Narendra Modi at UNGA: 'If we don’t change, drive needed for it will weaken'; PM seeks UN reforms, wants bigger decision-making role for India
Reaffirming India's 'faith and respect' in the United Nations, Modi said that the country has been 'waiting for a long time' for a 'logical conclusion' to the process of reforms in the UN.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday addressed the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and said that "reform in the responses, in the processes, and in the very character of the UN is the need of the hour", especially in the context of the coronavirus pandemic.
He also made a strong pitch for India to be given a more decisive role in the decision-making processes of the global body, given that the country makes up for over 18 percent of the world's population. He also listed out India's achievements as a member of the international community and highlighted the welfare schemes introduced by the Centre.
Posing a question on the UN's relevance and role in the challenges faced by humankind presently, Modi said that while the organisation can claim several "stellar achievements", there is a need for "serious introspection" on the work done by it.
"With the changing times, if we don’t change, then the drive needed to bring change will also get weakened," the prime minister said.
"One could say that we have successfully avoided a third World War. But we cannot deny that there have been several wars and many more civil wars. Several terrorist attacks shook the world and rivers of blood have continued to flow by. Hundreds and thousands of children, who would have otherwise enriched this world with their presence, have left us prematurely," Modi added.
Notably, the prime minister didn't make any references to Pakistan and India's concern of cross-border terrorism in his speech. On Friday, Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan had raked up the Kashmir issue at the forum, which got a sharp retort from India.
Delivering India's Right of Reply in the UNGA, First Secretary in the Permanent Mission of India to the UN Mijito Vinito said that "only crowning glory" that Pakistan has to show to the world for the last seven decades is terrorism, ethnic cleansing, majoritarian fundamentalism and clandestine nuclear trade,
The strong rebuttal came after Khan spoke about India's internal affairs, including the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, during his pre-recorded video statement at the high-level General Debate. Vinito, who was sitting at India's seat in the UN General Assembly hall for the General Debate, walked out when Khan started his usual "diatribe" about India.
However, Modi, in his speech on Saturday, chose to focus on the world's and India's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused one million casualties and disrupted lives around the world for the last six months.
Questioning the UN's role in mitigating the effects of the pandemic, Modi said, "Where is the United Nations in this joint fight against the pandemic? Where is its effective response?"
Detailing India's contribution to the global fight against the pandemic, Modi said that the country's pharmaceutical industry sent "essential medicines" to more than 150 countries.
He also stated, "As the largest vaccine producing country of the world, I want to give one more assurance to the global community today. India’s vaccine production and delivery capacity will be used to help all humanity in fighting this crisis."
"India will also help all the countries in enhancing their cold chain and storage capacities for the delivery of the vaccines," Modi the prime minister said.
'How long will India be kept out of decision-making?' asks Modi
Reaffirming India's "faith and respect" in the United Nations, Modi said that the country has been "waiting for a long time" for a "logical conclusion" to the process of reforms in the UN.
"Today, people of India are concerned whether this reform-process will ever reach its logical conclusion. For how long will India be kept out of the decision-making structures of the United Nations?" he questioned.
He added that India, with the largest democracy in the world, has been a "leading global economy for centuries" and also "endured hundreds of years of foreign rule".
Modi said, "When we were strong, we were never a threat to the world, when we were weak, we never become a burden on the world.
"How long would a country have to wait particularly when the transformational changes happening in that country affect a large part of the world?"
The prime minister also drew parallels between the founding principles of the UN and India's "fundamental philosophy".
"Within the halls of the United Nations, one has often heard the words 'Vasudhev Kutumkambh', meaning 'the world is one family'. In the United Nations too, India has always given priority to the welfare of the whole world," he said.
Asserting that Indians are aspiring for the country to play an "expanded role" in the global body's efforts, Modi said, "India is the country, which sent its brave soldiers to about 50 peacekeeping missions the world over to keep peace. India is that country, which in the course of maintaining peace, has lost the maximum number of its brave soldiers."
Modi lauds 'Neighbourhood First', 'Act East' policies
Hailing the Centre's neighbourhood-centric policies, Modi said that "any gesture of friendship by India towards one country is not directed against any third country."
"When India strengthens its development partnership, it is not with any malafide intent of making the partner country dependent or hapless," he said.
"From India’s Neighbourhood First Policy to our Act East Policy, as well as the idea of Security and Growth for All in the Region, or our views towards the Indo Pacifc region, we have always worked for the interests of humankind and not driven by our own self-interests," Modi said.
India will contribute 'rich developmental experience' as member of UNSC, says Modi
In his speech, Modi also noted that from January 2021, India will join the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) as a non-permanent member and expressed "gratitude to all fellow members states who have bestowed this trust upon India".
He said, "As the world’s largest democracy we will bring our years of rich developmental experience for the benefit of the whole world. Our way forward is to proceed from human welfare to the welfare of the world."
Speaking about India's agenda as a member of the UNSC, he said, "India will always speak in support of peace, security and prosperity. India will not hesitate in raising its voice against the enemies of humanity, human race and human values – these include terrorism, smuggling of illegal weapons, drugs and money-laundering.
"India’s cultural heritage, tradition, thousands of years of experience will always stand in good stead for the developing countries."
Towards the end of his speech, Modi spoke in detail about the welfare schemes introduced domestically by his government. He added that the "Reform-Perform-Transform mantra has made great efforts to bring about transformation in the lives of millions of its citizens."
He hailed the Centre's efforts to make banking facilities accessible, to free people from open defecation, and to provide free healthcare services in the last 6 years, among others.
In conclusion, Modi said, "I am confident that on the occasion of its 75th anniversary, the United Nations and its member countries will endeavour with a strong commitment to maintain the relevance of this great institution.
"Stability in the United Nations and empowerment of the United Nations are essential for the welfare of the world. On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, let us once again pledge to dedicate ourselves for the welfare of the world."
With inputs from agencies
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