The Economic Times - 02 September 2019
Rajnath Singh to urge Seoul to stay away from CPEC
By Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury
For defence minister Rajnath Singh, the immediate tasks at hand include blocking Korean funds from flowing into Pakistan.
Singh will convey to his South Korean counterpart in Seoul on September 4 that the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) violates India’s sovereignty by running through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Islamabad has been trying to woo Korean corporates to invest in CPEC-related projects, promising various economic opportunities.
In his interactions with the South Korean authorities including political, Singh will also share the rationale behind the government’s decision to scrap Article 370 and the subsequent benefits to Kashmir, besides Pakistan’s constant efforts to push cross-border terror.
Pre-empting New Delhi’s move, Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had called his South Korean counterpart Kang Kyung-wha last Friday to brief her about Islamabad’s narrative on Kashmir. Kyung-wha is understood to have conveyed that Seoul is keeping a watch on the developments in South Asia.
Singh will also seek to boost South Korean investments in India across sectors and push for joint development of defence equipment, sources said. “The focus of the visit will be to explore new areas of defence cooperation, including co-development of military hardware,” an official said.
The defence minister will be in Tokyo on September 2-3 before flying off to Seoul. Tokyo has assured New Delhi that it has no interest in CPEC because it violates India’s sovereignty.
South Korea has remained one of the top investors in India since the economy was liberalised with investments nearing a cumulative figure of $6 billion. India features among the top 10 trade partners of the country and is the sixth largest export destination for its goods with the trade volume reaching $21.5 billion in 2018. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had three rounds of interactions with Korean business leaders in the past one year.
During his visit to Seoul last month, Abdul Razak Dawood, who advises Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on commerce, textile, industries, production and investments, offered to set up an exclusive economic zone for Korean companies as part of CPEC-related projects.
He also invited Korean investors at the Pak-Korea CEO Forum held in Seoul. He cited Pakistan’s 11-point rise in global ranking on the ease of doing business index to attract Korean investments. He also offered the early harvest programme to his Korean counterpart, which may lead to a free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries.
The Korean side, according to Pakistan, assured investments and technology. The country will also send a buying mission of importers to Pakistan soon, it said.