Transcript of Media Briefing by Secretary (East) on upcoming visit of PM to Republic of Korea (February 14, 2019)

February 15, 2019

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Good afternoon and welcome once again to the special briefing on the upcoming visit of the Prime Minister to the Republic of Korea on 21-22 February. I have with me Secretary (East), Smt. Vijay Thakur Singh. I also have Jt. Secretary (East Asia) Pranay Verma who will brief us on the different aspects of the visit.

Before I handover the floor to Secretary (East) let me say that ROK is an important strategic partner for India and the visit will be a manifestation of the importance which we attach to this very important strategic partnership, very multi-dimensional engagement which we have with South Korea. Now I request Secretary (East) to brief you all on the visit. Ma’am the floor is yours.

Secretary (East), Smt. Vijay Thakur Singh:
Thank you Raveesh and a good afternoon to all of you. This is a briefing about Prime Minister’s visit to the Republic of Korea. He would be visiting Seoul from 21 – 22 February on a state visit at the invitation of the President of Korea, His Excellency President Moon Jae-in.

Though it will be a very short visit, barely 30 hrs. but there is a packed program with a number of engagements scheduled with the Korean leadership, businesses and other stakeholders.

Prime Minister’s visit is a part of the recent growing momentum of high level exchanges between the two countries. As you are aware President Moon visited India for a bilateral summit in July 2018 following which First Lady, Her Excellency Kim Jung-sook came to India to participate in the Deepotsava in Ayodhya in November last year. Earlier in 2018 Speaker of the Korean Parliament visited India and then later the Korean Defence Minister was in India on a bilateral visit in August 2018. Most recently the Foreign Minister of Korea, Minister Kang was in India in December for having the Joint Commission Meeting with the External Affairs Minister.

Prime Minister and President Moon recently also interacted on the sidelines of East Asia Summit and also the G20 Meeting earlier this year. Therefore this frequency of meetings at the highest levels underscores the importance of the leadership on both sides to the relationship which is characterized as a Special Strategic Partnership.

To start with let me quickly run you through the program, the elements of the Prime Minister’s visit which we are currently working on. Prime Minister is scheduled to arrive in Seoul in the forenoon of February 21. That afternoon he will address India-Korea Business Symposium as also launch India-Korea Startup Hub.

Prime Minister will unveil a bust of Mahatma Gandhi at the Seoul Campus of the Yonsei University which is one of the premier universities of South Korea. On 21st afternoon itself Prime Minister will have meeting with some important dignitaries like the members of the India-Korea Parliamentary Friendship Group, the mayor of the Kimhae city. Now the Kimhae city we know has a historic connection because the Princess Suriratna of Ayodhya had gone there many years ago highlighting again the cultural and historical connect between our two countries the Prime Minister will be gifting a sapling of the Holy Bodhi Tree to the people of Kimhae through their mayor.

Prime Minister that evening will have an interaction with the Indian community in South Korea. On the evening of 21st President Moon will host a private dinner for the Prime Minister.

The next day i.e. on 22nd which will be the main day of the engagements, Prime Minister will pay a visit and his respects at the National Cemetery in Seoul. He will then proceed to the Blue House which is the Korean Presidential Office where he will be given a ceremonial welcome.

This will be followed by Summit meetings with President Moon, the two leaders will make brief remarks to the media following their meeting. Prime Minister then will be hosted to an official banquet in the Blue House by President Moon.

In the afternoon at a brief ceremony just before the departure back to India, the Prime Minister will be conferred with the Seoul Peace Prize by the Seoul Peace Prize Cultural Foundation. You would recall that the Seoul Peace Prize Cultural Foundation had announced in October last year the decision to award Prime Minister Modi with the Seoul Peace Prize for 2018 in recognition of his dedication to international cooperation, global growth and human development.

The above are the broad developments of the programs and details are being worked out but as you can see despite the shorter duration of the visit it is packed with a series of engagements. We expect a substantive agenda for discussion which would cover areas of bilateral cooperation, regional and global issues of mutual interest. The two leaders will also have an opportunity to review follow up action which will be in pursuance of their shared vision for people, prosperity, peace and future and that was the vision which was articulated when President Moon had visited India in July 2018.

To give you the broad contours of our relationship and the context in which the visit is taking place I like to say that we look at ROK as a very important partner in India’s economic modernization. Our trade & investment ties and engagements have grown over the years. Korean companies Hyundai, LG or Samsung are household names today and today many Korean companies are operating in India and joining in national initiatives like Make in India. We are also beginning cooperation in newer areas like IT, ICT, future technologies. Our defence cooperation is also growing. There is closer consultations between our defence ministries as well as between three services and coast guards. In terms of defence technology and defence co-production that is another promising area for our cooperation.

I’d mentioned earlier but I reiterate here again that cultural and people to people ties are being pursued with facilities like e-visa for Korean nationals tourists visiting India. We hope that this will result in a significant gain in our people to people exchanges.

The relationship between India and ROK has witnessed a new momentum following Prime Minister’s visit to ROK in 2015 when the relationship became a Special Strategic Partnership and subsequently following the inauguration of President Moon’s administration in 2017 and his new Southern Policy under which Korea is looking at expanding relations beyond its immediate region and India forms a very important pillar of this outreach.

On our part we see strong partnership with ROK as a logical extension of our Act East Policy therefore there is natural synergy at this juncture to push forward our relationship into newer areas with newer substance and content. Prime Minister’s visit therefore will highlight this synergy and we are looking at consolidating the Special Strategic Partnership between our two countries. I will now end here. Thank you.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Thank you Ma’am. I will now open the floor to questions.

Question: Just want to know if any defence discussion will take place because the Vice Minister of Defence is leading a eight member team for the Aero India and some of the Korean companies are expressing that they are not able to get in to the Indian market because they are not understanding the laws.

Secretary (East), Smt. Vijay Thakur Singh: Yes, the Defence Minister of Korea had visited India and as I mentioned that there is greater and greater discussion between the two defence ministries, between our three armed forces, between the coast guards. We are looking at defence technologies and co-production and just to let you know that one of the joint defence co-production is a joint venture between Larsen & Toubro and Korean company and they are producing 100 artillery guns.

Question Contd.: ………. Inaudible ………….

Secretary (East), Smt. Vijay Thakur Singh: On specific defence procurement issues, please note that falls in the domain of Ministry of Defence.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Normally we do not address specific defence procurement matters.

Question Contd.: But the Defence Ministry is saying that you ask the MEA.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: But in the past we had also made it clear that specific defence procurement matters should be addressed to Defence Ministry. We can perhaps answer queries on larger policy issues but not on specific deals.

Question: It is very well known that in the past North Korea had supplied rocket technology to Pakistan and Pakistan had complied and helped A Q Khan, particularly with nuclear material which is why Pakistan today has all kinds of missiles aimed at India and North Korea of course has a nuclear arsenal. Now will, since the South Korean President has begun a detente with the North Koreans, will this issue come up during the discussions?

Question: This proposal to look at issuing e-visas to South Koreans, will this be a reciprocal thing, will this be looking at giving the same to Indians?

Question: Could you also please let us know what is happening vis-à-vis trade front in terms of, I understand, they have put a huge tax things like sesame and few other things where they have a huge tax and b, are we looking at a status as a native English speaking nation in order to get some visa benefits?

Secretary (East), Smt. Vijay Thakur Singh: To take the first question regarding DPRK, let me say that India hopes that the engagement that is currently underway between Republic of Korea and DPRK and the other summit, we hope that it helps in reducing tensions and paving the way for peace and reconciliation in the Korean Peninsula.

India supports all efforts to bring peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula through diplomacy and dialogue and we also hope that the resolution of the Korean Peninsula will take into account and address our concerns about proliferation linkages in India’s neighborhood.

Regarding the question on trade, let me tell you that the economic engagement and the economic pillar is very strong pillar of relationship with the Republic of Korea. If you look at the trend, last year the bilateral trade grew for about $16.8 billion to more than $20 billion, we saw almost a growth of almost 22-23 percent. So it is on an upward trajectory and in any relationship in trade there would always be issues but we have format for discussion and they are taken up.

The other question is relating to visas, we have introduced visa on arrival for Koreans. As far as reciprocal arrangements and discussions are concerned, there is constant dialogue and through that dialogue, let us see but this is visa on arrival which has been introduced at the moment.

Question: Wanted to know about the trade deficit with Korea and whether we are taking steps to reduce that?

Question: The visit comes few days before the second meeting between US President and the North Korean leader, what has India to say about the meeting and of course will this be also discussed during the bilateral meeting between the Prime Minister and the President of South Korea?

Question: After the India-Korea Nuclear Cooperation Agreement, Korean companies are also interested in setting up nuclear power plants in India, so is there any discussion on that?

Secretary (East), Smt. Vijay Thakur Singh: Let me start with the trade issue once again. On the trade we do have discussions with them for CEPA upgradation, so those discussions are ongoing and issues related to various aspects we would be looking at including issues such as the trade balance issue. So they are under discussion under CEPA upgradation.

As far as DPRK is concerned, see we have a very multi-faceted relation with Korea. We discuss issues of mutual interests, regional and global issues. The conversation which is going on regarding the DPRK is an important conversation and as I said earlier that India welcomes discussions and dialogues which would hopefully result in reducing tension and bring about reconciliation in the Korean Peninsula.

Last question on nuclear cooperation, we are as of now not looking at anything specific.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: We will now take the last round of questions.

My question is regarding FDI investment from Korea. Last time when Korean leader visited India one of the largest mobile manufacturing plant was inaugurated in Noida. Is there any same like project in the offing in the upcoming visit of the Prime Minister?

Is space cooperation on the list?

Secretary (East), Smt. Vijay Thakur Singh: Let me start with space first. On space, yes we have ongoing discussion and cooperation with Korea, so we can keep looking at how to look at specific areas of cooperation.

And as far as investment from South Korea is concerned, if you look at the investment which is already here, it is over $3 billion and if you look at the announcement that were made in the last year itself, there have been significant announcements made. Just to give you some sort of indication, Kia motors is now said to have invest about $1.1 billion in the manufacturing unit in Andhra Pradesh. You had already mentioned that Samsung is looking at expanding its facility in Noida. It is looking at adding about $780 million into that plant which is the biggest manufacturing plant of the Samsung in the world and there is also Hyundai. Hyundai has announced investment of almost $900 million to extend its production facilities in India. So investment is coming from Korea to India and there is a positive assessment about India, there is the assessment that there are many opportunities out here. So I won’t say what exactly would happen, whether any announcement but definitely there is interest and definitely we are seeing results on the ground and that is the way our relationship is going, positive and upwards.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: This concludes the special briefing on Prime Minister’s visit to Korea. Thank Ma’am, thank you Pranay and thank you all for joining.



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