Seoul, March 25 (IANS) India and South Korea have targetted doubling their annual trade to $40 billion by 2015, even as they boosted defence ties and signed a pact to ease visa norms to promote greater business and people-to people to contact.
"Bilateral trade has risen by 65 percent over the past two years since the implementation of our Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement. We have therefore set a new target of $40 billion by 2015," Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said at a joint media interaction with South Korean President Lee Myung Bak after their talks here.
"We also agreed to accelerate work in progress to upgrade the Agreement and make it more ambitious," added Manmohan Singh, who is on a two-day official visit to South Korea, after which he will attend the March 26-27 Nuclear Security Conference here.
The talks, Manmohan Singh said, were "aimed at adding momentum and substance to our Strategic Partnership. Ours is a partnership built on shared values that provide a firm foundation for further development", adding the two leaders "agreed that our strong economic ties are fundamental to our growing interaction".
"I invited Korean firms to invest in India in a big way. Companies such as LG, Hyundai and Samsung are already household names in India. We would like to see small and medium sized Korean companies also making India a base for their manufacturing," the prime minister said.
"I informed President Lee that India is making a huge effort in upgrading our physical infrastructure. We want Korean companies to help us realize this objective and benefit from the opportunities provided by this," Manmohan Singh added.
Noting that the two countries had agreed to expand political and security cooperation, the prime minister said: "With this objective in mind, I informed President Lee of India's decision to position a defence attache at our embassy here in Seoul before the end of the year."
Referring to South Korea hosting the Nuclear Security Summit, Manmohan Singh said he requested President Lee "for Korea's support to India's quest to join international regimes such as the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Missile Technology Control Group, the Australia Group and the Wassenaar Arrangement".
The two countries also discussed ways and means to enhance cooperation between their scientists and technicians, including how to operationalize a joint Science and Technology Fund of $10 million.
"India has also offered to launch Korean satellites on Indian space launch vehicles," the prime minister said.
The two countries also discussed ways to increase coordination on global issues including in the G-20 and at the United Nations. On regional issues, they agreed to enhance cooperation and coordination, including in the East Asia Summit process.
"I informed President Lee of the developments in the re-establishment of the Nalanda University and looked forward to Korean participation in this effort," Manmohan Singh said.
He said: "We have watched with great admiration the transformation of Korea into a developed economy. The people of India admire the determination, capacity for hard work and the spirit of enterprise that characterize Korean people.
"Korean companies were among the first to respose confidence in India after we opened our economy in 1991. Many Korean brands are household names in India.
"There is nevertheless immense potential for further economic cooperation
between our two countries."
Since 2013 marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, "we agreed to celebrate this year in a befitting manner", Manmohan Singh said.
He also invited President Lee to visit India.
"Links between India and Korea go back thousands of years. Lord Buddha's abiding message of peace resonates among both our peoples. We know of the legend that a Princess from Ayodhya traveled here to marry King Kim Suro. I thank you for installing a bust of India's great poet, Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, who called your nation the 'Lamp of the East', in Seoul," Manmohan Singh said.
The visa agreement was signed by Sanjay Singh, secretary (east), in the Indian External Affairs Ministry and Kim Sung-han, the South Korean vice foreign minister.
(Vishnu Makhijani can be contacted at email@example.com)
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