In his first speech at the United Nations General Assembly as External Affairs Minister, S Jaishankar Saturday night framed India’s position as a country “prepared to take up greater responsibilities”.
He said that in these turbulent times, the world listens to “more voices of reason” and experiences “more acts of goodwill”. “India is willing and able on both counts,” he told the 77th session of the UNGA, the showpiece annual event of the UN.
“India is prepared to take up greater responsibilities. But it seeks at the same time to ensure that the injustice faced by the Global South is decisively addressed… In these turbulent times, it is essential that the world listens to more voices of reason. And experiences more acts of goodwill. India is willing and able on both counts,” he said.
He also brought up the priority areas of India’s G20 presidency: “As we begin the G20 presidency this December, we are sensitive to the challenges faced by developing countries.
India will work with other G20 members to address serious issues of debt, of economic growth, food and energy security and particularly of environment. The reform of governance of multilateral financial institutions will continue to be one of our core priorities.”
In a message reiterating Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s message from the Red Fort this Independence Day, Jaishankar outlined the “five pledges” on the 75th year of India’s independence.
“The year 2022 is an important milestone in India’s journey towards growth, development and prosperity. This ‘New India’, under the visionary and dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is a confident and resurgent society,” he said, as he underlined the five pledges.
“One, we are resolved to make India a developed country in the next 25 years. For the world, that creates more capacities for global good. Two, we will liberate ourselves from a colonial mindset. Externally, this means reformed multilateralism and more contemporary global governance,” he said.
Three, he said, “our rich civilizational heritage will be a source of pride and strength. This includes care and concern for the environment, so ingrained in our traditional ethos.”
Fourth, he said, “we will promote greater unity and solidarity. This expresses a coming together on global issues, such as terrorism, pandemics or the environment.”
And the fifth pledge, he said, is “instilling consciousness of duties and responsibilities. This applies to nations, as much as it does to citizens.”
“These five pledges affirm our age-old outlook that sees the world as one family. We believe that national good and global good can be entirely in harmony,” he said.
After underlining the pledges, Jaishankar said India believes and advocates that this is not an era of war and conflict, and it is time for “development and cooperation.”
This was a reiteration of the message delivered to Russian President Vladimir Putin by Prime Minister Modi last week, and Jaishankar referred to the Ukraine conflict four times to emphasise its impact.
“The repercussions of the ongoing Ukraine conflict have further heightened economic stresses, especially on food and energy,” he said.
“We believe and advocate that this is not an era of war and conflict. On the contrary, it is a time for development and cooperation,” he said.
On “the rising costs and shrinking availability of fuel, food and fertilizers”, he said, “these, along with trade disruptions and diversions, are among the many consequences of the Ukraine conflict.”
“As the Ukraine conflict continues to rage, we are often asked whose side we are on,” he said, “And our answer, each time, is straight and honest. India is on the side of peace and will remain firmly there. We are on the side that respects the UN Charter and its founding principles. We are on the side that calls for dialogue and diplomacy as the only way out.
We are on the side of those struggling to make ends meet, even as they stare at escalating costs of food, fuel and fertilizers.”
“It is, therefore, in our collective interest to work constructively, both within the United Nations and outside, in finding an early resolution to this conflict,” he said.
In an oblique reference to China’s aggressive posturing in Taiwan and the Indo-Pacific, he said, “The Indo-Pacific too witnesses fresh concerns about its stability and security.”
And, without mentioning China’s debt-trap diplomacy, he said, “Even while India contributes to global betterment, we recognize the sharp deterioration in the international landscape. The world is already struggling with challenges of post pandemic economic recovery. The debt situation of the developing is precarious.”
On India’s neighbourhood, he said, “Some of them may be aggravated by the Covid pandemic and ongoing conflicts; but they speak too of a deeper malaise. The accumulation of debt in fragile economies is of particular concern.” He was referring to Sri Lanka’s situation here among others.
And, then he took a swipe at both Pakistan and China: “Having borne the brunt of cross border terrorism for decades, India firmly advocates a ‘zero-tolerance’ approach. In our view, there is no justification for any act of terrorism, regardless of motivation. And no rhetoric, however sanctimonious can ever cover up bloodstains.”
“The United Nations responds to terrorism by sanctioning its perpetrators. Those who politicize the UNSC 1267 Sanctions regime, sometimes to the extent of defending proclaimed terrorists, do so at their own peril. Believe me, they advance neither their own interests nor indeed their reputation,” he said, in reference to China’s repeated blocking of Pakistan-based terrorists in recent months.
Jaishankar announced a meeting on counterterrorism in India. “As the Chair of the Counter Terrorism Committee this year, India would be hosting its special meeting in Mumbai and New Delhi. I invite all member states to participate in it. We need to create a global architecture that responds to the new tech tools deployed against open, diverse and pluralistic societies,” he said.
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He also made a pitch for India’s membership at the UN Security Council, as he said that India is prepared to take up greater responsibilities, but it seeks at the same time to ensure that the injustice faced by the Global South is decisively addressed.
“Our call is to allow serious negotiations on such a critical matter t proceed sincerely. They must not be blocked by procedural tactics. Naysayers cannot hold the IGN (Inter-governmental negotiations) process hostage in perpetuity,” he said.
He said India would be completing its tenure as a member of the Security Council this year. “In our term, we have acted as a bridge on some serious but divisive issues confronting the Council. We have also focused on concerns such as maritime security, peacekeeping and counter terrorism. Our contributions range from providing technology with a human touch to ensuring the safety and security of UN peacekeepers.”