The article reveals that there are two students from North Korea currently training at the centre and one of them is “affiliated with the National Aerospace Development Administration.” Photograph: (Getty)
Amid North Korea’s recent claim it successfully tested a Musudan missile and India’s dream of joining the Nuclear Supplies Group (NSG), the article ‘India’s embarrassing North Korean connection’ by Nilanjana Bhowmick has stirred controversy. The India's MEA or the ministry of external affairs has weighed in to dispute the claims in it, calling the Bhowmick article “baseless” and “without any merit”.
Delhi has denied Bhowmick's claim that India had violated UN sanctions by aiding North Korea. The report featured in Doha-based Al-Jazeera says that 30 North Korean students had been trained at a research centre run by the Indian government, and that many of these students have gone on to occupy high positions in Pyongyang.
In her article, Bhowmick interviews the North Korean embassy’s new first secretary to India, Hong Yong-il, at his South Delhi residence, where he reveals that this was not his first visit to India.
“In 1996, he stayed in the country for nine months, studying a course in remote sensing technology at the Centre for Space Science and Technology Education in Asia and the Pacific (CSSTEAP),” she writes.
The Centre, located about 155 miles from the Indian capital, is affiliated to the United Nations. The article states that Yong-il was one of its first students from North Korea.
The article reveals that there are two students from North Korea currently training at the centre and one of them is “affiliated with the National Aerospace Development Administration”.
The article claims that North Korea continued sending scientists and space employees even after the UN issued its 2006 nuclear sanctions that barred countries from imparting technical training to North Korea. Bhowmick's article says that this came to light in an annual report to the UN Security Council “only in March 2016”.
“The repeated applications by North Korea, the report said, indicates the courses were relevant to its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile development programme,” the article says.
According to an ANI report, MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup has said that the UN panel of experts that deals with the UN sanctions on North Korea has made references in its report to Democratic People's Republic of Korea's (DPRK) participation in courses in CSSTEAP which could have implications for its proscribed activities.
"The report is subjective and based on the limited understanding of the expert(s) who have authored it. India has made its position clear in this regard to the UN Security Council. The topics covered in the courses offered by CSSTEAP are very general and cover basic principles in the respective areas," he said.
"The course material offered to the participants is available in open-source. We believe that these courses are unlikely to contribute in any way to a violation of the various UN sanctions pertaining to Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Further, a representative of the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs (UN-OOSA) is a permanent observer in the governing board of the centre.
The advisory committee of the centre, which evaluates and reviews the course curriculum and criterion for the selection of candidates, is chaired by the Director of UN-OOSA," he added.
Swarup further said that India is aware of its obligations under the UN Charter and has been exemplary in its implementation of UN sanctions, including those related to North Korea. "As a country that has been a victim of proliferation in its extended neighbourhood, it is ridiculous to suggest that India has in any way aided the violation of UN sanctions on DPRK," he said.
(WION with input from ANI)
The external affairs ministry said the report to UNSC mentioned in the Al-Jazeera article was prepared with 'limited understanding'