India and South Korea today agreed to upgrade their ties to 'Special Strategic Partnership' and deepen cooperation in defence sector as the two sides signed seven agreements including on avoidance of double taxation.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who arrived here today from Mongolia on the last leg of his three-nation tour, held wide-ranging talks with South Korean President Park Geun-hye at Cheong Wae Dae, the office and residence of the President.
"We have agreed to upgrade the bilateral relationship to 'Special Strategic Partnership'," Modi said at a joint press interaction with President Park after their "excellent" talks.
"We have laid the foundation for a relationship that two major Asian countries with shared values should have," he said, adding that decisions made today reflect how seriously the two countries take the new framework of the relationship.
Noting that India considers South Korea a "crucial partner" in its economic modernisation, Modi said South Korea can be a leading partner in India's efforts to develop a world class manufacturing sector.
"Our relationship started with a strong economic emphasis. But, it has also now become strategic in content," the Prime Minister said.
Modi said South Korea is the second country (after Japan) with which India will have a diplomatic and security dialogue in 2+2 format, referring to a bilateral dialogue process involving the foreign and defence ministers of the two sides.
Stating that the national security councils of the two sides will have regular cooperation, Modi said the two nations have agreed to expand cooperation between their armed forces.
"We intend to deepen our cooperation in defence technology and manufacture of defence equipment in India. This sector offers huge opportunities in India," he said.
The Prime Minister said South Korean President's response has been positive on the participation of Korean companies in the defence sector in India.
Describing his visit as "very important", Modi said he was in South Korea at a time of renewed momentum in the Indian economy. "We are pursuing a comprehensive programme of economic modernisation that covers all sectors of our economy and all aspects of policies and procedures," he said.
The two sides signed seven agreements covering Avoidance of Double Taxation and Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with Respect to Taxes on Income, MoU between National Security Councils of the two countries, MoU on shipping and transport.
Noting that the bilateral modest trade (USD 17.57 billion in 2013) is well below its potential, Modi said he and President Park agreed to review the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement and other market access related issues.
"We had extensive discussions on economic relations," he said, adding that he conveyed to President Park India's desire to see a balanced and broad-based growth in bilateral trade.
Modi said many South Korean brands are household names and Korean companies have the edge to succeed in India.
"President Park and I see vast opportunities for Korean companies to participate in our 'Make in India' Mission," Modi said and invited Korean investments in areas like ship building, including LNG tankers, besides defence equipment.
"We will also establish a channel – Korea Plus – to facilitate their investment and operations in India," he said.
The two leaders also had productive discussions on international issues.
Modi described South Korea as a "strong pillar of democracy" in Asia and welcomed its diplomatic efforts to maintain peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula.
"I also shared her (President Park) concerns that proliferation of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction will not be in the interest of countries of the region. I offered India's support to Korean people for peaceful re-unification of Korean Peninsula," the Prime Minister said.
The two leaders also discussed their engagement in the East Asia Summit and with ASEAN.
"We have a shared interest in an open, balanced and inclusive regional architecture. We have common views on maritime security in this region," he said, adding the two sides have agreed to work together and with other countries in the region to ensure the freedom of navigation and safety and security of sea lanes of communication.
The Prime Minister also voiced concern over challenges of cyber security and terrorism, saying these are also "areas of interest to both of us".