Govt defends ties with North Korea in talks with Tillerson

NEW DELHI: India’s foreign minister defended the country’s ties with North Korea and Iran during talks on Wednesday with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson aimed at building robust relations between the two giant democracies. The Trump administration has launched a new US effort to deepen military and economic ties with India.
At the talks with Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, both sides pledged to strengthen anti-terrorism cooperation and Tillerson said Washington stood ready to provide India with advanced military technology.
“The United States supports India’s emergence as a leading power and will continue to contribute to Indian capabilities to provide security throughout the region,” Tillerson told a joint news conference with Swaraj.
But the talks also touched on India’s diplomatic ties with North Korea, Swaraj said, at a time when the United States has stepped up efforts to isolate Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile programmes.
Swaraj said she told the top US diplomat that some level of diplomatic presence was necessary to keep open channels of communication.
“As far as the question of embassy goes, our embassy there is very small, but there is in fact an embassy,” she said.
“I told Secretary Tillerson that some of their friendly countries should maintain embassies there so that some channels of communication are kept open.”
India and North Korea maintain diplomatic offices in each other’s capitals, though New Delhi recently banned trade of most goods with the country, except food and medicine. Trade was minimal, Swaraj said.
Tillerson, who flew in from Pakistan which he called an important US ally in the restive region, also held talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is driving closer ties with the United States.
India has also maintained ties with Iran which is being targeted by the Trump administration.
India has long sourced its oil from Iran, but in recent years the two sides have been also collaborating on key infrastructure projects.
But Tillerson struck a conciliatory stance on India’s ties with Iran, saying it wouldn’t come in the way of countries doing legitimate business there.
“It is not our objective to harm the Iranian people nor is it our objective to interfere with legitimate business activities that are going on with other businesses, whether they be from Europe, India or agreements that are in place or promote economic development and activity to the benefit of our friends and allies,” he said.
Tillerson said the US stood should-to-shoulder with India in the fight against terrorism.
He said militant groups were a threat to everyone in the region, including Pakistan itself.
“Quite frankly my view — and I expressed this to the leadership of Pakistan — is we also are concerned about the stability and security of Pakistan’s government as well.”
— Reuters