India and North Korea: A Strategic Friendship?

By Tanya Sen

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India’s recent revelation that it had sent a junior foreign minister to meet with counterparts in North Korea was greeted with surprise. According to V.K. Singh, India’s Minister of State for External Affairs, the two unlikely candidates came together to discuss “political, regional, economic, educational and cultural cooperation between the two countries.”

The two don’t seem to have many policy issues in common. Why, then, did India send a senior diplomat to Pyongyang for the first time in twenty years? While the motives of both actors are open to interpretation, it is useful to speculate how this visit fits into India’s broader strategic goals.

Eyes have been glued to the great power dynamics in the Indo-Pacific. Tensions on the Korean peninsula have drawn in several powers both within and outside the region. India has not directly been party to any of these, unsurprisingly. Non-alignment has long been a defining feature of India’s policy despite recent attempts to counter Chinese power endeavours. India is known to steer clear of any explicit alignments or alliances that would be binding and divergent to its non-committal stance. Meanwhile, North Korea, known as the ‘Hermit Kingdom ,’ has been built on foundations of Juche, or self-reliance. It has distanced itself from the rest of the world. From the perspective of Indian foreign policy elites, engaging with Pyongyang would be a calculated move—one that might support New Delhi’s great power ambitions. India could accomplish this by helping itself with alignments and by fostering its diplomatic role in the region.

Read more at National Interest.

HJS



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