India and South Korea Thursday signed nine agreements, including in defence and space, as visiting President Park Gyun-hye and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gave the go-ahead to the $12 billion Posco steel plant in Odisha, the largest FDI in India.
Park, addressing a joint press conference with Manmohan Singh, said Posco “has been delayed so far”, but that “substantial progress” has been made with the project getting environmental clearance and land acquisition.
Park, the first woman president of her country, said both sides should work together to “ensure smooth sailing” for Posco.
India and South Korea also discussed defence trade and joint production by promoting collaboration between their defence research organisations.
The two leaders also agreed to establish an annual interaction between their national security structures and also launch a Cyber Affairs Dialogue.
Posco’s integrated steel plant and port project was earlier set to come up on 4,000 acres. Implementation of the project, inked in 2005, was held up due to protests by villagers over environmental concerns and land acquisition. The issue has posed an irritant in bilateral ties.
However, ahead of Park’s visit, the union environment ministry gave clearance to the project and 2,700 acres of land is being acquired by the Odisha government.
Instead of the original proposed 12 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) steel plant, Posco would now go ahead with an eight MTPA steel plant.
Manmohan Singh said he was happy Posco was going to get operational.”I conveyed to President Park our hope that this project will confirm that economic growth and environmental protection can go hand in hand,” he said.
Both sides concluded negotiations for revision of the existing Double Taxation Avoidance Convention and are also planning to set up a Korean Industrial Park in India.
To boost trade, a CEOs Forum comprising captains of industry and commerce from both countries would be set up.
Park said both sides agreed to elevate their strategic ties “substantively” which would be a “blueprint for the future”.
She said the agreement in Double Taxation Avoidance would provide an important foundation for boosting business ties.
Stating that South Korea was keen to invest in infrastructure projects in India and “ensure smooth financing” for such projects, Park also announced a $2 million credit line.
India has agreed to provide visa on arrival to South Korea, at which Park voiced her appreciation.
Park said that during talks with Manmohan Singh she proposed that both countries cooperate in defence and that India could purchase mine sweepers from her country.
Both leaders also discussed regional issues, including the Korean Peninsula.
Park said North Korea’s nuclear weapons pursuit posed a threat and “we shall not tolerate it”.
Both sides agreed that North Korea should comply with UN directives. She ended her speech with thanks in Hindi: “Bahut, bahut dhanyawad”.
Both countries also inked agreements for Protection Of Classified Military Information for promoting peaceful use of outer space and for joint applied research and development programme in science and technology and a cultural exchange programme.
An agreement on establishment of the Nalanda University was also signed. The joint statement said the two leaders “presented the following three elements as a common vision: stronger high level political cooperation, open economic and trade environment and deeper cultural understanding”.
Both also agreed to hold regular exchanges to expand cooperation in the civil nuclear energy sector.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh offered to gift the people of South Korea a sapling of the Bodhi tree. President Park accepted the offer with appreciation.