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Ashish Meena asked: What is the importance of North Korea for India?

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  • Prashant Kumar Singh replies: It should be noted that despite all apparent international isolation, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) or North Korea is a member in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). Also, it has embassies and diplomatic missions in number of countries. Similarly, its capital Pyongyang has embassies and missions from several countries. Therefore, international sanctions and its self-imposed isolation and fantastic media coverage apart, the DPRK is a normal country in legal sense of the term. India established consular relations with the DPRK in 1962 and full-fledged ambassadorial relations in 1973. Incidentally, India was deeply involved in diplomatic and humanitarian work in the Korean Peninsula in the late 1940s and early 1950s, particularly in peace efforts during the Korean War (1950-53). Thus, India has a legacy of engagement with the region and the country.

    The two countries had substantial interaction till mid-1990s, which later gradually became sparse for a variety of reasons. Nevertheless, India must be one of the rare countries, other than China and perhaps Russia, with whom North Korea’s line of communication has been open all along. As for India’s interests in the DPRK, following points could be put forward: India cherishes its presence in the country, which has a certain historical background. While India has complied with the UN sanctions and has appealed North Korea to abide by international commitments on nuclear and missile issues, it has also shown humanitarian concerns towards the North Korean people. India has provided humanitarian assistance to North Korea from time to time. It does not believe in forcing North Korea into total isolation. Hence, it supports contacts and interaction with Pyongyang. Moreover, India also has had interest due to clandestine nuclear and missile cooperation between Pakistan and North Korea.

    Furthermore, whenever North Korea opens up and gets integrated with the region and the world, its market, particularly mineral resources, would create investment opportunities including for India. Finally, engaging North Korea, without violating the UN sanctions, is a natural outcome of India’s Act East (formerly known as Look East) Policy.

    For more on the subject, please refer to my following publication:

    “North Korea: An Advance Frontier of India’s ‘Act East’?”, IDSA Special Feature, December 01, 2015.

    Posted on August 29, 2018