The reported US advice to India to cut down ties with North Korea following that country’s missile tests which hold the potential to escalate into a nuclear conflagration must be duly heeded in view of the seriousness of Pyongyang’s nuclear threat. North Korea under dictator Kim Jong-un has indeed gone berserk, threatening world peace in a manner that is reprehensible. With the United Nations taking a strong position against the North Koreans by imposing punitive economic sanctions against it, India can ill afford to dither on an issue that must concern all peace-loving countries. A few days ago, when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was on an official visit to India, he and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had in their joint statement called upon North Korea to roll back its nuclear and missile programmes. Not only did Abe convey the US position to India, earlier a US diplomat had visited India to tell her not to engage with Pyongyang in any way. The US message also reflects recent Indian arguments about North Korea as stated by a high-level diplomat who recounted Pakistan’s role in arming it with nuclear knowhow as a reason for India’s continued concern with the country. In line with this thought the Indo-Japanese joint statement stated that those countries that supported the North Korean nuclear programme should be held “accountable.”Reports indicated that during last week’s trip to India, Abe also discussed the role of Pakistan’s A.Q. Khan network in supporting the clandestine nuclear programme of North Korea.
India has repeatedly deplored the recent missile and nuclear tests by Pyongyang though bilateral ties with the government of Kim Jong-un have remained more or less undisturbed. India played a key role in the resolution of the Korean war during the early 1950s and has maintained diplomatic ties with Pyongyang. In April this year, India supported the U.N. in banning trade with North Korea though the Ministry of External Affairs has maintained that Indian trade has consisted of humanitarian ingredients like food items and medicines. However, a report in 2016 had revealed that the Dehradun-based Centre for Space Science and Technology Education in Asia and the Pacific (CSSTEAP) was one of the institutes that trained North Korean scientists, in violation of U.N. sanctions. 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. As things stand, India needs to stand with the US, Japan and the UN at large in deterring North Korea in furthering its nuclear programme.