New Delhi: The External Affairs Ministry on Thursday rejected a claim made in a news article of a leading global media house that India has trained North Korean students on classified space technology.
The Aljazeera's article, titled “India's embarrassing North Korean connection” and authored by Nilanjana Bhowmick, claimed that a government research centre in Dehradun had imparted training to North Korean students on high-tech space technologies.
Sharply reacting to the article, MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup said “Insinuation in the article regarding India's assistance to North Korea's UN proscribed activities is baseless and without merit.”
According to the article, “a research centre in Dehradun is under scrutiny after the revelation that it trained North Korean scientists”.
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.
The report quoted RP Singh, a former Indian ambassador to North Korea (2002-2004), as saying "India won't knowingly violate US sanctions".