India on Friday extended medical assistance worth $ 1 million to North Korea in a rare reach-out to the pariah nation.
New Delhi extended the medical assistance in response to a request received from the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said.
India is “sensitive to the shortage of medical supply situation” in North Korea and decided to grant humanitarian assistance of $1 million in the form of medicines to fight tuberculosis, said the MEA spokesperson. New Delhi’s medical assistance is under the aegis of an ongoing WHO anti-tuberculosis programme in North Korea and hence exempted from the sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council.
New Delhi’s envoy to Pyongyang, Atul Malhari Gotsurve, on July 16 handed over to North Korean Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, Pak Myong Ho, a floral basket and a congratulatory letter addressed to the pariah nation’s “Supreme Leader”, Kim Jong Un, on the occasion of the 8th anniversary of conferment of the title of ‘marshal” on him.
India had earlier provided North Korea two consignments of food worth $ 1 million each in 2011 and 2016 – both under the World Food Programme.
V K Singh, then Minister of State for External Affairs, had embarked on a rare visit to North Korea in May 2018 – the first by a minister of the Government of India to the reclusive communist country in two decades. Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi’s visit in September 1998 had been the last by a minister from India to North Korea. Naqvi had been the Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting in Prime Minister A B Vajpayee’s Government, when he had visited North Korea to attend the sixth Pyongyang Film Festival.
Singh’s May 2018 visit had come close on the heels of the historic summit between Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in in the demilitarized zone on the border between the two neighbours. He had underscored the “threat from nuclear proliferation” during his visit and conveyed to North Korean leaders New Delhi’s “concerns in the context of the proliferation linkages with neighbourhood” of India.
India has since long been concerned over North Korea’s clandestine defence technology cooperation with Pakistan. New Delhi, according to the sources, suspects that Pyongyang-Islamabad secret defence cooperation, which in the mid-1990s led to supply of Rodong Missiles and technology to Pakistan, is still continuing. Abdul Qadeer Khan, the founder of nuclear program of Pakistan, was in 2003 found to have traded know-how and technology with Iran, Libya and North Korea. Khan in 2011 made public documents in support of his claim that North Korea had bribed senior officials of Pakistani Army and got them to allow him to share nuclear technology and certain equipment with the pariah nation.
New Delhi received inputs, suggesting that certain nuclear materials supplied to Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission by the Suntech Technology Company Limited of China in the recent years were being diverted to North Korea in violation of the sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council.