Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday hit back at Pakistan, questioning its seriousness in resolving the Kashmir issue by raising it at the United Nations.
“Raising issues in this forum is not the way to make progress towards resolving issues between our two countries,” Modi said in his first speech at the UN General Assembly.
If Pakistan wants to resolve the problem, the Prime Minister averred, it must “also take its responsibility seriously to create an appropriate environment.”
“I am prepared to engage in a serious bilateral dialogue with Pakistan in a peaceful atmosphere, without the shadow of terrorism,” Modi said, reiterating India’s standing position.Instead of raising these issues at the UN, he said, India and Pakistan should be helping victims of the devastating floods on both sides of the border.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had on Friday told the general assembly he was disappointed by India cancelling the foreign secretary-level talks.
Modi was not expected to respond to Sharif’s obvious attempt at India-baiting with a long running political tool, criticism over Kashmir. The MEA spokesperson had said that the Prime Minister’s speech would be forward-looking, leaving Sharif to some official.
But Modi took on Sharif himself, questioning his sincerity in dealing with the dispute that has defined India-Pakistan relations for decades.
In a speech delivered in Hindi — from a prepared text in English — Prime Minister Modi also called for the long-standing reforms of the UN Security Council.
“We must reform the United Nations, including the Security Council, and make it more democratic and participative,’ he said.
The Prime Minister began his second day of the US tour, first day of full engagements, with an early morning tour of the 9/11 memorial and the attached museum.
Dressed in his trademark short-sleeve shirt, with a shawl thrown over his shoulder, the prime minister could be seen listening intently to his briefer.
He then changed into a dark bandh-gala suit for his UN engagements, starting with a meeting with secretary general Ban ki Moon, and a tour of the US complex.
Minutes before he was to speak, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, led the India delegation to their desk to the assembly floor, accompanied by NSA Ajit Doval.
The visitors’ gallery was packed, unusually for a Saturday morning, said several UN officials, impressed not only by the strength of the Indian media contingent, but also by Modi fans.
After touching on all major global challenges — climate change and terrorism, for instance — the Prime Minister raised a long-standing Indian demand for UN SC reform.
India has been pushing for increasing the permanent membership of the Security Council beyond the present five — US, UK, China, Russia and France — without much success.
“We must reform the United Nations, including the Security Council, and make it more democratic and participative,” said the prime minister.
He warned that the failure to do so could make these institution irrelevant. “Institutions that reflect the imperatives of 20th century won’t be effective in the 21st.”
He added, “It would face the risk of irrelevance; and we will face the risk of continuing turbulence with no one capable of addressing it.”
Delivered in Hindi, from English remarks
The Prime Minister delivered his speech in Hindi, from a speech written in English. His speech tracked closely with the text in English, in spirit. But the translator seemed completely off-key, jumping from word to word, without trying to capture the sense of what Modi was saying.
Pitch for Yoga
An avid practitioner of Yoga, the Prime Minister gave it major shoutout in his speech calling it “an invaluable gift of our ancient tradition”. He said, “Yoga embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfilment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well being.”
G-1, G-4 or G for all?
While making a pitch for a genuinely interaction compact of nations, he said there is a tendency to bunch countries into various groups. “Today, we still operate in various Gs with different numbers. India, too, is involved in several. But, how much are we able to work together as G1 or G-All?”
Earlier Modi paid tributes at the memorial, also known as Ground Zero, where the twin towers of the iconic World Trade Center(WTC) were destroyed in the unprecedented terror attack on September 11, 2001.
Dressed in a spotless white kurta and churidars and a grey shawl thrown on his left shoulder, a sombre looking Modi gently placed rose buds one by one--five in all--on the grey granite memorial slabs where names of the victims were etched, stood for a while and folded his hands.
Modi, who was in a reflective mood, also visited the 9/11 museum, that displays artifacts associated with the events of the terror attack while presenting stories of loss and recovery.
The Prime Minister was accompanied by India's Ambassador to the US S Jaishankar and other officials.
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