The External Affairs Ministry on Thursday discarded the article titled 'India's embarrassing North Korean connection' by Nilanjana Bhowmick in Al Jazeera, a Doha-based broadcaster, saying the insinuation regarding New Delhi's assistance to North Korea in United Nations proscribed activities is 'baseless and without any merit.'
MEA official spokesperson Vikas Swarup said the UN Panel of Experts that deals with the UN sanctions on Democratic People's Republic of Korea has made references in its report to DPRK's participation in courses in the Dehradun-based Centre for Space Science and Technology Education in Asia and the Pacific 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 DPRK. Further, a representative of the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs 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 India is fully aware of its obligations under the UN Charter and has been exemplary in its implementation of UN sanctions including those related to DPRK.
"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.
The report claimed that Hong Yong-il, the North Korean embassy’s new first secretary to India, stayed in the country for nine months In 1996, studying a course in remote sensing technology at the Centre for Space Science and Technology Education in Asia and the Pacific (CSSTEAP).
"Dehradun is a very quiet town," Al Jazeera quoted Hong as saying in an interview. He reportedly said: "The course was very informative, the teachers were very good."
The report said that Hong was one of the first students North Korea had sent to train at the centre, set up by the United Nations in 1995, to impart expertise in space science & technology application.
It claimed that North Korea had sent at least 30 students to train at the institute. Two of its students are still currently studying there and one of whom is affiliated with the National Aerospace Development Administration, which, the report said, plays a key role in the country's nuclear development programme.
“It (North Korea) kept sending scientists and space employees, even after the UN issued the first set of nuclear sanctions in 2006, prohibiting member countries from providing technical training to North Korea,” the report claimed.
India is reportedly due to present a detailed report to an UN advisory committee on the issue.
"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," Aljazeera quoted Nicholas Eberstadt, a political economist at the American Enterprise Institute think-tank, as saying.
"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," he added.