Kim’s Russian yatra

Kim Jong-il’s Siberia sojourn is driven by a definite purpose. His decision to travel to Russia for energy talks that are widely being dubbed as the lifeline of geo-economics in the region is quite promising.

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Published: Thu 25 Aug 2011, 9:16 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 6:48 PM

The news that a proposed pipeline from the snowcapped Siberia down to South Korea through the Stalinist state could, indeed, come as a major breakthrough option and tone down the political intrigues is not a small development. The visit, first in almost a decade in his armoured train will long be evaluated for its merits and demerits, as the impoverished nation will recast its priorities with reference to the clandestine nuclear programme, food shortages and energy requirements.

Pyongyang in the last few months has taken a number of bold steps, which have exhibited beyond any doubt that it is eager to end its self-imposed reclusiveness. Its envoys reaching out to the South Korean counterpart in Bali, leading to a formal consensus for restarting dialogue is a case in point. That gesture was upgraded by North Korea as it accepted US Secretary of State’s invitation to have a tête-à-tête in New York, resulting in a number of economic and aid assistance deals. That is what suits Pyongyang as it finds itself in a crisscross of socio-economic mess. Bringing itself out of the shell of isolation is the way out, and luckily Kim has learnt that in the twilight of his career.

At a time when the regime is at the verge of succession, the ‘Dear Leader’s’ decision to open up can go a long way in undoing the decay that had set in and reform its institutions and decision-making apparatus. What Kim has to ensure is that the process of interdependence should be coupled with empowering the lower strata of institutions to make their own choices and drive the country away from straightjacket authoritarianism. It needs to be acknowledged that free flow of men and material is sine qua non for an interactive polity, and this is where North Korea gets the bad press.

Joint socio-economic ventures with neighbours and the erstwhile policy of reunification with Seoul can make the difference. Issues of militarism and enrichment profile have unnecessarily kept Pyongyang in the abyss of poverty and downslide. Kim’s stepping out of it is the way to go ahead.

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