India has not shown any major concerns about the North Korean nuclear issue. There has been no vital or weak nuclear links between India and North Korea . So it is interesting to note the Singh’s visit to North Korea at this point in time - right before North Korea’s moot with the United States in Singapore.
Since the establishment of the North Korean diplomatic relations, India maintained diplomatic relations with North Korea and established its embassy there. As relations went bad between the United States and North Korea , the U.S. Government asked India to shut down its embassy in North Korea . India rejected the U.S. demand, showing India’s autonomy over the issue. This means that India is more concerned about its own foreign policy than that of the U.S. over North Korea .
In fact, India’s legitimate concern is about Pakistan’s involvement in North Korea’s missile and nuclear program. Singh expressed such concerns, which were rejected by Pyongyang. The Indian “misfire” in North Korea could create a big concern about its policy toward the Korean Peninsula. Both the White House and New Delhi needed to be extra careful toward questioning North Korean policies in the region.
Instead of India, China has greater role to play in North Korea . For the longest time, China has been the custodian of North Korea and it accepted that role of China. It provided essential items to North Korea to run the affairs of the State. India does not enjoy such a status.
North Korea has decided to dismantle the Punggye-ri nuclear test site destroying tunnels, using explosives, building, and security posts. This is also welcome internationally. The side of the Punggye-ri is close to the Chinese border. Abandoning of this site will bring enormous benefits to the people of North Korea .
Prospects of denuclearization looks brighter on the Korean Peninsula brighter than before. Washington looks relatively calm and quiet about North Korea’s nuclear program. It is may because of Chinese support. Chinese policy towards the Korean Peninsula will play a bigger role. A peaceful rise of China by bringing North Korea in its fold - the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) strategy - is the call of the day.
If China offers BRI facility to the Korean Peninsula, North Korea is essential as it provides linkages to both South Korea and Russia. South Korea embraced the BRI in December last when President Moon Jae-in visited Beijing. Therefore, without including North Korea in BRI, there is no further progress of the initiative and it needed to be included to built a better bridge across different parts of Asia to ensure greater connectivity and manufacturing in greater Asia. The inclusion of North Korea in last BRI Summit in Beijing was in that direction.
Both the United States and North Korea are moving toward a Summit in Singapore next month. Hope they would be able to resolve all the outstanding issues including missile and nuclear issues. If these issues are a friendly resolution between the two countries, a new foundation will be provided to Asia-Pacific. The task is daunting but not impossible given the will of doing so between the two nuclear powers.
Many attempts to resolve the Korean dispute in the past have remained unsuccessful because of the hard stand taken by both side especially after 2007. Now the attitude of the two sides looks changed. They are showing will and resilience. If this attitude continues, it is likely that both side could resolve a number of critical issues.
The writer is Director of the China-Pakistan Study Center at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad. He writes on East Asian affairs.