Minister of State for External Affairs General VK Singh paid an official visit to the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea (North Korea). The visit came after a long gap of almost two decades when the then Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting had gone to Pyongyang for a film festival in 1998. In April 2015, DPRK’s Foreign Minister paid an official visit to India and met External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.
Details of the visit
- General Singh had a high level meeting with the Vice President of the Presidium of DPRK’s Supreme Peoples’ Assembly, Foreign Minister, Culture Minister and Vice Foreign Minister of North Korea.
- Both sides held extensive talks on political, educational, regional, economic and cultural cooperation between the two countries. It was decided to explore the future potentialities in vocational education, pharmaceuticals, agriculture and promotion of Yoga.
- India has had good relations with North Korea traditionally and both countries are active collaborators in Non-Aligned Movement.
- India has always treated both North and South Korea as political equals and has established Consular Relations in 1962 and full diplomatic relations in 1972 with them simultaneously.
- India has been in favour of peaceful resolution of conflicts in the Korean peninsula. During the inter-Korean war of 1950-53 had strived to play the role of a neutral party which was appreciated by not just two parties but globally.
- In 1990s, India-DPRK relations saw a freeze in bilateral relationship when it was established that DPRK was helping Pakistan with transfer of missile technology and uranium enrichment technology clandestinely .
- General Singh emphasised on the threat from nuclear proliferation, particularly with respect to linkages with Pakistan. DPRK recognised India’s concerns and confirmed that being a friendly country, it will not allow any action to create security concerns for India.
- India has been a consistent support to DPRK in the form of humanitarian assistance which has been facing food shortages due to famine and natural calamities. In 2011, India provided almost USD 1 million to DPRK through the World Food Programme.
- India is the second largest trading partner of DPRK after China with the trade standing at around USD 130 million in 2016-17 down from USD 209 million in 2014-15. Due to limited foreign exchange availability with DPRK, the trade between the two countries has not yet realised the full potential yet. The sanctions imposed by the UN make the matters worse for the trade opportunities.
- Under the 1976 Cultural Agreement with DPRK, India Council of Cultural Relations routinely sends cultural troupes to North Korea. India also participates in the biennial Pyongyang International Film Festival. North Koreans are fond of Indian movies of various languages.
- India also offers around 15 scholarships to DPRK people under India’s Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme which helps in establishing and strengthening of goodwill of India for DPRK people.
With the winds of change blowing currently in the Korean peninsula, India needs to carefully balance its Korean strategy and look out for the upcoming US-North Korea Summit in Singapore. With North Korea coming out of isolation, India needs to extend its hand of friendship for deeper economic, strategic and political engagement.
Source – All India Radio
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