Patil’s visit to boost Look East Policy

SEOUL, July 24 – President Pratibha Devisingh Patil’s visit to the Republic of Korea and Mongolia beginning today is expected to greatly enhance existing ties between India and those countries with which it shares ancient cultural ties, and some significant strategic concerns.

Today the President was accorded a 21-gun salute when she arrived at Seoul Air Base by a special Air India aircraft from New Delhi. The Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Min Dong-Seok received her at the base after the Boeing 747-400 aircraft named Agra touched down under a cloudy sky.

Speaking to a select group of media persons on the aircraft carrying the Indian delegation to the Republic of Korea, the President described the two countries as ‘key pillars to our Look East policy, as well as of our growing integration with the Asia-Pacific region’.

She mentioned the spread of Buddhism from India to the countries, which created strong cultural bonds, and their democratic credentials reflected a respect for individual freedoms.

Economics is likely to be the top priority for India and the Republic of Korea, while with Mongolia the agenda will include closer economic co-operation and India’s support in capacity building and human resource development.

The Indian President’s visit reciprocates the official visits of the Heads of States of Republic of Korea and Mongolia in recent times and furthers the process of high level engagements with the countries which maintain friendly relations with India. This year is celebrated as Year of India in Korea, and the Year of Korea in India, which will feature a number of cultural events among others.

The President’s visit starts at Seoul, where she will meet President of the Republic of Korea, Lee Myung-Bak, who was the Chief Guest in the Republic Day celebrations in January 2010, and during whose visit bilateral ties between the two countries got elevated to the level of ‘Strategic Partnership’. Patil said, ‘My objective will be to accelerate the momentum of our relations’.

A range of discussions will take place between the two Presidents in restricted as well as delegation-level formats with focus on bilateral interests, regional and global issues. A substantial part of the high level engagements will concentrate on expanding the economic partnership between India and Republic of Korea. Two-way trade between the Asian democracies is projected to climb to 21 billion USD this year, and has registered a remarkable growth in recent times.

The President expressed her hope of receiving more investment from the Republic of Korea in India, and referred to Korean conglomerates using the country as a manufacturing base for exports to foreign markets. Several industrial giants such as Hyundai, Samsung, and LG have also been very successful in the Indian domestic market.

Her visit to Mongolia, which begins on July 27, will be marked by meetings with President of Mongolia, Tsakhia Elbegdorj and Prime Minister Sukhbaatar Batbold apart from interactions with Parliamentarians of the State Great Hural.

The Indian President underlined the country’s involvement in developing the human resource of Mongolia through strategic interventions like vocational training and skill building. ‘India is committed to assist Mongolia in capacity building and human resource development,’ the President remarked.

Significantly, a high level Indian business delegation will be in Seoul and Ulaanbaatar during the President’s visit, which will make a strong pitch for more robust economic ties between India and her Asian neighbours.

Although officials are tightlipped, it is expected that India and South Korea will explore new areas of common interest in Space and Defence, and India and Mongolia may do the ground work for expanding exploration of select mineral resources in Mongolia which has considerable deposits of coal, copper, iron ores, crude oil, zinc and molybdenum, among others.