In South Korea, PM Narendra Modi says now it's time to 'Act East'

  • Agencies, Seoul
  • Updated: May 18, 2015 14:48 IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who arrived in Seoul on Monday to bolster economic and diplomatic ties with South Korea, said India has had enough of the 'Look East' policy and that it is time for his government to 'Act East' now.

The term 'Look East' was first coined by the Narasimha Rao government in the 1990s and has been followed by the successive governments.

"Earlier, it was 'Look East Policy'. We have had enough of looking east. We now have 'Act East Policy' - a key component of my government's foreign policy," Modi told the Indian diaspora during a community reception at the Kyung Hee University in the South Korean capital.

Modi also said that the 'I' of BRICS - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - had begun teetering and almost collapsed, but under his government, India has regained its stature and importance.

"In the beginning of 21st century, the world economists said that the economic activities of BRICS nation will be a part of the world. But in the last 10-15 years, they said that 'I' in BRICS was losing its importance because the 'I' has begun teetering," said the PM.

"But in the past year things have changed and the world feels that without 'I' BRICS will not be possible," he said to the cheering crowd.

Modi said all the international rating agencies like Moody's and the World Bank have in the past two months "in one voice" said that India is the world's fastest moving economy.

Talking on the 21st century being termed the Asian century, he said: "Earlier, we would wonder if India would figure in Asian century story. But now the way India has risen they feel that the 21st century will definitely be the Asian century."

He said that the morose economic outlook earlier had disheartened investors and businesspersons and that many were on the verge of leaving India.

"I don't want to criticise, but it is a fact," he said, adding that "there is a change in mood among the people now".

At a similar community reception in China's economic hub Shanghai last week, Modi had taken on opposition's criticism over his frequent foreign visits and attacked his critics back home.

"People are asking why is Modi travelling to so many countries... If you work less, criticism is normal. If you keep sleeping, criticism is normal. But it is my bad luck that I am being criticised for working more," he had said in Shanghai.

Modi had come under attack over his criticism of previous governments during his last trip to Germany, France and Canada.

During his speech at the South Korean university, Modi pitched his 'Make in India' initiative and said that he wants to make India a manufacturing hub using the world's best technology.

He invited Indians settled abroad to come and invest in the country, saying the mood and the perception about India has changed in the last one year.

"World's best technology should come to India," he said, adding that India has to attain new heights of achievements.

"Today, people are excited to come to India. This is the mood that has changed. And after all, the people make the nation," he said.

As Modi arrived in South Korea, the last leg of a three-nation trip that also included visits to China and Mongolia, Indian community members, waving small tri-colour flags, were present in large numbers at the ROK Airbase to welcome Modi.

"Immense enthusiasm as PM @narendramodi reaches South Korea," the Prime Minister's Office tweeted with a picture of the Indian diaspora enthusiastically greeting the Prime Minister.

"Annyeonghaseyo to the land of the morning calm! PM @narendramodi arrives in Seoul," external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup tweeted.

After his arrival in Seoul, Modi went to lay a wreath at the Seoul National Cemetery.

Later, he will be accorded an official welcome after which he will hold talks with President Park Geun-hye. A number of agreements will be signed and both the leaders will make press statements.

President Park will host a banquet in honour of PM Modi in the evening.

Focus on economic ties

The trip - part of a six-day East Asia tour - is packed with a whirlwind of meetings with business tycoons from 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.

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.

"South Korea has made far less investment in India than other Asian rivals like China or Japan despite the country's vast growth potential," Oh Hwa-Suk, head of the Seoul-based India Economy Research Institute, said.

India also needs help upgrading its outdated transport infrastructure -- a constant source of frustration among foreign firms operating there.

Indian media reports suggested Modi was hoping to secure up to $10 billion in South Korean soft loans to fund infrastructure projects.

On Tuesday, Modi is scheduled to visit the main shipyard of the world's largest shipbuilder, Hyundai Heavy Industries, in the southern city of Ulsan and to meet with its chairperson Choi Kil-Seon.

Hyundai Motor Company, South Korea's largest carmaker, operates two plants in the southern Indian city of Chennai, and expanding that investment is expected to be high on the agenda during a meeting between Modi and Hyundai Motor chairperson Chung Mong-Koo in Seoul, also on Tuesday.

A planned meeting with JK Shin - the head of Samsung's mobile unit - in Seoul is also expected to help accelerate the South Korean firm's reported plans to build a third plant in India, one of the world's fastest-growing handset markets.

(With inputs from PTI, IANS, AFP)

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