Making the social programmes of his government and its governance the centrepiece of his address to the United Nations General Assembly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Friday said India’s achievements on sanitation, health insurance, bank accounts, digital identification are an “inspiration to the entire world”, especially “those countries striving for development, each in their own way”.
While much of his address was devoted to India’s ambitious targets — from conservation of water and its availability in 150 million homes to 20 million houses for the poor, elimination of single-use plastic to eradication of tuberculosis five years ahead of the 2030 global target — the Prime Minister, without naming Pakistan, described terrorism as one of the biggest challenges for not just India but the entire world, and said the international community must stand united against terror.
Speaking in Hindi, Modi said: “Hum uss desh ke waasi hain jisne duniya ko yuddh nahin, Buddh diya hai, shanti ka sandesh diya hai (We belong to a country which has given the world not war but Buddha, and the message of peace).” He said if there’s any country that has made the biggest sacrifice in UN peacekeeping missions, it is India.
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Much of the Prime Minister’s address at the UNGA was devoted to the strides India is making at home, be it the campaign against single-use plastic or Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, and globally, as a lead player in solar and renewable energy. Pushing for multilateralism, Modi also highlighted India’s contribution in peacekeeping and combating climate change.
Pointing to lack of unanimity on the issue of terrorism, he said: “We believe that this is one of the biggest challenges, not for any single country, but for the entire world and humanity. The lack of unanimity amongst us on the issue of terrorism dents those very principles that are the basis for the creation of the UN.”
Invoking Tamil philosopher Kaniyan Pungundranar and Swami Vivekananda to seek collective action against global challenges, he said harmony and peace is the message of the world’s largest democracy to the rest of the world. “About 3,000 years ago, a great poet of India, whose name was Kaniyan Pungundranar, wrote in Tamil, which is the most ancient language of the world: “Yaadhum Oore Yaavarum Kelir”. This means, we belong to all places, and we belong to everyone. And this is something that was said 3,000 years ago. This sense of belonging beyond borders is unique to India.”
He urged the international community to give a new direction to multilateralism. He said as the world is going through a new era, the countries do not have the option to confine themselves within their boundaries. “A divided world is in no one’s interest. We must give a thrust to multilateralism and reforming the United Nations.”
Modi peppered his speech with his slogans of New India and Sabka Saath. “How have we been able to achieve this, such rapid changes in New India? India is a great culture, has its own vibrant traditions, and has encompassed universal peace. Our values and culture see divinity in every being and strive for welfare of all. The very core of our approach is public welfare through public participation. And this public welfare is not for India, but for the entire world. And that is the reason, we draw inspiration from our motto, Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas.” And this, he said, applies beyond borders as well.
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He spoke on India’s leadership role among developing countries which form the bulk of the 193-member United Nations. “Our endeavours are an expression of neither pity nor pretence. It is inspired by a sense of duty and duty alone. All our endeavours centre on 1.3 billion people. But the dreams that these efforts are trying to fulfill, the same dreams that the entire world has, every country and every society has.”
“The efforts are ours, but the fruits are for the entire world. And this conviction gets stronger everyday when I think of those countries striving for development, each in their own way… When I hear about their joys and sorrows, my resolve to develop my country at a faster pace gets even stronger. Because India’s experience will be beneficial to these countries as well,” he said.
On global warming, the Prime Minister said that even though India’s contribution to global warming in terms of per-capita emissions is very low, it is at the forefront of the response against it. He highlighted steps taken by his government to fight climate change, including the 450 GW of renewable energy target and the formation of the International Solar Alliance.