UN General Assembly: From Rohingya crisis to India-Pakistan spat, five key takeaways from 2017 edition

At a time when the world is grappling with the escalating nuclear threat from North Korea and witnessing the mass exodus of persecuted Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar, the world leaders all gathered in New York for the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), that runs from 12-29 September, to try and come up with possible solutions to tackle or control the issues at hand.

 UN General Assembly: From Rohingya crisis to India-Pakistan spat, five key takeaways from 2017 edition

Representational image. Reuters

Other long-term challenges, like terrorism and climate change, have also become pressing concerns, especially since Donald Trump took charge as the US president — with his decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord and his contentious accusations against other member states like Iran of harbouring terrorists.

Meanwhile, India and Pakistan resumed their tennis-match of accusations as both the countries engaged in an open war of words, accusing and counter-accusing each other of human rights violations.

Here are the five key issues discussed at the 2017 United Nations Global Assembly:

North Korea and the Trump-Kim 'death' Tango

North Korea’s continued defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions and the heated exchanges between Kim Jong-un and Trump has probably escalated the situation into an uncontrollable downward spiral.

Speaking at his first ever speech at the UN, Trump upped the ante when he vowed to "totally destroy North Korea" if the United States forced to defend itself or its allies against the renegade nation's nuclear weapons program, making his case in a combative debut speech to the United Nations that laid out a stark, good-vs-evil view of a globe riven by chaos and turmoil.

'Rocket Man' will be met with 'fire and fury'

Trump branded Kim "Rocket Man" and threatened to "totally destroy North Korea" in his UN speech. Washington followed on Thursday by announcing tougher sanctions on North Korea.

Trump had earlier threatened Pyongyang with "fire and fury".

Trump has traded tough rhetoric with Pyongyang as it pushed an increasingly brazen weapons program in recent months, with missile launches and its sixth and largest nuclear test.

Trump warned "madman" Kim that he would be "tested". "Kim Jong-Un of North Korea, who is obviously a madman who doesn't mind starving or killing his people, will be tested like never before!" Trump had said in a tweet after his speech.

In response, North Korea said that targeting the United States mainland with its rockets was inevitable after "Mr Evil President" Donald Trump called Pyongyang’s leader "rocket man", further escalating rhetoric over the North’s nuclear weapons and missile programmes.

Trump on a 'suicide mission'

US president Donald Trump addresses the United Nations General Assembly. Reuters

US president Donald Trump addresses the United Nations General Assembly. Reuters

North Korean foreign minister Ri Yong Ho dubbed Trump "a mentally deranged person full of megalomania and complacency" who is trying to turn the United Nations into a "gangsters’ nest". Ri said Trump himself was on a "suicide mission" after the US president had said Kim was on such a mission.

Earlier this month the UN Security Council had unanimously adopted its ninth round of sanctions on Pyongyang to counter its nuclear and ballistic missiles programmes, but North Korea has been defiant in its approach.

North Korea has launched dozens of missiles this year, several flying over Japan, as it accelerates its program aimed at enabling it to target the United States with a nuclear-tipped missile.

Pyongyang conducted its sixth and largest nuclear test on 3 September and has threatened to test a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific.

Needless to say, the threat of nuclear annihilation featured prominently at this year's UNGA.

Enter Trump

Addressing the General Assembly is a milestone moment for any president, but one particularly significant for Trump, a relative newcomer to the foreign policy who has at times rattled the international community with his unpredictability.

An anxious group of leaders inside the UN headquarters waited along with the rest of the world to hear how the US president will reshape Washington's role in global affairs.

Trump, who has been sharply critical of the United Nations in the past, denouncing its "utter weakness and incompetence", chalked one up for the nationalists with his rather direct speech.

Among the many signals that Trump sent in his speech to the United Nations, one was especially clear: former chief strategist Steve Bannon’s White House departure has not muted the president’s “America First” foreign policy instincts.

Trump’s strident defence of national sovereignty during his debut speech showed his campaign-honed policy inclinations very much intact and presented a Trump Doctrine to the world that focused unabashedly on the US homeland.

The speech divided Trump’s supporters and opponents.

But despite his well-known penchant for blunt talk, Trump seemed to stun some people in the General Assembly Hall. His speech included a condemnation of the Iran nuclear agreement reached with US allies under Barrack Obama, and an observation that some portions of the world were “going to hell”.

While Trump's speech was replete with warnings for the 'reckless' North Korea, a small part of his speech was interesting for India and its not-so-friendly-neighbour Pakistan, as this Firstpost piece elucidates.

"Even though Trump's bold debut speech is indicative of his stand on terrorism and 'loser terrorists', it reflects where the nation stands as far as Pakistan is concerned. That Trump, who seems to operate solely in black and white, stops short of going all the way in criticising Pakistan does India no favours," the report says.

Rohingya crisis

The United Nations appealed to the entire international community to keep the political differences aside and support the ongoing humanitarian efforts to help Rohingya Muslim refugees.

France, Britain, the United States and four other countries asked the UN Security Council to meet and discuss the ongoing violence in Myanmar, according to a request seen by AFP.

UNited Nations. Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The seven countries including Egypt, Kazakhstan, Senegal and Sweden want Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to brief the council on Myanmar's military campaign against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state.

The United Nations said that more than 4,20,000 Rohingya have fled for safety to Bangladesh in the face of the army campaign in Rakhine that includes rape and the burning of villages.

The security council has called for an end to the violence but rights organisations have said the exodus has continued, fuelling international outrage.

The UN has described the military operation as "ethnic cleansing" and French president Emmanuel Macron went further, describing it as "genocide."

The UN said that it would need $200 million over the next six months to face the "catastrophic" influx of more than 4,20,000 Rohingya refugees to Bangladesh.

India stressed on the restoration of normalcy in Myanmar's Rakhine state and called for the situation to be handled with restraint. Meanwhile, China announced that it will donate $147,000 towards the peace process.

Trump urged the UN Security Council to take "strong and swift action" to bring Myanmar's Rohingya crisis to an end, calling the violence there a threat to the region and beyond.

India-Pakistan war of words

At the UN, India and Pakistan engaged in a war of words ignited by the latter's Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

In his maiden address to the UN General Assembly on Thursday, Abbasi accused India of indulging in terror activities against his country and warned of a "matching response" if it "ventures across the LoC (Line of Control)" or acts upon its doctrine of limited war against Pakistan.

"The Kashmir dispute should be resolved justly, peacefully and expeditiously. As India is unwilling to resume the peace process with Pakistan, we call on the Security Council to fulfil its obligation to secure the implementation of its own resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir," he added.

He said despite over 600 ceasefire violations on the India-Pakistan border since January 2017, Pakistan has acted with restraint.

Abbasi, who assumed office a few months ago, mentioned Kashmir a total of 17 times and India 14 times among other things in his speech.

Abbasi demanded an international investigation into the alleged atrocities in Kashmir and sending of an inquiry commission to Jammu and Kashmir in order to secure the punishment of those "responsible of human rights violation" and provide justice and relief to victims.

India hits back

In a strongly-worded counter to Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi's statement in the United Nations General Assembly, India said that Pakistan has become 'synonymous with terror' and said that the world 'does not need lessons on democracy and human rights' from it.

"In its short history, Pakistan has become a geography synonymous with terror. The quest for a land of pure has actually produced 'the land of pure terror'. Pakistan is now Terroristan," said the Indian statement made in its right of reply to the UN on Thursday. The statement was made by Eenam Gambir, India's First Secretary to the United Nations.

Sushma Swaraj addressing the United Nations General Assembly. AP

Sushma Swaraj addressing the UN General Assembly. AP

She said that Pakistan's counter-terrorism policy is to mainstream and upstream terrorists by either providing safe havens to global terror leaders in its military town or protecting them with "political careers".

Continuing the onslaught, India's external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj’s in her speech at UN called Pakistan an “export factory for terror”. Her speech drew sharp reactions from the country’s media, who termed it a “vicious attack on Pakistan”.

In her address, Swaraj asked Pakistani leaders to introspect as to why India is recognised as a global IT superpower, while Pakistan is infamous as the "pre-eminent export factory for terror".

Swaraj further accused Pakistan of waging war against India and said a country that has been the world's greatest exporter of havoc, death and inhumanity became a champion of hypocrisy by preaching about humanity from this podium.

Climate change

The UNGA was held in the backdrop of a series of droughts, floods and hurricanes in the past month.  With hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Jose hitting the US and given the deadly floods in Southeast Asia and Nigeria, climate change featured prominently in the UNGA.

Trump’s top economic adviser said at a UN meeting that the US stood by its plans to abandon the Paris climate pact unless there is a renegotiation more favourable to Washington, a step for which the international community has little appetite.

Trump in June announced that the US would withdraw from the landmark 2015 accord, saying it would harm US industries, cost US jobs, weaken American national sovereignty and put the country at a permanent disadvantage to other nations. He also raised the possibility of renegotiating it.

"While some continue to doubt the scientific assessments, the facts of climate change are impossible to deny," the President of Saint Lucia told the UN General Assembly, echoing other leaders from the region who detailed the havoc extreme weather events are wreaking on their homelands and people.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Sep 25, 2017 14:11:17 IST

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