United Nations, April 29 : (IANS) India violated the UN Security Council sanctions on North Korea last year, sometimes even going against its own government orders, by importing metals worth $2.2 million and exporting jewellery valued at more than $578,000, according the UN panel monitoring the sanctions. Some of the imports and exports continued even after the Indian government issued a notification banning them in March last year.
The panel of experts established by the Council said in a recent report that it found that between January and September last year India had imported iron and steel valued at $1.4 million, iron and steel products worth $234,000, copper worth $233,000 and $526,000 of zinc, ignoring the sanctions.
India also exported jewellery worth $578,994, which included diamonds valued at $514,823, between January and June.
“All exports (from North Korea) after 4 September 2017 violated paragraph 8 of resolution 2371 (2017), while those before 4 September 2017 violated paragraph 26 of resolution 2321 (2016),” the report said.
Those resolutions demand that countries prohibit the import of iron and iron ore from North Korea.
A 2013 resolution expressly banned export of precious and semi-precious stones to North Korea.
In contrast to its dealings with North Korea, India has in other cases strongly supported strict implementation of Council sanctions and in some cases called for more stringent actions, especially relating to terrorism, and criticised countries opposing those restrictions.
The iron imports continued even after March last year when India’s Directorate General of Foreign Trade imposed restrictions on importing iron and iron ore from North Korea, even as it said the sanctions lacked clarity, according to a note from India’s UN Mission to the sanctions panel last July.
“Pending clarity on this issue, national implementation of the measures contained in UNSC resolutions 2270 (2016) and 2321 (2016) relating to iron and iron-ore was nevertheless carried out by Government of India through a notification issued by the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) on 21 March 2017,” it said.
The identities of those who imported from North Korea or exported to it were not included in the report and it is not known if the Indian government took action against those who made the imports in violation of its orders in March or if an investigation is under way.
A UN source familiar with its sanctions monitoring told IANS that India had not provided details about the importers and exporters and the report relied on trade data compiled by the UN and proprietary information from organisations that gather commercial information on trade.
New Delhi reiterated its commitment to implement the sanctions in a report India’s UN Mission sent last month to Karel Van Oosterom, the Netherlands Permanent Representative who chairs the Council’s North Korea Sanctions Committee.
Indian authorities “will ensure that the relevant provisions” of the Council sanctions will be “implemented in letter and spirit,” the report declared.
It said that an order issued on March 5 by the External Affairs Ministry would implement the sanctions relating to North Korea and a notification was issued on March 7 by the DGFT to regulate trade with North Korea to conform to the sanctions.
Big spurts in imports were noticed in August and September just as efforts were under way in the Security Council to tighten sanctions after Pyongyang carried out missile tests, a UN source familiar with the sanctions process told IANS.
Suddenly the iron and steel imports rose from $69,577 in July to $281,000 in August and $487,000 in September, and iron and steel products import went up to $21,000 in September, the source pointed out.
In case of copper, there was again a spurt, from $13,990 in June to $47,000 in August and $152,000 in September.
The sanctions panel’s report to the Council referred to an earlier explanation sent in July by India about the violations that it blamed on a lack of clarity about the sanctions.
That communication from India’s UN Mission asserted that “there was no clarity regarding the scope of the measures related to iron and iron ore since there was no elaboration/explanation of the word ‘iron’ and ‘iron ore’.”
It also asked for “clarity” regarding the items banned, including luxury goods.
A UN official told IANS that sanctions monitors had given India details on how various countries had dealt with the definitions of materials in the sanctions as well as the World Customs Organisation’s codes identifying the products.
India could have more credibly invoked a clause that permits some imports “exclusively for livelihood purposes” that was used, for example, by Russia, the official said.
The July communication said that in March last year, India had tightened the ban on trade with North Korea.
The notification of the ban from the DGFT (Notification No. 41/2015-2020; 21 March 2017) mentioned the Council resolutions and specifically mentioned import of iron ore and export of luxury items (which included jewelry and diamonds).
As regards the assertion in the report about the bans requiring “due legal process for incorporating them in domestic law,” an official pointed out that the UN Charter takes precedence and requires compliance.
(Arul Louis can be reached at [email protected] )