Last Tuesday on high level visit, Indian Minister of State for External Affairs VK Singh arrived in Pyongyang with his delegations of officials. The visit of an Indian Minister to North Korea has happened nearly two decade later, where the minister met North Korean officials such as Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho and Cultural Minister Pak Chun Nam.
With the tension around Korean Peninsula subsiding, India is taking the opportunity to further strengthen its ties with North Korea as a part of ‘India’s Act East Policy’. India isn’t looking to inject itself in nuclear discussion as such.
“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.
India & North Korea’s Diplomatic Relations for past 45 Years
The last time an Indian Minster visited North Korea, it was in 1988, September. Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, information and broadcasting minister of the then ruling BJP led alliances had visited Pyongyang to attend a film festival.
The two countries have till now enjoyed friendly diplomatic, commercial, economic ties. India still maintains embassy in Pyongyang despite of US threats to sever ties with North Korea. For India, North Korea is linked to security and terror concerns around rival Pakistan.
Despite of the recent visit of VK Singh being one in two decades, India has witnessed visits by North Korea officials on various occasions. In 2013, India was North Korea’s third largest trading partner.
“India is one of the few countries with which North Korea maintains diplomatic relations. India is an important window to the world for North Korea. The two countries have a long, low-intensity relationship,” Prashant Kumar Singh, a fellow at the Delhi-based Institute of Defense Studies and Analyses and a specialist on India’s engagement in East Asia, told me.