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Ambassador'S Speech On The 69th Republic Day Reception

Posted on: January 26, 2018 | Back | Print

Your Excellency, Vice Foreign Minister CHO HYUN;

Your Excellency, General BROOKES;

Congressman CHEUNG TAE OK;

Your Excellency Mayor HEO Seong-gon, Mayor of Gimhae: the city that is the gohyangi of millions of people from the KIM and HEO clans, who trace their ancestry to an Indian princess—making him the Mayor of one of the largest communities of Persons of Indian Origin and therefore oori Kajok, our family;

Excellencies, distinguished colleague Ambassadors, Dy Ministers from MoFA

Friends from Korea, India and from the expatriate community:

Annyeong Hasseubnikka. Jeo neun ju han Indo Daesa ibnida (which is something you probably guessed by now.)

Yirohkke choo-un nalssi e-do hamkke hae jusheosseo, jinshim eu ro gamsahabnida.

A heartfelt thank you for joining us on this cold evening. Shiljero, Oneul-eun neomu chubseubnida! Aigo, chuketta!

So my colleagues have done their best to offer you a warm Indian evening today—including Indian style Chai to warm you up. All of us will need a hot dinner soon—hot also as in spicy-- to make up for the freezing weather. Therefore I promise to reduce your suffering by keeping my speech brief.

Excellencies, friends,

First, let me wish everyone a happy, healthy and successful year ahead. As Korea prepares to bring the Winter Olympics back to Asia for the first time in 20 years, we look forward to a successful and enjoyable spectacle of sport: PyongChang Olympic ui Seonggong-eul giwon habnida.

And, hwang geum gaeddi ui hae, man sa hyeong tong hasi gil barabnida. Or, happy new year of the golden dog.

India marks the entry into force of our Constitution on this day, making India a Sovereign Republic. Hence the name, Republic Day. This particular Day is special. For one, it falls in the 70th year of India’s independence. For another, it marks the 25th anniversary of the India-ASEAN dialogue partnership, being celebrated specially through the presence in India of Their Excellencies the leaders of ASEAN, for the first time as Chief Guests at our Republic Day. And for a third reason, it also marks the 45th anniversary of the establishment of Ambassadorial relations between India and Korea.

On a lesser, personal note, this is also our last year in Korea, and yet it is my first national day celebration in Seoul.

And so, permit me to use this platform to take quick stock of three years of India-Korea relations.

On the positive side, a lot has happened. We have not only raised the level of the relationship to a Special Strategic Partnership, but our ties have expanded beyond strong trade and two way investment flows. There is greater breadth and depth to our ties than ever before.

Our Prime Minister and as many as eight of his senior Cabinet colleagues visited Korea separately in the past 3 years. We hosted the Speaker of our Parliament, the Deputy Chairman of the Upper House of our Parliament, and the Chief Justice of our Supreme Court. That apart, there have been ten Chief Ministerial and other visitors from our States, and innumerable visitors at Vice Ministerial level. Four navy vessels and two coast guard ships also visited Korea, and our defence institutions of higher learning have put Korea on their annual itinerary.

This litany of visits has of course helped keep our partner hotels in Seoul happy. In fact, we’ve never had quite as many visitors to Korea in our modern history. The fatigue writ large on the faces of my colleagues from our Embassy is eloquent testimony to the frequency of visits from home.

And not, as you might have thought, a reflection of their opinion of me.

I thank the Embassy Team and our incredibly committed Honorary CG in Busan for their faith and their hard-work.

And I am sure they will be the first to celebrate knowing that the queue of visiting dignitaries resumes shortly after the Seollal break.

Visits apart, our team’s efforts were rewarded last year by a 30% increase in trade—on both sides—for the first time in 6 years. Negotiations are ongoing for an upgrade of our comprehensive economic partnership agreement. Much more will happen when a mutually-beneficial new agreement is reached.

Investment flows have also shot up, most notably with KIA’s announcement last year of two new car manufacturing plants in India, and the follow-on investment by 20 of their tier-1 suppliers. Similar decisions in sectors ranging from electronics to food processing, textiles to energy, have helped nearly double contracted Korean FDI to India, within one short year.

Other highlights include the decision to triple existing flights services connecting India and Korea, and the offer of new destinations. And the decision to expand our defence partnership including procurement, research, manufacturing and military to military ties.

But then, at this three-year mark, I still wish we could have done more in both directions.

This year, India looks to welcoming high level visitors from Korea, including at high political levels. We also hope to raise our economic and trade relations significantly, as the Indian economy continues to record world-leading growth. This would be a good time for it, as our efforts receive recognition in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ratings. Or as other investors vote with their wallets: some $60bn in investment was committed in the year 2016-17.

Given the enormous opportunity that a rising Indian economy offers, I hope Korean friends will recognize that the next decades of growth can be secured for their businesses from a larger presence in India.

But it is more than just about money or trade. As democracies with a shared stake in peace, progress and a rules-based international order, there is every reason for us to work with Korea—and other partners—who seek a more fair and cooperative world order.

For, ladies and gentlemen, the road ahead remains difficult—not just for us, but for all States. As the Korean proverb reminds us, ppalli ka ryeo geodeun, hunja kago. Molli karyeo geodeun, hamkke kara...it is better to go further together, than to try to go faster by going alone. The goal of peace, security, and environmentally sustainable economic development is not beyond our reach. Nor is the objective of a better future for all of humanity.

Toward this end, India remains ready to work with all partners—most of all, in our shared South Asian home; with our region’s immediate neighbours in West Asia, Central Asia and Eurasia, South East Asia and Oceania; with our civilizational neighbours in Northeast Asia; with partners for development in Latin America and Africa; with long-standing partners in Europe and the Americas. The spirit that has inspired India for millennia—that all creation is one family (vasudhaiva kutumbakam)--is echoed in the teachings of all religions and all great cultures, including Korea’s own philosophy of hongik ingan.

Regardless of where each of us, this time next year, I am truly grateful for the opportunity Korea gave us to advance these goals, even if by just a little bit.

I hope the year ahead offers each one of you the same.


May your paths be blessed.

Thank you.