‘Posco delay will not affect South Korean investments’

Seoul, Nov 11 (IANS) The delay in clearance to the $12 billion integrated steel project proposed by South Korea’s Posco

in Orissa state is unlikely to come up during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s meetings here. It is, however, unlikely to impact on growing South Korean investments in India, knowledgeable Indian sources here said.

‘The South Korean leadership understands that both the government of India and the government of Orissa are keen that the Posco project goes through. It is important for us and the largest such foreign investment proposed in our country,’ a key Indian source said Thursday as Manmohan Singh prepared to meet the South Korean leadership during his short visit here to attend the G20 summit.

‘Having said that, let me also add that while there will be anxiety there will be no impact on potential South Korean investment in India. South Korean companies are keen on participating in a host of areas including infrastructure,’ the source added, not wishing to be identified because of official restrictions.

‘No, the issue of Posco being raised during our prime minister’s engagements here is highly unlikely. It is not in the agenda.’

It was widely expected that South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, who is the host of the G20 Summit, could raise the matter during his interactions with the Indian prime minister on the margins of the summit Thursday-Friday. The proposal has been hanging fire for more than five years due to environmental concerns and opposition from indigenous people in the state who fear loss of land and livelihood.

Formally called the Pohang Iron and Steel Co, the South Korean giant had signed a pact with the Orissa government in 2005 to set up the $12 billion mega steel project near the port town of Paradip, some 100 km from state capital Bhubaneswar, by 2016.

The company needed some 4,000 acres, mostly government land, and 2,900 acres of forest area. But thousands rallied against it saying it will displace betel leaf farmers, even as the state government said it will bring prosperity and jobs in an economically backward region.

(Arvind Padmanabhan can be contacted at arvind.p@ians.in)

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