India’s ‘Act East’ Policy Towards the Two Koreas: Issues and Challenges

Dr Ranjit Kumar Dhawan is Assistant Professor (ad-hoc) of Korean Studies in the Department of East Asian Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, at the University of Delhi, India.
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  • September 2018

    The Narendra Modi government after coming to power in May 2014 initiated the ‘Act East’ policy to further enhance New Delhi’s engagement with the countries of the Asia-Pacific region. However, India’s engagement with the two Koreas has not seen any significant improvement under the Modi government. North Korea’s isolationist policies and its involvement with India’s neighbouring countries with regard to the proliferation of nuclear and missile technologies have proved detrimental for relations between New Delhi and Pyongyang. Following the United Nations Security Council resolutions India has restricted its trade relations with North Korea since 2017, except for food and medical assistance to this reclusive state. On the other hand, India’s interest in South Korea also appears to have waned as bilateral trade relations have not witnessed any dramatic improvement in recent years. Despite South Korea’s claims of being a ‘middle power’ country, its reluctance to take a stand on several issues that concern India has diminished hopes for further improvement in relations between New Delhi and Seoul. This article seeks to discuss the issues and challenges that hamper the improvement of relations between India and the two Koreas in the context of the Modi government’s ‘Act East’ policy.