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Posted at: May 26, 2018, 12:36 AM; last updated: May 26, 2018, 12:36 AM (IST)

Another Trump walk-back

India must exploit the North Korean opening
Another Trump walk-back

US President Donald Trump lived up to his billing for unpredictability by calling off talks next month with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. But India that had rushed into the breach now needs to stay the course. In deference to UN and unilateral sanctions by the US against North Korea, India had kept Pyongyang on the diplomatic back burner by appointing relatively junior officials as its ambassadors. South Block reacted with lightning speed to the US easing of pressure on North Korea by naming a regular diplomat to man the embassy in Pyongyang and dispatching a minister the day after the ambassador had received its credentials.

Now, with the US planning to tighten the screws once again, India should strike an independent path by maintaining the tempo of contacts with North Korea. It will not be short of friends because Kim Jong-un’s mothballing of nuclear testing facilities was seen as an expression of intent and purpose. On the other hand, Trump’s binning of the talks was a continuation of his tempestuous and seriously destabilising policy moves akin to pulling the plug on the Iran deal, locating the US embassy in Jerusalem and exiting the climate change talks. India has anyway tested the global waters and PM Modi’s successive heart-to-heart talks with Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin suggest there is weariness in South Block over the low returns from its proximity with the US.

India’s enhanced diplomatic engagement in North Korea after half a century will once again raise its geopolitical profile in East Asia — it already has close economic and political ties with Japan and South Korea. India need not fear US’ wrath for it will not be alone in defying the White House on Iran and North Korea. In fact, there might be an undercurrent of understanding in a section of the American political establishment. North Korea also needs close Indian attention to discourage it from the surreptitious transfer of military grade technology to Pakistan. Prospects of gaining more from legitimate trade with India should stay North Korea’s hands from closer ties with Islamabad. After Iran, India’s national interests dictate a divergence from US policy on North Korea as well.


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