Presenting a surprise element to India’s foreign policy, the country hosted Foreign Minister of North Korea early this year. This exceptional foreign visit by a political leader of the reclusive east Asian country and a first to India by a North Korean leader in many years is certain to be noted.
The visit was noteworthy as India is neither a negotiator between the North and South Korea nor has any part in the international dialogues for nuclear issues faced by the country.
The visit can be seen as India’s vigorous Act East Policy. Though India remained concerned over Pakistan’s trade of nuclear fissile material to Pyongyang in return of missile development tech from North Korea.
In the times when the US has moderated its associations with Russia or other quondam Communist Bloc and is also investing into easing relations with Cuba, India’s attempt to develop ties with North Korea should only be welcomed.
In September 2015, India designated MoS Kiren Rijiju to represent the country at an official event held at the North Korean Embassy in New Delhi. This was reportedly one of the first times that a minister was delegated to represent the government at an official gathering marking North Korea’s Independence Day.
Rijiju had stated after the event that the government was interested in developing its ties with the country and had a discussion to achieve the same.
“We feel that there should not be the usual old hurdles and suspicion, we have been discussing the government ways and means of upgrading bilateral ties.” Rijiju was quoted as saying by a newspaper.
India could look forward to venture into the mineral market of North Korea, especially the rare earth elements (REE) available in the country. However, the vital interest of India is in concerns with North Korea’s missile cooperation with Pakistan. One of the expected goals would be to retrieve strategic position vis-à-vis China, hence accelerating the Indian ambition to construct a superior status in the Asia-Pacific.
India, in the past, wasn’t able to focus on its relation with North Korea not only over the concerns of North Korea-Pakistan nexus but also the developing tensions in the US-North Korea relations.
The agreement on nuclear non-proliferation between the two countries in 1994 had created an environment of duress. The US blamed North Korea of covertly engaging in a nuclear weapons programme. The discussion on North Korea had impacted India due to the growing ties between India and US during that period. The strategic commitment was shaping between the two countries in regard to the post-Pokhran II phase – said the memoir, on the extended, closed-door negotiations in 1998-2000 between- Jaswant Singh-Strobe Talbott, named ‘My Friend Strobe’.
Thus, the overbearing of strengthening strategic rendezvous with the US was feasible and obligatory to India to keep a certain aloofness from North Korea. Also, the UN prohibitions on North Korea in view of their repetitive nuclear tests since 2006 added on to the lack of economic reinforcements in the bilateral sphere had been deterrents for political visits from the India.
For India to develop better ties with North Korea in the growing need of interdependence among the nation, it will have to chart a strategy specifying the importance of it as well as of the issues faced by both the countries in an advancement of relations. India will have to mention its concerns such as nuclear ties of North Korea with Pakistan and other security correlated concerns. Also, by being focussed on the common benefits they can achieve better results on the lines of health, food, agriculture and other similar developmental areas.