Daily Management Review

Ministerial Visit From India To North Korea Aimed At Strengthening Ties


Ministerial Visit From India To North Korea Aimed At Strengthening Ties
The recent peace signals form North Korea has driven India to better its relations with the reclusive nation.

A number of ministerial level meeting were on the cards between Indian Minister of State for External Affairs VK Singh and the other members of a large delegation and their North Korean counterparts in Pyongyang. The Indian delegation had gone there on Tuesday. The meetings were scheduled with senior officials from North Korea like Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho and Culture Minister Pak Chun Nam.
It is nearly two decades that such high-level visit has been undertaken by an Indian minister to North Korea.
"Now that the environment around North Korea is changing, India may feel like it's an opportune moment to reach out, perhaps in potential anticipation of the country opening up," said Harsh Pant, distinguished fellow and head of strategic studies at New Delhi-based think tank Observer Research Foundation.
Compared to the period last year when there were missiles being launched almost regularly in the Korean Peninsula, tensions have more or less subsided this year despite some problems in international efforts to bring a halt to North Korea's nuclear weapons. One example is that the threat of North Korea to cancel the Trump summit slated to be held June 12.
However, the U.S. also attempted to soothe the tensions with the White House playing a role. Over the weekend last week, the chances of private investment in the underdeveloped economy of North Korea was mentioned by the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. And now India too wants ot follow the same path.
"The visit may have been spurred by the recent developments in U.S.-North Korea relations," said Amit Cowshish, a former advisor at the Indian Ministry of Defense and current partner with law firm Dua Associates.
However, that does not mean that India would be throwing itself open to be a part of the nuclear negotiations.
Rather, "the purpose of the visit seems to be to explore the possibility of resetting mutual relations in the context of India's Act East policy," Cowshish stated, citing the foreign policy of the current Indian government to have warm relationships with its Asian neighbors.
Pant said that in case North Korea changes stance and joins the international community, India wants to see itself in a front position and this is perhaps the manner in which New Delhi is viewing the visit.
There have been friendly diplomatic, commercial and economic ties between India and North Korea for decades till such time when the Indian government was forced by international pressure of sanctions to sever a majority of the bilateral trade with North Korea in 2017.
"There were even reports in late 2016 and early 2017 that India was the third largest trade partner of North Korea, although these figures did not consider the substantial illicit or undeclared commerce involving China and Russia," said Dhruva Jaishankar, foreign policy fellow at Brookings India.
India resisted pressure last year from the United States to sever all diplomatic ties with North Korea and an Indian embassy is still present in Pyongyang.