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SOURCE: INDIA TODAY

After China, India has decided to partner with South Korea to “explore” partnerships in rebuilding projects in Afghanistan. Prime Minister Modi and President Moon Jae during the bilateral meeting on Tuesday agreed to cooperate and engage for regional and global peace.

Modi and Moon have endeavoured to converge each other’s ideas of ‘Act East Policy’ and ROK’s (Republic of Korea) ‘New Southern Policy’.

The joint ‘vision statement’ released by the Ministry of External Affairs said, “We recognized the value of this bilateral partnership and its contribution to peace, stability and security in our region. We resolved to work together to add new substance and impetus to bilateral cooperation in all areas of engagement so as to contribute to regional and global peace and prosperity. In this context, we agreed to explore tripartite partnership for development in third countries, beginning with capacity building programmes in Afghanistan.”

While both sides are yet to reach a decision on what projects they will cooperate on, it will be on capacity building.

During a press briefing after the talks, Secretary East Preeti Saran emphasised the commitment not just in Afghanistan but also that India would look at similar assistance programs with other partners as well.

“There have been concrete discussions that have taken place on capacity building programs that both India and Korea would like to undertake in Afghanistan. Certainly, before they actually come into being, discussions are required so at present they are in discussion stage”, said Ms. Saran.

While discussing regional security issues, the two sides discussed matters related to the Korean Peninsula and welcomed the recent peace talks between North Korea (DPRK) and South Korea (ROK). “We hope that these developments will contribute to complete denuclearization as well as lasting peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula,” said the vision statement.

Hinting at Pakistan, Prime Minister Modi underlined the pivotal importance of promoting peace and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the regions for the larger benefit of all humanity. During the join statement of Tuesday, he said, “The proliferation links between North Asia & South Asia are a matter of concern of India, India is a stakeholder in peace process. We will offer all possible cooperation in order to reduce tension. We have also decided to step up scale of consultation and cooperation.”

North Korea is known to have been responsible for proliferating nuclear technology and know how to Pakistan, the reason why peace in the Korean Peninsula is of great strategic importance to India.

Responding to a question on whether if the PM’s statement was directed at North Korea’s links to Pakistan, Preeti Saran said, “These linkages are well known. I don’t think just one country is pushing for it. Therefore, it’s known to all. India has in the past also contributed and played an important role. India had maintained good diplomatic relations with both DPRK and ROK and India today is seen as an important player. There was a mention by President Moon himself that they feel that they would like to engage with India on the same plane as they do with their other important strategic partners.”

According to the vision statement, both sides have agreed to strengthen existing bilateral dialogue mechanisms, including the Joint Commission Meeting led by Foreign Ministers, the Vice Ministerial 2+2 dialogue, and the dialogue between the National Security Councils. In this context, ROK took note of India’s inclusive and cooperative vision for the Indo-Pacific region.

Both leaders also strongly condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, reaffirming that terrorism cannot be justified on any grounds, and resolved in combating terrorism through coordinated regional and global efforts.

India and Korea on Tuesday signed 10 agreements and Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) covering a wide range of areas, from Internet of Things (IOT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Big Data and anti-dumping.

A joint statement on the Early Harvest Package of the Upgraded Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) was exchanged between Suresh Prabhu, Minister for Commerce and Industry Minister and his Korean counterpart Kim Hyun-chong. The objective of the joint statement was to “facilitate ongoing negotiations on upgrading the India-Korea CEPA by identifying key areas for trade liberalisation (including shrimp, molluscs and processed fish)”.

A pact between the Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO) and the Korea Railroad Research Institute (KRRI) was signed for cooperation in railway research, exchange of railway-related experience and development of railway industries.

“The idea is to study the Korean model of high-speed Korean railway and also a variety of other technologies where Korea has strength. This includes variable centre of gravity, where an entire train can turn on a curve without derailing easily, increased safety standards, better signalling standards, rolling stocks,” Indian Ambassador to South Korea Vikram Doraiswami said during the press briefing on Tuesday.

An MoU regarding expansion of the Queen Suriratna Memorial Project was inked to facilitate upgradation and expansion of the existing monument commemorating Princess Suriratna (Queen Hur Hwang-ok). The legendary Princess of Ayodhya went to Korea in 48 AD and married King Kim-Suro. A large number of Koreans trace their ancestry to this legendary princess.

An agreement on the Cultural Exchange Programme for the period 2018-2022 was signed to deepen cultural and people-to-people relations by providing for institutionalised cooperation in fields of music and dance, theatre, art exhibitions, archives, anthropology, mass media programmes and museum exhibits.

In an endorsement of Modi as PM in 2019, President Moon invited PM Modi to visit Korea again in 2020 as Prime Minister of India. “I will eagerly wait for PM Modi’s visit to Korea in 2020 until then I hope we can continue our close communication in various multilateral summits”, said South Korean President Moon Jae-in during the joint press statement.