SEOUL — Indian prime minister Narendra Modi called on South Korea to be a “leading partner” in his country’s economic modernization as he talked up investment opportunities at the start of a two-day visit Monday.
Following talks with president Park Geun-Hye, Modi told a joint press briefing that the two leaders had agreed that their “modest” bilateral trade was falling far short of its potential.
Modi, who took office a year ago, said his visit to South Korea came at a time of renewed momentum in the Indian economy as his government pursues a comprehensive modernization program.
“We have a special focus on infrastructure and developing a world-class manufacturing sector,” he said. “Korea can be a leading partner in this enterprise.”
His trip — part of a six-day East Asia tour — is packed with a whirlwind of meetings with business tycoons from South Korea’s largest conglomerates, including Hyundai, Samsung and LG. All three manufacturing giants operate plants in India where they enjoy sizeable shares of the vast consumer market for cars, smartphones and home appliances.
“Korean companies have the edge to succeed in India,” said Modi, who stressed the opportunities being created by his “Make in India” initiative aimed at boosting the nation’s relatively weak manufacturing sector.
Hyundai Motor Company, South Korea’s largest carmaker, operates two plants in the southern Indian city of Chennai, and expanding that investment is expected to be high on the agenda during a meeting between Modi and Hyundai Motor chairman Chung Mong-Koo on Tuesday.
A planned meeting with J.K. Shin — the head of Samsung’s mobile unit — is also expected to help accelerate the South Korean firm’s reported plans to build a third plant in India, one of the world’s faster-growing handset markets.
And Modi is scheduled to visit the main shipyard of the world’s largest shipbuilder, Hyundai Heavy Industries, in the southern city of Ulsan to meet with its chairman, Choi Kil-Seon.
India also needs help upgrading its outdated transport infrastructure — a constant source of frustration among foreign firms operating there.
South Korea’s Finance Ministry and the Export-Import Bank of Korea said Monday they intended to provide $10 billion in loans and funding for Indian infrastructure projects, including railways and power generation.
“We have laid the foundation for a relationship that two major Asian countries with shared values should have,” Modi said.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2015