Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered a firm first speech at the United Nations on Saturday, telling Pakistan to create an “appropriate environment” for serious bilateral dialogue “without the shadow of terrorism”.
Speaking in Hindi, Modi gave two minutes of his half-hour speech to dismiss Pakistani demand for a plebiscite in Kashmir, saying “raising issues in this forum is not the way to make progress towards resolving issues between our two countries”.
The PM did not directly refer to Nawaz Sharif, who had attacked India on Kashmir in his speech to the forum Friday, but asserted that Pakistan must take its responsibility seriously to create an appropriate environment for a bilateral dialogue to promote friendship and cooperation.
While he spoke inside, Modi’s supporters outside the United Nations far outnumbered those shouting slogans for Azad Kashmir. Gitesh Desai, an Indian engineer who had flown in from Texas to cheer the Prime Minister said, “This is the moment for Narendra Modi to step on to the world stage and we all wanted to come to New York and be a part of it.’’
The crowd, comprising almost equal number of men and women, carried placards with messages like “New York loves Modi”, “America loves Modi” and chanted “Modi, Modi” slogans. People, carrying flags of India and the US, were seen playing conch and drums.
A 75-year old supporter Satish Malhotra said that he has been here for 40 years and hads never seen such support and enthusiasm for any Indian leader.
Modi’s address was conversational but the message was tough. He spoke of fighting global terrorism and said there was a need to strengthen the United Nations or it faces the risk of becoming “irrelevant”.
He spoke about the distinction others were trying to make between “good terrorism” and “bad terrorism” and, in an indirect reference to Pakistan, said that many countries were allowing terrorist sanctuaries on their territory or using terrorism as an instrument of state policy.
In a clear reference to China, he said even without any major wars, there was an absence of real peace. “An integrating Asia-Pacific region is still concerned about maritime security that is fundamental to its future,” he said. Maritime security has been listed as a priority area during his Washington meeting with President Barak Obama.
If the Ministry of External Affairs had yesterday indicated that the PM’s address at the UNGA would be “forward looking” some sections of it indeed were. He spoke about space and cyberspace being the new instruments of prosperity but how they could also turn into the new “theatre of conflicts”.
Modi listed three areas in a sort of charter of demand: for the United Nations to adopt the comprehensive convention on international terrorism, adopt a post-2015 development agenda and, finally in typical Modi style, for the world community to celebrate an international yoga day.