NEW DELHI: V.K. Singh the Minister of State for External Affairs, visited the North Korean capital from May 15 to May 16, 2018. This was the first diplomatic visit after a gap of 20 years.

According to the press release issued by Ministry of External Affairs, Singh held discussions with the H.E. Mr. Kim Yong Dae, Vice President of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, H.E. Mr. Ri Yong Ho, Foreign Minister, H.E. Mr. Pak Chun Nam, Minister of Culture and Mr. Choe Hui Chol, Vice Foreign Minister of North Korea. The discussion topics ranged from issues covering political, regional, economic, educational and cultural cooperation between the two countries.

The discussion also centred around North Korea’s recent peace initiatives with South Korea. Singh also raised concern with North Korea’s involvement with Pakistan.

The statem

ent issued stated that: “The DPRK side emphasized that as a friendly country DPRK will never allow any action that would create concerns for India’s security.”

India and North Korea have had diplomatic relations for 45 years. India has been North Korea’s third largest trade partner. According to Indian government data, India was North Korea’s third largest trade partner in 2015-16, exporting $111 million in goods to North Korea while importing $88 million from Pyongyang.

India has also played an important role in the training of scientists in The Center for Space Science and Technology in Asia and the Pacific (CSSTEAP) in Dehradun.

India was allegedly going against UN Sanction while training the North Korean scientists in Dehradun. However, CSSTEAP is set up under UN mandate and the curriculum has been approved by the UN.

Dr. Jaganath Panda, from Institute for Defence Studies and Analyse, in a call with The Citizen, said “India has always played an important role in the Korean Peninsula. The world is entering a scenario where every nation wants to engage with North Korea. India already has a special partnership with South Korea and has had active relations with North Korea in the past. It is a beneficial move on part of India.”

The world is aiming for closer ties with North Korea. There has been a summit between the two Koreas and Trump is set to meet the leaders of North Korea in Singapore. During such a world scenario, it is imperative for India to ensure its place as a close ally of North Korea once again.

Professor Anuradha Chenoy in a call with The Citizen, mentioned the fact that India has always had pursued an independent foreign policy in the past. “India never followed the principles set by US during the pursuit of its foreign policy. However, due to North Korea’s isolation, India also didn’t have close relations with the nation. On the other hand, India did maintain a certain amount of trade relations.”

Chenoy also mentioned the shift in India’s foreign policy, “Earlier, India’s stand on issues was strong and independent. These days, India prefers to take an ambiguous stand or side with the US. India has traditionally been against unilateral sanctions and stood against them.”

This visit hence, could be important for India’s foreign policy. India aims on becoming a peacekeeper between the two Koreas, however in the current global political scenario it seems unlikely.

The last minister to visit Pyongyang was Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, then MoS for I&B, to attend the sixth Pyongyang Film Festival in September 1998.