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India and Peace Building on Korean Peninsula

Thursday, August 10th, 2017

The election of President Moon Jae-In offers a tremendous opportunity for renewing peace talks for the Korean Peninsula and pursuing a comprehensive vision for security in East Asia that will inspire a generation. However, we can already detect the misunderstandings and miscommunications that fueled grave doubts and conflicts during the previous six party talksduring the administration of President Moon’s previous boss, President Roh Moon-hyun.

Unless President Moon embraces a truly original approach, one that moves beyond the negative impressions surrounding the “Sunshine policy,” he risks spending his entire administration defending himself against attacks from skeptics in Washington, Tokyo and at home in Seoul that will keep him from realizing the grand plans that so many aspire for..

Bringing together the members of the six party talks (South Korea, North Korea, China, Japan Russia and the United States) will not be easy, and if they feel that this is just a repeat of what was tried ten years ago, the difficult negotiations may generate more darkness than light

But what if another party entered the process that could serve as the host for the Six Party Talks, a country that that has good relations with all the nations concerned, but which is not a direct party to the disagreement, a nation that has extensive experience in addressing the sticky issues regarding nonproliferation?

You might ask whether such a nation exists because it sounds too good to be true. But India is exactly that country.

India maintains good relations with North Korea where it has an embassy and it has become an important trade partner as well. At the same time, India has been openly critical of North Korea’s nuclear program and has encouraged real reform on the part of Pyongyang.

India also has long-term ties with China at multiple levels and, although there have been disputes, there has also been immense bilateral cooperation as part of the economic integration known as “Chindia.”The two countries have deep military and diplomatic relations as the two leaders of the developing world.

And Indian engagement with Russia is also broad and deep, offering new potential approaches for expanding the six party talks to deal embrace security concerns in Asia as a whole.

But that is not all. India has not only maintained strong ties with the developing world, but it also shown remarkable innovation and flexibility in forging closer relations with the two players who are most likely to be skeptical of any effort to restart the Six Party Talks: Japan and the United States.

India has engaged in very serious discussions on trade and security with Japan and the United States and both countries are more likely to perceive a deal brokered by India as being in line with their own national interests. Many Six Party Talks skeptics are big India boosters.

Finally, India has strong economic, ties with South Korea as represented by the free trade agreement and the large investment of Korean firms in India. India can approach Korea in a manner that few nations can as an honest broker and long-term partner.

Let us imagine if we held the next Six Party Talk in New Delhi—what would be the consequences? Not only would the curry be delicious, the talks would be held by neutral nation which is respected by all members of the talks. That shift alone could completely change the mood.

Indiais a perfect place for serious talks as it is the birthplace of the Buddha and of Gandhi, two of the greatest peace makers.
As the leader of the non-aligned movement for sixty years, India brings a gravitas to the discussion that cannot be found elsewhere. And as one of the fastest growing economies in the world, India is the future for all of us.

New Delhi has expressed regrets over Pyongyang’s nuclear program, but it has no historical axes to grind and sees peace on the Korean peninsula as the key to a broader move for peace throughout the region.
The threat of conflict is a major concern for India, a nation that has the most to benefit from equitable integration. India has strong economic and diplomatic ties with both Koreas and both Korea’s would feel quite at ease in New Delhi.

Also, India has been burnishing its diplomatic credentials and is perfectly positioned to give fresh impetus to the rather tired debate on the North Korean problem.

Under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Modi, India finds itself well positioned to convey the message of peace to the Korean peninsula, and to do so in a manner that inspires the participants to open their eyes and their minds.

As India’s first internationalist, the Buddha, said,

“You cannot travel the path until you have become the path itself”.

Emanuel Pastreich is director of Asia Institute in Seoul

Lakhvinder Singh is director of peace program at the Asia Institute in Seoul


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