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S. Korea is natural partner in India's 'Act East' policy: foreign secretary

All News 14:31 September 11, 2016

By Lee Haye-ah

NEW DELHI, Sept. 11 (Yonhap) -- South Korea is a natural partner for India as the South Asian country pushes to build its economy through greater ties with the East, India's top diplomat has said.

Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar told a forum in New Delhi on Friday that India has increasingly been turning to its eastern neighbors under a national strategy to transform the country into an industrial power.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye and her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi hold summit talks in the Laotian capital of Vientiane on Sept. 8, 2016. (Yonhap)

"Japan and South Korea, along with ASEAN, stand out as natural partners in this context," he said in a keynote address at the East-West Center's 5th International Media Conference, held under the theme "South Asia Looking East."

"It is, therefore, hardly surprising that they have been the focus of intensive Indian diplomacy," the foreign secretary went on to say, listing developing infrastructure, scaling up industrial capacities and upgrading technology as some of the objectives. He added that the implementation of bilateral agreements that are already in place will be instrumental in that effort.

India has sought to enhance cooperation with South Korea in areas where the latter displays particular strengths, including shipbuilding, maritime transport, industrial parks, steel and smart grids.

The diplomat also noted the "strategic character" in his country's push to grow links to South Korea and Japan.

"Exchanges and conversations now cover a much broader spectrum of issues, including our converging security interests," he said. "These two nations and Australia are the only three with which India holds '2+2' foreign and defense affairs talks."

The 2+2 forum brings together the foreign and defense ministers of each side.

"Both nations have already established strong credentials in India by virtue of earlier successful industrial ventures. But the expectation now is of a much higher order," Jaishankar stressed.

The diplomat, who has previously served in Japan, Singapore and China, also addressed the challenges his country faces in developing ties with China.

"In any discussion of India's 'Act East' policy, Sino-Indian ties are a subject of heightened attention," he said, noting issues of history, as well as the potential of the two countries' ties and the impact they could have on regional and global politics.

"From a situation of limited contacts and content, India-China relations have today transitioned out of their state of abnormalcy," he added. "On the economic side, the rapid rise of trade with China has had a profound, if mixed, implication."

He especially voiced concern over fair market access in China, saying Indian companies have had difficulty gaining entry in globally competitive areas, such as pharmaceuticals and information technology.

"Displaying mutual sensitivity to each other's concerns is very necessary," the foreign secretary stressed. "There is an expectation in India that a partner like China would be appreciative of India's interests, especially when they are not in conflict with those of China.

"It is imperative for the future of Asia, and indeed the world, that the two nations approach each other with strategic maturity."


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