In a strong push to the bilateral relations between India and South Korea, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his two-day visit, held "constructive" talks with President Moon Jae-in on Friday on enhancing cooperation in key areas including trade, investment, defence, and security.
As the latest effort to strengthen the ties between the South Asian countries, Modi, after his meeting with Moon, said that South Korea is an important partner in India's economic transformation and made a fresh pitch for a united fight against terrorism in the region. Modi's comments against terrorism came a week after a terror attack on a CRPF convoy in Jammu and Kashmir, which resulted in the death of 40 personnel.
“I express my gratitude to Moon for his condolences and support on the last week's Pulwama attack and support against terror. We are committed towards strengthening our bilateral and multilateral cooperation against terrorism. An MoU signed between India's home ministry and South Korea's National Police Agency today will further take forward our counter-terrorism cooperation,” Modi said.
The leaders also reiterated their commitment to increasing bilateral trade to at least $50 billion by 2030. "In India's economic transformation, we consider Korea as a valuable partner. Our trade and investment relations are growing. Today, President Moon and I have repeated our commitment to increasing our bilateral trade to $50 billion by 2030. In sectors like infrastructure, port development, marine and food processing, start-ups and small and medium enterprises, we agree to increase our cooperation,” the prime minister said.
Modi was also conferred with the Seoul Peace Prize for 2018 on Friday for his contribution to international cooperation and fostering global economic growth.
'Act East' promise in 2015
On his visit to the Republic in 2015, then newly elected as the prime minister, Modi had asserted that there had been enough of the 'Look East' policy and that it was time for India to "act East", which he promised would happen under his government. The 'Look East' term was first coined by PV Narasimha Rao government in the 1990s.
The two countries had signed at least seven agreements which included an avoidance of double taxation and formalising consultations between National Security Councils of the two nations. On his visit, Modi had also appealed to the Indian diaspora to increase investments in India and said that he wanted to make India "a manufacturing hub using the world's best technology".
An MoU was also signed between the Ministry of Power and the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy of South Korea for the cooperation in electric power development and "new energy industries". The Indian Express reported, "The agreement envisages cooperation in areas such as renewable energy, smart grids and power information and technology, transmission and distribution of electric power, energy efficiency and storage system."
With a focus on economic ties between the two countries, Modi had also conducted meetings with South Korea's largest conglomerates, including Hyundai, Samsung and LG. "All three manufacturing giants operate plants in India where they enjoy sizeable shares of the vast consumer market for cars, smartphones and home appliances," a report by Hindustan Times said, adding,"Modi is looking to secure promises of bigger investments as part of his "Make In India" initiative, aimed at fostering the nation's relatively weak manufacturing sector."
Media reports around Modi's 2015 visit suggested that the Centre was "hoping to secure" at least $10 million in "soft loans" for infrastructure projects. Modi's inclusion of the country in his three-nation visit — including China and Mongolia — was seen as an indicator of the significance attached to the bilateral relation with Seoul for the important role the country could play in the prime minister's flagship programme, 'Make in India'. Greater cooperation was expected in areas like shipbuilding and rail infrastructure.
Modi also visited South Korea in 2007 as Gujarat chief minister. The Democrat had reported in 2015, that "ties" between the two countries had been established on the state level in addition to cooperation at the national level. "...Meanwhile, Hyderabad has signed a sister city agreement with Suwon in South Korea," the report said.
The report also said that South Korea's democracy was an important element that had gained New Delhi's favour. "First, South Korea is a democracy, and one that has made tremendous progress with its infrastructure, technology, and economy. In a 2013 speech, before he became prime minister, Modi referred to that progress. “South Korea also gained independence at the same time. It is the size of Gujarat. Now, in this short span, it is among the developed nations. Such a small country hosts Olympics. Through sports, it has established a position in the world," the report said.
South Korea and India together, were also wary of the increasing proximity that North Korea and Pakistan had displayed at the time.
Reiteration of strong ties in 2019
During Modi's visit on Friday, at least six MoUs were signed, which indicated the bilateral relations moving away from conventional economic cooperation towards new-age economic elements like start-ups, and also towards the defence sector. A release by the MEA said an MoU was signed "to promote collaboration among Start-ups and to set up of a Korea Start-up Centre (KSC) in India to commercialise ideas, technologies and designs of Startup companies."
Another was signed between the Korean National Police Agency and the MHA on combating transnational crime and developing police cooperation. The statement said, "To enhance cooperation between the law enforcement agencies of the two countries and combat trans-border and international crimes."
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Feb 22, 2019 14:21:44 IST