Guwahati: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday cautioned the UN General Assembly (UNGA) about countries with “regressive thinking” that are using terrorism as a “political tool” and called for efforts to ensure no country takes advantage of the “delicate situation” in Afghanistan for “its own selfish interests”. He did not name any county, but he was clearly pointing to Pakistan.
Addressing the UNGA in Hindi, Narendra Modi called for the protection of oceans and ocean resources from the “race for expansion and exclusion” saying they must be used and not abused and they are a lifeline of international trade. Once again, he did not name any country, but this was a clear to China’s increasing aggression in the Indo-Pacific region.
The prime minister also warned the world body about its own diminishing relevance and credibility, reiterating a theme that he called a “crisis of confidence” in 2020. He said several questions are being raised about the UN and other global institutions and mentioned specifically the issue of the origin of the Covid-19 epidemic, which the WHO is widely held to have bungled under pressure from the Chinese, and the ease of Doing Business ranking, which has been suspended by the World Bank over data irregularities.
The Saturday speech was Narendra Modi’s fourth at the UNGA and came after highly successful bilateral meetings with US President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris, Australia’s Scott Morrison and Japan’s Yoshihide Suga in Washington DC. He had also participated in a historic first in-person summit of the Quad group of countries that are focused on protecting the Indo-Pacific from Chinese expansionism.
Without naming Pakistan, the prime minister said there are “countries with regressive thinking that are using terrorism as a political tool; these countries must understand that terrorism is an equally big threat for them.” Pakistan’s continued support of terrorism came up for discussion also at Narendra Modi’s bilateral and Quad meetings in Washington DC.
The prime minister did not respond to charges and allegations levelled by Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan in his speech to the UNGA on Friday, when the Indian leader was in Washington. Khan had railed against India alleging, among other things, of unleashing “a reign of terror” against Muslims. In an official response, Sneha Dubey, a first secretary at the Indian mission to UN, dismissed Khan’s rantings saying Pakistan was “an arsonist disguising itself as a firefighter”.
On Afghanistan, the prime minister said that it was “absolutely essential to ensure that Afghanistan’s territory is not used to spread, terrorism, and for terrorist attacks”. And, he added once against without naming any country but pointing to Pakistan, “we also need to be alert and ensure that no country tries to take advantage of the delicate situation there, and use it as a tool for its own selfish interests”. Pakistan has made no secret of its continued support for the Taliban and has openly flaunted its influence on the new dispensation in Kabul.
The Indian prime minister called upon the world community to extend help to the people of Afghanistan to ensure, among other things, the rights of women, children and the minorities are protected. “We must fulfill our duty by providing them with this help,” he said.
Reminding the assembly that oceans are a shared heritage, Narendra Modi said that “we must only use ocean resources and not abuse them”. And because they are also the lifeline of international trade, the world “must protect them from the race for expansion and exclusion”. “The international community must speak in one voice to strengthen a rule based world order,” he added.
Narendra Modi once again did not name any country, but Chinese aggression in the region and beyond is clearly the subject of his appeal and warning. Beijing has unilaterally extended claims into the Indo-Pacific and has shown no regard for rules and regulations to settle its many maritime disputes.
The prime minister put the world body and the other global institutions under the scanner citing a warning by Indian philosopher and economist Chanakya against not taking timely action: “When the right action is not taken at the right time, then it is time itself that causes the action to fail.”
If the United Nations wants to remain relevant, he said further, “it will need to improve its effectiveness and enhance its reliability. Today, all kinds of questions have been raised about the UN.”
He went to cite the climate crisis, Covid-19 pandemic, “the proxy war” going on in many parts of the world, terrorism.”
Pointing to questions raised in regard to the origin of the Covid-19 pandemic and ease of Doing Business report, Narendra Modi said, “Institutions of global governance have damaged the credibility they had built, which was a result of decades of hard work. It is essential that we constantly strengthen the UN, in order to safeguard global order.”
India has been campaigning for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council as part of a wider reform of the world body.
The prime minister started his speech by updating the assembly members of India’s progress on “the path of integrated equitable development”. (PTI)