-General level meeting of their Foreign Ministry divisions that cover South and East Asia respectively in 2012. Yet this meeting should be occurring more often than every three years if South Korea and India are to have a true strategic partnership.

In addition to the security and political aspects of a bilateral relationship, economics plays an increasingly large role in connecting countries in Asia. Prime Minister Singh has already been preparing for economic discussions with President Lee. Prime Minister Singh’s office recently held a meeting to discuss POSCO’s steel project in Orissa, India. POSCO has the single largest foreign direct investment in India, but plans for further implementation have had starts and stops because of approval and legal delays.  Furthermore, local residents have been protesting the allocation of land to POSCO for the whole project, compensation for moving, and environmental concerns. POSCO has refused to start construction on the land until all of these issues are cleared up and it is given confidence that it can start its project without delay.

On the free trade front, South Korea and India signed their Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) in 2009, and it entered into effect one year later. However, there are some concerns surrounding its implementation. South Korea and India were quietly trying to renegotiate some of their CEPA, and there have been reports that some on both sides are not benefitting from the deal. Prime Minister Singh and President Lee will have to emphasize the importance of the CEPA for both countries overall development and point to positive success stories to counter any negative feelings over the deal.

South Korea and India need to continue to build on previous meetings to develop a lasting strategic partnership. This particular meeting between President Lee and Prime Minister Singh presents more difficult circumstances than a normal bilateral visit with President Lee hosting the Nuclear Security Summit and numerous important bilateral meetings. However, some of the early meetings preparing for this summit, preview statements, and suggested future meetings between South Korean and Indian officials indicate both sides see an important opportunity to create momentum to support for the enhancement of the strategic partnership between South Korea and India.

Nicholas Hamisevicz is the Director of Research and Academic Affairs for the Korea Economic Institute. The views represented here are his own.

Photo from Korea.net’s photo stream on flickr Creative Commons.

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India: The Other Emerging Power’s Reaction to Kim Jong Il’s Death

By Nicholas Hamisevicz

In Asia much of the pressure and focus from the transition in North Korea after Kim Jong Il’s death is now on China, its neighbor and chief benefactor. As a rising power that provides both economic and national security assistance North Korea needs to survive, China is in a difficult situation with new leadership emerging in North Korea and new leadership scheduled to take over China in October. For the other major emerging power, however, India possesses more ability to monitor the situation in North Korea and react in its best interests to any changes on the Korean peninsula.

Ties between India and North Korea are growing. The two sides had a few diplomatic connections in 2011 that suggested an improvement in bilateral relations. Pak Ui-chun, North Korea’s Foreign Minister, visited India’s embassy in Pyongyang on January 26 for India’s Republic Day event. India’s ambassador to North Korea was then invited to a dinner with North Korean officials. India also provided food aid to North Korea by donating $1 million to the World Food Programme. Moreover, prior to donating food aid, India’s ambassador to North Korea was permitted to visit some of the countryside between Pyongyang and Nampo to see areas in need of economic assistance. The Indian ambassador then toured Nampo. North Korea also sent a delegation to India in May 2011 to examine India’s history with special economic zones. Although engagement with North Korea is often along these smaller interactions, the momentum in India – North Korea relations seems to have a positive trajectory.

Yet India’s relations with North Korea are still hampered by India’s concerns over North Korea’s relations with Pakistan, and to a lesser extent, Burma. Both of India’s neighbors have a history of dangerous interaction with North Korea. Pakistan and North Korea previously traded missile and nuclear technology. Moreover, North Korea’s insistence on keeping its nuclear weapons reminds the international community of A.Q. Khan, one of the fathers of Pakistan’s nuclear program and his network of illegal transfers of nuclear material, especially the connections to North Korea. North Korea represents the negative example of a country outside the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, in contrast to the positive image India is trying to project for itself to the international community. For India, the rumors over North Korean assistance for Burma’s own nuclear weapons program, along with previous military cooperation, feed a sense of insecurity in the region. During her recent visit to Burma, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Burmese leaders that they must end their illicit activities with North Korea as part of the reforms they are trying to undertake.

North Korea provides some more immediate security concerns for countries recently enhancing their relations with India. South Korea, Japan, and the United States are more immediately impacted by the leadership transition after the death of Kim Jong Il and whose own policies can also more directly influence the outcomes on the Korean peninsula.

India has a strategic partnership and important economic relations with each of these countries. These new connections, along with India’s emergence as a rising power, will bring issues regarding transition in North Korea more deeply into India’s strategic portfolio. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda of Japan was in India the last week of December and called on India to support and understand Japan’s position on North Korea’s abductions of Japanese citizens. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell testified in March 2011 that the U.S. has discussed issues regarding North Korea with India. South Korea will also likely use its strategic partnership  with India to discuss approaches to North Korea in the near future.

The China factor is an important aspect in India’s foreign policy calculations. China’s reactions and responses to North Korea’s new leadership will demonstrate its confidence level toward Pyongyang. China would prefer a stable North Korea to prevent the burden of an uncertain government in Pyongyang and the possibility of major action toward North Korea during China’s own leadership transition in 2012. India probably would not mind if the uncertainties in North Korea kept China more preoccupied; some even suggest North Korea moving away from China would be beneficial to India as well.

India will have some benefit of not being directly impacted by the leadership transition in North Korea. However, the transition to Kim Jong-un will have an affect on India’s neighbors and its growing relationships with its strategic partners. India will be looking to see how the new North Korean leadership will approach their interactions with Pakistan, Burma, and China. South Korea, Japan, and the United States are likely to concentrate their efforts on the Korean peninsula, but will look to India for support as a regional and emerging world power. With the ascendance of Kim Jong-un, India’s development as a rising power will likely include more connections to issues regarding North Korea and the future of the Korean peninsula.

Nicholas Hamisevicz is the Director of Research and Academic Affairs for the Korea Economic Institute. The views represented here are his own.

Photo from Sonal And Abe’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

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South Korea – India Relations: Missed Opportunity in an Emerging Relationship?

By Nicholas Hamisevicz

In the last year, South Korea and India have upgraded their relationship to a “strategic partnership.” The increased ties between the two countries were kicked off with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak’s state visit to India in 2010 and followed up by delegations from both countries that built upon economic and cultural ties.  However, some of the main meetings that usually help to define the “strategic” aspects of bilateral relations have yet to occur this year.

The joint statement of 2010 elevated South Korea-India relations to a strategic partnership and designated 2011 as the ‘Year of Korea’ in India and the ‘Year of India’ in South Korea. In 2011, both sides have sought to build upon those ties. Indian President Pratibha Patil visited South Korea and, despite the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, South Korea and India continued to develop their nuclear partnership with the conclusion of the Agreement for Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy. In addition, South Korea’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Kim Sung-hwan met with India’s Secretary of their Department of Atomic Energy, Srikumar Banerjee during the signing of the nuclear cooperation deal. Both of these visits were important and may help in the strategic aspect of India-South Korea relations, but the meetings didn’t provide the comprehensive framework needed for developing the relationship that meetings between the foreign or defense ministers would accomplish.

Have both South Korea and India missed an opportunity to augment the “strategic” aspect of their “strategic partnership” by not having the foreign or defense ministers of their respective countries meet in 2011? Both ministries are intimately connected to the core strategic elements of foreign relations and additional discussions between the two would help to continue to define and expand an important emerging relationship in Asia. With the year almost over, the opportunity may have slipped away, though some reports still suggest that South Korea’s Defense Minister may visit India this year.

Both South Korea and India are expanding their respective regional and global influence, while dealing with security concerns regarding their turbulent neighbors, North Korea and Pakistan. Obviously much of these efforts will fall on the foreign and defense ministries, making it difficult to have yearly meetings. However, in the joint statement from President Lee’s visit, both sides placed political and security cooperation first in the list of elements for the future relationship. India and South Korea have a Joint Commission that is chaired by the foreign ministers, and the joint statement “acknowledged the necessity of holding the Joint Commission on an annual basis.” So far, the Joint Commission has yet to meet this year.  Moreover, during his visit to South Korea last year, India’s External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, India’s equivalent of the foreign ministry, gave a speech at the Institute for Foreign Affairs and National Security in Seoul, laying out six steps to building stronger relations between India and South Korea. His first step was to use high level exchanges to “consolidate and strengthen” the “political partnership” of the two countries.

As mentioned, high level meetings have taken place this year between South Korea and India. Yet the strategic planning and implementation of policy often falls to the defense and foreign ministers. If the two countries can get a meeting in this year, it would be beneficial.  But with the year quickly coming to a close, the second best option would be for South Korea and India to have their foreign ministers meet at a ROK-India Joint Commission meeting in early 2012 along with defense minister visits as well. Opportunities to define and enhance the South Korea-India strategic partnership should not be missed but seized upon to strengthen this important growing relationship in Asia.

Nicholas Hamisevicz is the Director of Research and Academic Affairs for the Korea Economic Institute. The views represented here are his own.

Photo by Christian Haugen

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Important Issues in Asia’s Future Connect South Korea and India

By Nicholas Hamisevicz

Much of the focus this week has been on the enduring U.S.-ROK relationship and how these countries envision a future Asia as South Korean President Lee Myung-bak arrives in Washington for a state visit. However, beyond the U.S.-South Korea alliance, Korea’s emerging relationship with India can also be an important aspect in the development of Asia in the 21st century.

Despite the distance, pressing security issues for both countries with antagonistic neighbors, and their limited prior interaction, the issues that initially connected South Korea and India and led to a rapid growth in ties are also important aspects in the future progression of Asia.

Economics and trade have often been drivers of relations in Asia, and Asian countries will continue to look for policies and partnerships that will enhance their economic growth. Building off of their economic reforms in the 1990s, India developed its “Look East” policy partly to augment the reforms it was undertaking at home with economic relations with East Asian countries. Although initially focused on Southeast Asia, India’s Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao did visit South Korea in 1993. More recently, South Korea and India signed a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement in 2009, and after coming into effect last year, trade between the two countries has surpassed $17 billion.  Additionally, the Indian government finally approved POSCO’s $12 billion steel investment plan this year, making it the largest foreign direct investment project in India.

The quest for energy to drive economic growth is also interrelated in Asia. South Korea imports most of its energy needs from the Middle East, meaning those shipments must pass through the Indian Ocean on their way to Korea. However, as South Korea has sought to offset its energy demands by using nuclear power, it has also begun to increase its nuclear power export capabilities. In the aftermath of the U.S.-India nuclear agreement paving the way for India to import nuclear technology and the recent Agreement for Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energybetween Korea and India, both sides are expected to increase their cooperation on nuclear energy.

Ironically, it is nuclear issues that originally brought India and South Korea closer on security relations as well. In combination with North Korean assistance to Pakistan on its missile technology, Pakistan also provided nuclear weapons technology and information to North Korea in the 1990s through A.Q. Khan, one of the important fathers of Pakistan’s nuclear program. In addition to proliferation concerns that still worry both countries, security cooperation for both India and South Korea extends to energy security and open sea lines of communication (SLOC). Important trade and energy needs traverse through the Indian Ocean; thus, India and Korea have begun cooperating on maritime security and emphasized “the need for greater cooperation” in these areas in the joint statement from President Lee Myung-bak’s state visit to India last year. South Korea also hopes India’s desire to enhance its military capabilities will have India looking toward Korea’s world class shipbuilding industry for additions to its navy as well as purchasing some of Korea’s new fighter trainers.

China’s rise has also become an underlying factor in South Korea-India relations. China continues to support both nations’ troublesome neighbors, North Korea and Pakistan, and furthermore, this support is often to the detriment of the goals of South Korea and India. For Korea, relations with India might help it deflect some of the pressures that come from its interaction with China as well as any perception of U.S. decline.

While both India and China are seen as rising powers in Asia, they are also competitors for influence in the region. For many in India this competition is viewed through China’s “string of pearls,” the evolving influence of China with India’s neighbors that could affect the SLOC around the Indian Ocean. Many in China share a reciprocal concern that India’s “Look East” policy is just another way to hem China in and prevent its natural rise. In the long-run, maintaining productive relations with both nations will likely be an imperative for Korea’s continued economic growth.

The growth of relations between South Korea and India has centered on converging ideas and requirements for the future prosperity of Asia. Economics, energy, security, and the role of China will all be major factors for the future development of the region, but also important connections for two democracies on opposite ends of Asia trying to enhance their regional and global profiles. The upgrading of their relationship to a “strategic partnership” signifies the value South Korea and India place on their relationship and the importance of them working together on vital issues in Asia’s future.

Nicholas Hamisevicz is the Director of Research and Academic Affairs for the Korea Economic Institute. His views are his own.



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