Reading India and world, through PMs’ speeches

Reading India and world, through PMs’ speeches

UNGA speeches aren’t usually epoch-making. But looking back, they do give a fascinating glimpse into India’s changing sense of itself on the world stage.


INDIRA GANDHI, 1983: India as Third-World Spokesperson

Faced with the Punjab insurgency, a sputtering economy, and criticism over corruption at home, she cast herself as spokesperson for the have-nots

On Economy: Even the modest expectations of our peoples are far beyond our present means… We are hard put to preserve our independence because of the many economic, political and military pressures… The present world economic order is based on domination and inequality.

On Global security: A golden opportunity exists for Israel to… obtain true peace… Borders (with Arabs) should no longer become marked by trenches, barbed wire and barricades… This relentless search for ever-increasingly barbaric weapons systems is undertaken in the name of security.

RAJIV GANDHI, 1988: India as Global Leader


He spoke after Operation Brasstacks, which the Pak military read as a plan for a massive armoured thrust to cut their country in two. Pak responded by threatening the use of nuclear weapons, which Rajiv took very seriously.

On Nukes: We propose that all nuclear weapons be leached of legitimacy by negotiating an international convention which outlaws (their) threat or use… (Need) a binding commitment… to eliminating nuclear weapons by the year 2010 at the latest.

On New Order: Technological revolutions of our century have created unparalleled wealth… There is plenty for everyone, provided distribution is made more equitable. Yet… resources which could give fulfillment in life are pre-empted for death.


ATAL BIHARI  VAJPAYEE, 2002: The Challenge of Terror

Spoke in Hindi, a first. He also addressed a world transformed by 9/11, and said he would negotiate on Kashmir only after terrorism stopped.

On Pakistan: (Gen Pervez Musharraf) has offered to encourage a general cessation of violence in return for “reciprocal obligations and restraints”. We totally refuse to let terrorism become a tool of blackmail. Just as the world did not negotiate with al-Qaeda or the Taliban, we shall not negotiate with terrorism… When the cross-border terrorism stops — or when we eradicate it — we can have a dialogue with Pakistan on the other issues between us.


MANMOHAN SINGH, 2011: The Global Economic Meltdown

Already hailed as the man who dragged India out of decades of slow growth into an unprecedented boom, he was applauded for having protected India from the global financial crisis.

On the Financial Crisis: Till a few years ago the world had taken for granted the benefits of globalisation and global interdependence. Today we are being called upon to cope with their negative dimensions… The world economy is in trouble. The shoots of recovery which were visible after the economic and financial crisis of 2008 have yet to blossom.