North Korea’s focus on military, sanctions arising from its nuclear programme, has left its economy crippled
An official delegation comprising three MPs on Monday concluded a rare visit to North Korea, which took place amid unusually heightened diplomatic activity between New Delhi and the reclusive Pyongyang.
The delegation, led by CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury, was in Pyongyang to attend the elaborate celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of the armistice agreement to end the Korean War — an affair celebrated by both the North and South.
Mr. Yechury, accompanied by BJP MP Tarun Vijay and Congress MP Hamdullah Sayeed, called on Choe Thae-bok, chairman of the Supreme People’s Assembly, the unicameral Parliament of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Speaking to The Hindu here, on his way back from Pyongyang, Mr. Yechury said North Korea had seen the visit as particularly significant, expressing happiness that an official Indian delegation had visited the country after a considerable duration.
Mr. Choe also expressed thanks for India’s continuing support of food aid to the North, with around $1-million-worth of aid being routed through the World Food Programme.
The North Korean regime’s focus on its military, coupled with continuing sanctions on account of the country’s controversial nuclear programme, has left the economy crippled — there have been reports of widespread food shortages.
The visit by the MPs comes in the wake of a rare spurt in diplomatic activity between New Delhi and Pyongyang.
In April, Joint Secretary (East Asia) in the Ministry of External Affairs Gautam Bambawale travelled to North Korea. His visit, which received little attention in India, was contrastingly given unusual prominence by North Korean state media. At least four reports, detailing the trip, were issued by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
The media coverage of the April visit was, at the time, seen by several diplomats from Western and Asian countries as North Korea attempting to demonstrate to its neighbours, amid heightened tensions, that it was not entirely isolated.
India, for its part, has expressed its concerns over North Korea’s support to Pakistan’s nuclear programme. While making it clear that India followed an independent foreign policy — independent of North Korea’s problems with the United States — officials cautioned Pyongyang against further isolating itself.
Earlier this month, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid held rare talks with North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun in Brunei on the sidelines of the ASEAN meeting. Mr. Khurshid said he had, at the meeting, stressed India’s principled stand against nuclear proliferation.