NATIONAL

India-Korea civil nuclear cooperation on agenda of President's visit

Discussions on a civil nuclear cooperation agreement between India and the Republic of Korea are on the agenda of President Pratibha Patil's seven-day visit to Korea and Mongolia, starting Sunday.

Although on the sidelines of the Asean-India Summit in Hanoi last year, an agreement was announced in principle, it has not yet been formalised. In October 2010 in Hanoi, National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon had announced after a meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Korea's President Lee Myungbak that the two countries “have finalised an agreement on cooperation in civil use of nuclear energy” and this “now awaits signature.”

On Friday, two days before the start of the President's two-nation visit, Gautam Bambawale, Joint Secretary (East Asia) in the Ministry of External Affairs, said: “The civil nuclear issue is a topic that will definitely be discussed [in Korea]…both countries are interested in it and it will certainly come up for discussion between the two Presidents.” Although at the second meeting of the India-Mongolia Joint Committee on Cooperation in January 2010 the two countries decided to bring into operation their pact on civil nuclear cooperation after Mongolia invited India's participation in its uranium mining sector, the MEA on Friday limited its comments on this possibility to saying that at present there was “no mining of uranium by India in Mongolia.”

India could be looking at the possibility of using Mongolia's coking coal, it was said, even as government officials admitted transportation cost of coal from Mongolia to India would be prohibitive.

The high profile visit is part of India's “Look East” policy formulated in 1992.

Ms. Patil will be in Korea from July 24 to 26 and in Mongolia from July 27 to 30. She will be the second President to visit Mongolia after R. Venkataraman in July 1988.

With Korea, there have been regular high-level visits and strengthening of bilateral relations against the backdrop of a booming trade that grew by 40 per cent to $ 21 billion in 2010 with a target of $ 30 billion for 2014. Over 300 Korean companies are present in India.Vishnu Prakash, spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs, said a number of agreements will be signed in Seoul and in Ulaanbaatar, but he declined to spell out the details. However, it is confirmed that a strong Indian business delegation will be present in the capitals during the visit with a view to taking forward economic relations.



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