05/19/2015, 00.00
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Modi arrives in Seoul to build "a strategic axis" in East Asia

After his state visit to China and Mongolia, the Indian Prime Minister arrives on the Korean Peninsula and negotiates with President Park for a free trade agreement, to be signed by June 2016. The "Blue House" promises India 10 billion dollars in infrastructure and "hopes" for greater cooperation between the two nations.

Seoul (AsiaNews) - Diplomacy, Asia-Pacific security, international cooperation but also the economy. These were the topics discussed during the meeting between South Korean President Park Geun-hye and the Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, who is on a state visit to Seoul after the trip that took him to China. India is currently the 12th trading partner of South Korea, but the intention expressed by the two leaders is to transform the bilateral relationship into "a strategic asset for mutual growth."

Modi arrived in the peninsula late May 18, after a brief stop in Mongolia. The meeting was held in the "Blue House", the official residence of President Park, where the two leaders held discussions that lasted for about three hours. At the end of the meeting, during a joint press conference, they said they had started negotiations for an economic treaty that - by June 2016 - should result in Delhi and Seoul signing  a free trade agreement.

Park spoke of the desire “to upgrade the bilateral relationship to a ‘special strategic partnership’", which includes not only the economy "as well as diplomacy, security and greater cultural exchange, science and technology". To achieve this, a schedule of annual meetings was mentioned  "also to strengthen communication channels”.

Modi today met a delegation of South Korean businessmen to discuss the details of this new cooperation, but the South Korean president has already stated the intention to allocate 10 billion US dollars for infrastructure projects, energy development and tax breaks for Korean companies who want to invest in India. The Indian Prime Minister referred to his policy of "Made in India" and "invited" companies to relocate the in the Indian subcontinent.

This visit marks a step forward in the relationship between the two nations, which to date has not been one of significant cooperation. Modi hopes to confirm the forecasts that indicate India as "the next China", and which will require investment from Asia’s  "tiger economies". In turn,  South Korea wants to break free from excessive dependence on the Chinese economy - its biggest trading partner - and is hoping to expand the automotive export market to the Indian subcontinent.

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