India and South Korea will explore the possibilities of a civil nuclear pact and sign a clutch of accords in diverse areas, including IT and civilian space, when the leaders of the two countries meet here for talks Monday.
Accompanied by ministers, parliamentarians and businessmen, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak began his four-day visit to India from Chennai Sunday. He will go to the Hyundai factory near the Tamil Nadu capital and meet Korean businessmen living in the city before flying to New Delhi in the evening.
Lee will the guest of honour at the Republic Day function - a signal honour reserved for close friends of India.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will hold talks with Lee Monday on a wide range of bilateral, regional and global issues, including the intensification of economic ties and cooperation in sphere of civilian nuclear cooperation and space technologies.
Closer cooperation in combating global financial recession will also be discussed in the context of the G20 summit Seoul will host later this year.
Cashing in on their growing economic ties, which got a boost with the coming into force of Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement Jan 1 this year, the two sides are expected to discuss the contours of a possible civil nuclear pact.
South Korea, a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, supported consensus for re-opening global civil nuclear trade with India in the NSG in September last year.
A South Korean consortium won $20.4 billion contract to build four 1,400-MW civilian nuclear power units in the UAE, beating American and French companies for one of Middle East's biggest energy deals.
India has signed civil nuclear accords with seven countries - the US, France, Russia, Kazakhstan, Namibia, Argentina and Mongolia and is expected to sign another one with Canada this year.
A slew of agreements, including in areas of IT and peaceful uses of space technologies, are expected to be signed after the talks. The agreement on IT will seek to leverage India's capabilities in IT software and South Korea's prowess in IT hardware to promote greater flow of IT professionals between the two countries.
Manmohan Singh is expected to assure his South Korean host that his government was doing everything possible to fastrack the $12 billion South Korean Posco steel project at Jagatsinghpur district in Orissa, the single largest direct foreign investment in India.
Lee has expressed hope that the project will become "an exemplary model of industrial cooperation that combines Korea's know-how in the steel industry and capital with India's resources and market". The Ministry of Environment and Forests gave stage II environmental clearance to Posco project Dec 29 to set the tone for the visit.
The focus of the visit will be on scaling up economic ties between India, one of the world's fastest growing economies, and South Korea, an Asian economic giant known for iconic brands like Hyundai cars, Samsung and LG. Bilateral trade crossed $16 billion last year.
Currently, around 9,000 Koreans are staying in India. About 7,000 Indians live in South Korea.