PM assures S Korea on implementation of Posco

Seoul: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today assured South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on the implementation of the USD 12 billion Posco steel project in Odisha. During the bilateral talks, Singh told Lee that there was progress on the Posco project, which has been dubbed as the single largest foreign direct investment in India.

"The two leaders also reaffirmed the importance of implementing the Posco project in the State of Odisha," said a joint statement issued after the talks between the two leaders. Singh is understood to have raised the Posco issue at the meeting with Lee and told him that India would like to see the project being implemented early. Later, at a media briefing, a senior Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) official said that Singh and Lee did discuss Posco but "not extensively".

"We expressed that there is progress in the implementation of the Posco project" Sanjay Singh, Secretary (East), in the MEA told reporters here. He pointed out that a number of government clearances have been granted to the project. "The state government of Odisha is acquiring land for the project. There are certain legal issues involved that are being attended to. We hope that there is progress in the near future," the MEA official said.

Officials said nearly 2,200 acres has been acquired for the project by the Odisha government, which is nearly 60 per cent of the total land required for the project. At an official luncheon hosted by Lee, Posco CEO Chung Joon-yang met Singh, who assured him about the importance of the project to India.

"We are making slow but steady progress. We would like to see it come to fruition at an early date," Singh is learnt to have told Chung. The project has been delayed by environmental and land acquisition issues and protests by local residents, who say the plant will disrupt their largely agricultural and forest-based livelihoods. Singh`s assurance on Posco comes a day ahead of his meeting with CEOs of top Korean companies that include KEPCO, Tata-Daewoo, Samsung, SSangyong, Hyundai and Doosan among others.

The Korean Federation for Small and Medium Businesses, along with three other industry chambers have organised a meeting with Singh on Monday. The Prime Minister is expected to unveil before them India`s plans for upgrading infrastructure that is estimated to cost of USD 1 trillion and invite them to actively participate in the construction of highways, ports, airports, metros and power plants.