The Telegraph
Friday , January 10 , 2014
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Posco glitch trips Park’s Odisha visit

New Delhi. Jan. 9: Bhubaneswar’s loss is Bangalore’s gain.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye was scheduled to visit Odisha during her four-day trip beginning January 15. But in a silent show of disapproval at the lack of progress in the implementation of the Posco project, India’s largest FDI on paper, Odisha no longer figures on Park’s itinerary.

During Parks four-day trip, the successes and failures of the economic partnership between the nations are expected to dominate talks.

Park will be here just 10 days before Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrives as chief guest for India’s Republic Day celebrations at a time when a tense East Asia is increasingly looking towards New Delhi as an arbiter in its complex geopolitics.

But it is economics — and a bit of defence ties — that will be the focus of the visit by Park, South Korea’s first woman president, officials told The Telegraph.

Korean companies enjoy a key share in the Indian market for electronics and home appliances, but Seoul is also desperately seeking Indian assistance in information technology.

That attraction will take Park to Bangalore after she meets Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, President Pranab Mukherjee and foreign minister Salman Khurshid on January 16.

But another proposed leg of her trip to India — a visit to Bhubaneswar and to the Posco steel plant site — has now been dropped from her itinerary, officials confirmed.

The memorandum of agreement between Posco and the Odisha government lapsed in 2010, but has not been renewed, and South Korea’s finance minister articulated concerns over the project’s prospects at a meeting with his Indian counterpart P Chidambaram on Wednesday, officials said.

“There’s no question in our minds — had the Posco project been proceeding smoothly, she would have gone to Odisha,” an official said.

The visit to New Delhi comes after a visit by Vietnam’s Communist party chief Nguyen Phu Trong, and Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko in just the past two months.