Will Modi’s S Korea visit break Posco ice?

Bhubaneswar: When prime minister Narendra Modi visits South Korea on May 18 and 19 and holds bilateral talks with President Park Geun-hye, it will be his first meet with the host country’s first citizen after Indian government cautioned Posco that it has to go through the bidding process to get mines to feed its Rs 52,000-crore greenfield steel project in Jagatsinghpur district.

It is presumed that the Posco issue will figure during the discussions and all eyes are now on Modi’s statement on the project, billed as the biggest FDI in the country.

Besides, outcome of the discussion on Posco also bears significance given the fact that Modi himself has been banging the drum for his Make-in-India campaign to attract foreign investment to the country ever since the idea was conceived.

“We look forward to harnessing Korean capabilities and investments in infrastructure, manufacturing, ship building, energy and defence production,” Modi had tweeted on May 6.

Earlier, during the East Asia Summit in Myanmar, Modi had also spoken to the South Korean President to speed up the Posco project, which is yet to take off even after passage of 10 long years.

In Odisha, though there is a recent war of words between the company and the State-owned Odisha Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (Idco) on payment of land premia, the State government is hopeful that the project would finally see the daylight.

Three days ago upon his arrival from Delhi, when asked about the stance of the State government in view of the South Korean major’s reported wish to pull out of Odisha, chief minister Naveen Patnaik had said, “I don’t think so (that the company will pull out). The State government is trying very hard to see that the project is set up in Odisha.”

In March, Posco had withdrawn from the Haridaspur-Paradip rail link project, crucial for the steel project, as the company had planned to get the raw material using this link from the mineral-rich belt of the State.

The State government had inked a memorandum of understanding with Posco in June 2005 which expired in June 2010. Neither the government nor the company has made any effort to renew the Posco project in the State.