Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s historic address in the United Nations General Assembly, last week, was remarkable in many ways, particularly for the assertive manner in which he laid out India’s claim to be a permanent member of the Security Council. PM Modi also did what no other head of state managed to — highlight the failure and incompetence of the UN in dealing with the pandemic. Thus, besides being the voice of 130 crore Indians, PM Modi emerged as the voice of many nations, particularly the smaller and weaker ones.
Without mincing words, the PM categorically questioned for how long will India — which has been contributing immensely towards the growth and strengthening of the UN — be kept out of the global body’s decision-making process.
PM Modi highlighted how the situation has changed since the formation of the UN 75 years ago, when the world was trying to emerge out of the ravages of World War II. The entire world was badly shaken by the atom bomb explosions in Japan, India was waging a decisive battle for its Independence and colonialism was in its last throes. He highlighted how, in the last seven decades, the global scenario has completely changed. The world has seen far-reaching changes in this period — the Cold War era, the disintegration of the USSR and the unification of Germany. We have also seen many countries attaining freedom, while many nations have been racked by civil wars. There were also many small and big wars, and many nations disintegrated to become smaller entities.
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PM Modi said that the UN has kept itself aloof from reforms and restructuring — that he, emphasised, is the need of the hour. When the UN came into being in 1945, its charter was signed by 50 nations. Today, it has 193 member states. But the structure of such an important global organisation remains unchanged. We still have five permanent members in the Security Council. The PM said the UN’s 75th anniversary should not just be a symbolic affair, it should go down in history as a landmark occasion by making the body more inclusive.
The PM made clear his disappointment at the UN’s response to the COVID pandemic. He said that the global body has acted indifferently in these unprecedented times when lakhs of people have succumbed to the deadly virus. It has been pointed out how the WHO failed to rise to the occasion by not providing succour and hope to the poor and weaker nations.
The PM told the world how India has believed and practised universal brotherhood and cooperation. India has also been committed to global peace, prosperity and security. India has always stood by the UN in dealing with forces which are against humanity and global peace. The PM reiterated that as a founding member of the UN, it is India’s obligation and responsibility to fight and stand for its core values. A testimony to India’s commitment is its unwavering contribution to peace missions and the supreme sacrifices made by the country’s soldiers.
It is due to the PM’s sustained efforts that, besides creating a unique space for itself in the world in the last six years, India has also managed to make the lives of its citizens better through various social and economic schemes. PM Modi gave a glimpse of this during his address. He told the world how the policy of “reform, perform and transform” has led to massive changes in the Indian society, which used to be perceived as impossible or unimaginable.
In the last five years, the Modi government has added 40 crore people to the banking system. It has also brought 60 crore people out of the curse of open defecation. PM Modi has now taken the pledge to provide safe drinking water to 15 crore households and connect six lakh villages with high-speed broadband. PM Modi has made a visible impact on the health infrastructure through his unique initiatives and made available to the masses affordable healthcare through the Ayushman Card scheme and Jan Aushadhi stores.
The PM has also turned the pandemic into an opportunity by giving the nation a golden chance to become “atmanirbhar” (self-reliant). PM Modi’s philosophy is being widely appreciated in the world. It is also giving inspiration to other nations.
PM Modi’s address to the UN has forced the world to take note of the fact that India is no longer a pushover. It has become a nation that dares to stand up for its rights. He also underlined India’s rightful claim — permanent membership of the Security Council.
In 2021, India will become the non-permanent member of the Security Council, for the eighth time. India has made valuable contributions to the growth and success of the UN, and it is for this reason that India is more emphatically demanding its rightful position. The world is looking up to India. A glimpse of this was seen when 187 out of 190 nations voted overwhelmingly in favour of India to become a non-permanent member of the Security Council.
India, a nuclear superpower, has remained committed towards nuclear non-proliferation. It is the world’s largest democracy, inhabited by 18 per cent of the global population. India has been an important member of all major global economic forums and has been contributing to the world’s economic progress.
PM Modi categorically stated how the representation of Africa and South America has been disproportionately low in the UN, which is dominated by five nations. The time has come to rectify this anomaly, a demand that has been repeatedly raised by various global bodies including the G-4. The PM’s address has brought a majority of the nations to a common platform; these nations strongly feel that UN reform is the need of the hour and India deserves its rightful position at the global body.
This article first appeared in the print edition on September 29, 2020 under the title ‘Our place at the global high table’. The writer is national president, Bharatiya Janata Party
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