South Korea is keen to take its bilateral ties with India to a strategic level when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits Seoul, as expected, in early 2015, a top government official said.
Modi’s visit will set the stage for Indo-Korea (formally Republic of Korea) relations to develop rapidly in the coming decades, Suh Jeong-in, director-general South Asian Affairs Bureau at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told HT.
Suh said Korean President Park Gyun-hye extended the invitation to Modi when they met on the sidelines of the Asean summit in Myanmar.
The Prime Ministerial visit will be on the agenda when foreign minister Sushma Swaraj visits Seoul later this month for the 8th round of the India-Republic of Korea Joint Commission dialogue.
“The dialogue will be held on December 29. It is likely that the Sushma Swaraj will also make a rare courtesy call on President Park,” Suh said,
adding that details of that call were being worked out.
“We would like Prime Minister Modi to visit early, first-half of the year. The government is looking forward to the visit,” Suh said.
Suh said India is only the fifth country with which Korea will have a security dialogue, the other four being the US, China, Japan and Russia. “It is also likely to take place early next year. It will be an opportunity for both sides to share perspective on political and security issues,” he said. Suh added that defence was an area where the two countries could cooperate.
Interestingly, India recently posted an army colonel as the country’s first defence attaché to Korea.
Suh indicated that India could be interested in buying self-propelled K9 artillery and mine-sweeping vehicles from Korea. He added that Korean private companies in the defence sector have competitive edge.
When asked about the status of Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CEPA) signed between the two countries in 2010, Suh said it needs to be urgently upgraded. The CEPA upgrade process was delayed because of polls in India this year.
The Korean official also pitched for Seoul’s greater role in Saarc, where it currently has an observer status.