India, South Korea ink civil nuclear deal
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Last Updated: Monday, July 25, 2011, 20:54
  
Seoul: India on Monday signed a "historic" civil nuclear cooperation agreement with South Korea, paving the way for the possibility of Seoul exporting its atomic power plants.

The agreement, signed after summit talks between President Pratibha Patil and her South Korean counterpart Lee Myung-bak, provides legal ground for South Korea's participation in atomic power plant construction projects in India.

Lee termed the nuclear cooperation agreement as "historic" and will act as "a milestone, demonstrating that our two countries have now truly become strategic partners." South Korea has now become the ninth country which had signed nuclear agreement with India after it got the waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers' Group (NSG) in 2008.

The other countries are the US, France, Russia, Canada, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Argentina and Namibia.

"The two countries have just concluded and signed a bilateral agreement on cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy," said Sanjay Singh, Secretary (East), Ministry of External Affairs.

"It is like other civil nuclear agreements signed between India and other countries. We look forward to Republic of Korea for becoming one more partner in the development of civil nuclear energy in India," the official said without divulging further details on the agreement and its mandate but termed the deal as a "win-win" for both the nations.

South Korean presidential spokesman Park Jeong-ha said he anticipates that the two countries could launch negotiations on a reactor construction project in the future.

Both India and South Korea decided to start talks on civil nuclear cooperation during a meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Lee on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit in Hanoi in October last year.

The nuclear agreement was signed by Dr Srikumar Banerjee, Secretary Department of Atomic Energy and Kim Sung Hwan, Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea.

Earlier, Patil and her South Korean counterpart Lee held a 20-minute restrictive meeting followed by a delegation level talks for over an hour at the 'Blue House', official residence of the Korean President.

Patil is on a week-long tour of Korea and Mongolia.

Besides the agreement on nuclear cooperation, the two sides also signed a Memorandum of Understanding on media exchanges and another agreement on administrative arrangements to provide social security to people working in India and Korea.

The MoU on media was signed by Singh and Choung Byoung-gug, Minister for Culture, Sports and Tourism.

The third agreement for administrative arrangements for social security was signed by Skand Ranjan Tayal, Ambassador of India to South Korea and Chin Soo Hea, Minister of Health and Welfare.

Speaking at a banquet hosted by Lee in her honour, Patil said India would work with South Korea to enhance trade relations and tap investments opportunities emerging from new economic avenues.

"Korean companies have become household names in India, and some of our best business houses are also investing in your country. We will work towards maintaining and enhancing these trends," she said.

Patil acknowledged the presence of Korean companies in Indian market and growing bilateral trade and called for stepping up the dialogues to discuss regional issues.

"In contemporary times, Korean industry has become legendary, and coupled with India's dynamically growing market, we have new economic opportunities which did not exist earlier.

That we are making full use of such openings, can be seen from the fact that our bilateral trade grew 40 per cent in 2010, and is continuing to show a similar trajectory this year too," Patil said.

She also called for greater people-to-people contacts between the two countries and cooperation in the UN.

Korean President Lee expressed hope that Patil's visit will give a fillip to bilateral ties. "I firmly believe that Your Excellency's visit will generate further momentum for the deepening of our cooperation," he said.

Besides, Patil invited Korean companies to invest in India and explore business opportunities.

Both the Presidents agreed to encourage greater people-to-people exchanges and stressed to start more direct flights between India and South Korea.

PTI


First Published: Monday, July 25, 2011, 20:54


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