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Act East Policy: South Korean Companies keen to invest in India’s Defense Corridors; assure non-involvement in PoK

Huma Siddiqui

Top defence and aerospace South Korean companies which are seeking joint ventures with the Indian companies are expected to invest in the two defences industrial corridors (DIC) in Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh. Also, the first-ever 2+2 Dialogue between the two countries is slated for November.

Diplomatic sources have confirmed that big companies including Hanwha Defense, Hyundai Rotem, Korea Aerospace Industries Limited (KAI), LIG Nex1, DACC Carbon Company which are already participating in various EoIs, RFPS and RFIs are ready to set up their manufacturing bases in the two DICs. These companies are ready to transfer top-end technology to the Indian companies and participate in Make in India initiative.

First 2+2 Dialogue

Confirming that the first-ever 2+2 dialogue is scheduled for later this year, the top diplomat said that coinciding with the dialogue a top naval delegation will be visiting New Delhi in November and their agenda would be to discuss participation in `Milan 2020'.

Also, the agenda of the first-ever 2+2 Dialogue would include defence industry cooperation, military exchanges and education as well as bilateral exercises of the army, navy and the air force and the Indo-Pacific Region. And the joint India-South Korea Army exercise next year.

"While there is a bilateral dialogue with the armies and the navies on both sides, there has yet to be a bilateral dialogue between the two air forces," the source added.

The two countries have recently signed a military logistics agreement. This will help the navies of the two sides when they go for exercises and also have agreed to help in interoperability. This is critical when it operates in the Indo-Pacific Region.

No Korean Companies in POK

When defence Minister Rajnath Singh met the Prime Minister of South Korea, Lee Nak-Yeon in Seoul recently, he was assured that no Korean company is allowed to do any business in POK.

"During the meeting, it was conveyed that no Korean company has been in POK since 2014 and no company will be allowed to do any business there," the source added.

Presence of the Korean Companies in the Defence Sector

Close on the heels of successful induction of the K-9 Vajra-T 155 mm, 52 calibre gun which was built jointly by L&T and Hanwha Techwin, top defence countries are making efforts to get into joint ventures with the Indian companies here.

Korean Aircraft Industries (KAI) maker of the trainee aircraft 'KT-1' has offered its Utility Helicopter and is looking to getting into a venture with state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. Company sources had confirmed that they are open to transferring technology as there is no law in South Korea which does not allow.

Some companies have responded to the RFP for 12 mine countermeasure vessels (MCMVs), for the Indian Navy. These MCMVs once the contract is inked will be built in India.

Also, Hyundai Industries is looking for ventures for shipbuilding. And LIG Nex1 and Reliance Defence are already in a joint venture for the production of military hardware.