Heralding a new chapter in the history of defence cooperation, India and South Korea today signed two landmark Memoranda of Understanding to give a huge boost to the Strategic Partnership between the two countries. The two MoUs were signed at the end of nearly ninety minutes of intensive discussions, marked by warmth, between the delegations of the two countries, led by their Defence Ministers, Mr AK Antony and Mr Kim Tae-young in Seoul. This was the first ever visit of a Defence Minister of India to South Korea. Shri Antony was accompanied by a high-level delegation including the Defence Secretary Shri Pradeep Kumar, Vice Admiral RK Dhowan, Lt General KT Parnaik, Dr Prahlada and Shri Sundaram Krishna. The first MoU signed by Mr Antony and Mr Kim envisages exchange of defence related experience and information, mutual exchange of visits by military personnel and experts including civilian staff associated with defence services, military education and training and conduct of military exercises, exchange of visits of ships and aircraft, as jointly decided between the two countries. The MoU further envisages cooperation in humanitarian assistance and international peace keeping activities. The MoU will remain valid for a period of five years with provision for its extension by five more years. The Second MoU was signed by the Chief Controller of Research and Development of DRDO, Dr Prahlada and Vice Commissioner, Defence Acquisition and Procurement Agency (DAPA) of South Korea, Mr Kwon Oh Bong. To be operational under the overarching umbrella of India- South Korea Defence Agreement, the MoU aims at identifying futuristic defence technology areas of mutual interest and pursuing R&D works in both the countries. It also envisages co- development and co-production of defence products with Indian industry through DRDO. There will be joint IPR on all the products developed through this mechanism. Some areas of immediate interest e.g., marine systems, electronics and intelligent systems have been identified as priority tasks. Speaking at the meeting, Mr Antony said New Delhi will be happy to see the defence industry relationship to be more than a buyer-seller relationship and its further evolution into Transfer of Technology, joint production and joint R&D etc. He hoped that ‘his visit will start a new chapter in our already close relationship’. Mr Kim said the two MoUs signed today will provide a win-win scenario for the two countries in a number of areas. The talks covered a wide range of security issues- both regional and global. Maritime Security Mr Antony said India and South Korea share common perception of maintaining peace as well as ensuring safety and security of sea lanes of communication in the region. He said regular exchanges towards ensuring maritime security is important to both countries, especially in securing vital energy supplies that pass through the Indian Ocean. ‘ It is of particular importance for like- minded countries working in the Gulf of Aden to coordinate efforts and also exchange information on the happenings in the area. We look forward to continued and enhanced cooperation between the navies of India and South Korea in this regard’, said Mr Antony. Regional Security Scenario Talking about the regional security scenario in the Indian subcontinent, Mr Antony said we live in a troubled neighbourhood. ‘ Some call it a fragile region. We have to maintain balance and restraint even in the face of grave challenges to our security. Our intention is to develop friendly and cooperative relations with all our neighbours so that we can focus on our major development needs’, Mr Antony said. East Asian Architecture Mr Antony said India looks at itself as an integral part of East Asia. India is a founding member of East Asia Summit and as such, looks at the emerging architecture in East Asia as open and inclusive. ‘That is why we welcome the decision of ASEAN Foreign Ministers to move towards the inclusion of the United States and Russia as members of the East Asia Summit. We look forward to working closely with South Korea in the emerging architecture in this part of the world’, he said. Earlier in the morning, Mr Antony along with the delegation drove down to the National Cemetery in Seoul and laid a wreath there. He also inspected, amid light drizzle, a traditional colourful inter-services guard of honour presented by the South Korean Armed Forces on arrival at the Ministry of Defence Head quarters. Sitanshu Kar from Seoul, South Korea.