Plan to send a delegation to Pyongyang put off

North Korea’s launch of a rocket has put India’s plans to send a delegation to Pyongyang in March next year in the deep freeze. Consisting of officials and businessmen, the team would have assessed whether talk of economic reforms in the reclusive nation was for real.

The delegation led by a senior government official was to leave for Pyongyang in early October this year but a hectic diplomatic calendar led to its postponement. The trip was then tentatively rescheduled for March next year because of the bitter winter in between. But informed sources said New Delhi would prefer to stay away from North Korea for the time being as the rocket launch violates U.N. Security Council Resolution 1874.

There have been reports about North Korea undertaking agrarian reforms as well as wanting to attract investments. But confirmation is hard to get by and the visit would have helped evaluate the actual situation. Most of Pyongyang’s trade is with China and several thousand North Koreans are working in some South Korean run industries.

Some Indian officials witnessed the conditions in the North Korean country-side when they recently accompanied a U.N. team for the food aid programme. India contributed $1 million to the cause and was likely to allocate a similar amount around the time when the delegation was to visit North Korea.

The plan to send a delegation has been welcomed by the India-North Korea Friendship Association whose chief Sumit Chopra described the initiative as timely. But there was no response to queries from the embassy of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea as North Korea is officially known.

The postponement of the delegation’s visit should help cement ties with South Korea which had been looking at the move with apprehension. India has a lot of pending business with Seoul especially in the areas of defence and civil nuclear energy. In fact a South Korean Minister Ju-Ho Lee is currently in town to expand partnerships to the science and technology sector.

At the same time, the sources said “Pyongyang need not feel worried because India does not take sides and hopes North Korea will move to a nuclear-free peninsula and sort out its nuclear issues through six- party talks.” India has described the launch as “unwarranted.”