To a state where many still prescribe to the Kautilyan ideal of a single sub-continental Indian State, and revere his tenets for statecraft and foreign policy, deception and misdirection come as naturally as the involuntary function of breathing. In fact, India has mastered these arts to such perfection that it manages to point bloody fingers towards its western neighbour over any and every incident, even as it stands squarely in the middle of the carnage, so to speak, and does it so effectively that the world lambasts Pakistan instead.

The curious case of India’s relationship with North Korea is no different. In recent weeks, particularly in the context of the American push for India’s unilateral membership of the prestigious Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the mud-slinging campaign has reached new highs – or lows, depending upon where you stand. In a classic attempt at misdirection, to distract from India’s failures and shortcomings as a responsible nuclear state, an offensive campaign has been launched to shift focus onto and detract from Pakistan’s application for simultaneous entry into the NSG instead. At least twice over the past couple of months, questions have been raised in US Congress committees on possible links between Pakistan and North Korea. Both times, the insinuation has been shot down – there is simply no evidence.

Interestingly, the question of India’s relationship with North Korea is never raised, and this is despite the fact that flags were raised in this context as recently as March 2016 in an annual report to the UN Security Council, and highlighted again – in a fairly comprehensive manner – in an article published this June in Al Jazeera, by an Indian journalist, Nilanjana Bhowmick. As she aptly points out, by training North Korean scientists and equipping them with the sensitive knowledge and information regarding nuclear weapons and missile technology, India has not only violated the UN sanctions but also undermined international efforts to stop their spread to North Korea. Unsurprisingly and extremely artfully, India continues to present itself as staunch opponent of the North Korean nuclear weapon development programme, terming the January test ‘a grave concern’, and the pantomime is bought by the international community hook, line and sinker. Its actions, however, in stark contrast to its very effective words, portray a very different reality.

The first five major sanctions against North Korea were issued by the UN in 2006. Of them, the Security Council Resolution 1718 stringently prohibits all UN Member States from any transfers to the DPRK – via nationals or territory – of ‘technical training, advice, services or assistance related to the provision, manufacture, maintenance or use of missiles, missile systems or other items, materials, equipment, goods and technology’ that could potentially further the DPRK’s nuclear related programmes. The Annual Report, as well as some other documents, highlight exactly how India has trained many North Korean scientists and engineers, who have gone on to hold key positions in its hypersensitive missile programs.

Some key names in this context include Paek Chang-ho, who received instruction in satellite communications at the Indian Centre for Space Science and Technology Education in Asia and the Pacific (CSSTEAP), which was clearly important enough to allow him to become the head of an agency responsible for DPRK’s first satellite launch; Hong Yong-il, a North Korean official in Delhi, was amongst the first of the DPRK’s students trained at CSSTEAP – he studied remote sensing technology – and went on to head a research group on the subject in his home country. Despite India’s protestations that the courses offered at this institute are generic, it is interesting to note that all of the DPRK’s thirty or so students to date have gone on to hold similarly important positions within its nuclear program. The fact that the state continues to apply to the institute is also telling. This is further evidenced in the concerns raised in the annual report, which considers more than one course to be ‘directly relevant’ to the development of North Korean expertise in the field.

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realise how extraordinarily unwise, and indeed irresponsible, it is nowadays to train North Korean operatives in technologies that can be used to improve and perfect their ballistic missile programme, ” opines Nicholas Eberstadt, a political economic at the American Enterprise Institute, adding that “the government of India needs to acknowledge the seriousness of this error, take accountability for it, and publicly commit that it will not be an enabler of North Korean WMD programmes thenceforth.” And yet, Indian double-speak maintains sway within the United States, which remains sceptical of Indian complicity with the North Korean nuclear programme, even with this evidence, and certain of Pakistan’s involvement, with no evidence.

Let us remember that during the Cold War, India – champion of the Non-Allied Movement (NAM) – was both a ‘close and trustworthy ally’ of the Soviet Union, as well as a ‘loyal’ friend of the US. Deception has time and time again been shown to be the country’s strong suit, and it has no qualms in manipulating, dodging or arm-twisting to achieve its strategic and policy objectives. The origins of its nuclear weapons program are a testament to this. It has a history of conducting business with countries that have been termed as ‘rogue states’ at critical junctures in time, including Iran during the embargo period, and continually growing trade with Pyongyang, despite stringent UN Security Council sanctions. The UN Security Council Resolution 1874 of 2009 explicitly prohibits any financial transactions with North Korea which could contribute to DPRK’s nuclear, ballistic or other weapons of mass destruction related programmes or activities, and yet surprisingly, from a mere $10 million in 2000, the India-North Korea bilateral trade increased sharply to $199 million dollars in 2014. The North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong also visited India in April 2015, apparently to hold talks with the Indian Minister for External Affairs, Shushma Swaraj, on the North Korean nuclear program.

As its long-suffering and perpetually undermined and defamed neighbours, Pakistan has vast experience of Indian demagoguery. Despite the country’s continual proxy engagement and territorial interference in Pakistan – of which the country has provided solid evidence many a time – Pakistan is portrayed as the ‘evil’ state, with unendingly belligerent intentions. ‘Heinous’ is the term most commonly used I believe, in spite of its constant attempts at reconciliation, including most recently the proposed bilateral restraint regime, which once again and in line with Indian policy, was rejected outright by the country. India’s role in straining Pakistan-Afghanistan is undeniable, and, as Chuck Hagel points out, India may well be ‘using Afghan soil to finance problems for Pakistan’. Its naval ambitions are known to all. It has at the helm of its foreign affairs a hardcore nationalist ‘spy’, Mr Ajit Doval, who classifies Pakistan as an ‘Indian Enemy’ that must be ‘isolated’, and promotes the use of TTP to destabilise Pakistan internally. All this on public record!

It is high time that India’s flimsy mask of respectability is removed and the state seen for what it is – a troublemaker with grandiose ambitions. If the region is to step out of the perpetually looming shadow of war, apprising these facts at face value is of the utmost importance. It is the only way the South Asian region can realistically move into the future in a sturdy and sustainable manner.