Nations backing terror must know it’ll hurt them too: PM

Washington Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday cautioned the UN general assembly about countries with “regressive thinking” that are using terrorism as a “political tool”, and called for efforts to ensure that no country takes advantage of the “delicate situation” in Afghanistan for its own selfish interests
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Published on Sep 25, 2021 11:35 PM IST
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ByYashwant Raj


Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday cautioned the UN general assembly about countries with “regressive thinking” that are using terrorism as a “political tool”, and called for efforts to ensure that no country takes advantage of the “delicate situation” in Afghanistan for its own selfish interests.

Modi flew to New York from Washington after holding his first bilateral meeting with US President Joe Biden in the White House and attending his first in-person Quad Summit.

Addressing the UN general assembly in Hindi, Prime Minister Modi called for the protection of oceans and ocean resources from the “race for expansion and exclusion”, saying they must be used and not abused and they are a lifeline of international trade. He did not name any country, but this appeared to be a reference to China’s increasing aggression in the Indo-Pacific region.

He also warned the world body about its own diminishing relevance and credibility, reiterating a theme that he called a “crisis of confidence” in 2020. He said several questions are being raised about the UN and other global institutions, and mentioned specifically the issue of the origin of the Covid-19 epidemic, which the World Health Organization is widely held to have bungled under pressure from the Chinese, and the ease of Doing Business ranking, which has been suspended by the World Bank over data irregularities.

An investigation has revealed that World Bank employees changed their data to boost China’s ranking in the 2018 and 2020 “Doing Business” report.

Saturday’s speech was Modi’s fourth at the UN general assembly and came after successful bilateral meetings with US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, Australia’s Scott Morrison and Japan’s Yoshihide Suga in Washington DC. He also participated in a historic first in-person summit of the Quad group of countries that are focused on protecting the Indo-Pacific from Chinese expansionism.

Without naming Pakistan, the Prime Minister said there are “countries with regressive thinking that are using terrorism as a political tool; these countries must understand that terrorism is an equally big threat for them”. Pakistan’s continued support of terrorism also came up for discussion at Modi’s bilateral and Quad meetings in Washington DC.

Modi did not respond to charges and allegations leveled by Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan in his speech to the UN general assembly on Friday, when the Indian leader was in Washington. Khan railed against India, alleging, among other things, a “reign of terror” against Muslims. In an official response, Sneha Dubey, a first secretary at the Indian mission to UN, dismissed Khan’s remarks, saying Pakistan was “an arsonist disguising itself as a firefighter”.

On Afghanistan, the Indian PM said that it was “absolutely essential to ensure that Afghanistan’s territory is not used to spread terrorism, and for terrorist attacks”. He added once again without naming any country but pointing to Pakistan: “We also need to be alert and ensure that no country tries to take advantage of the delicate situation there, and use it as a tool for its own selfish interests”. Pakistan has made no secret of its continued support for the Taliban and has openly flaunted its influence on the new dispensation in Kabul.

Modi called upon the world community to extend help to the people of Afghanistan to ensure, among other things, the rights of women, children and the minorities are protected. “We must fulfil our duty by providing them with this help,” he said.

Reminding the assembly that the oceans are a shared heritage, Modi said that “we must only use ocean resources and not abuse them”. And because they are also the lifeline of international trade, the world “must protect them from the race for expansion and exclusion”.

“The international community must speak in one voice to strengthen a rule based world order,” he added.

Modi did not name any country, but Chinese aggression in the region appeared to be the subject of his appeal and warning. Beijing has unilaterally extended claims into the Indo-Pacific and has shown no regard for rules and regulations to settle its many maritime disputes.

The Prime Minister put the world body and the other global institutions under the scanner, citing a warning by Indian historical figure Chanakya against not taking timely action: “When the right action is not taken at the right time, then it is time itself that causes the action to fail.”

If the United Nations wants to remain relevant, he further said, “it will need to improve its effectiveness and enhance its reliability. Today, all kinds of questions have been raised about the UN”. He went on to cite the climate crisis, Covid-19 pandemic and “the proxy war” going on in many parts of the world.

Pointing to questions raised in regard to the origin of the Covid-19 pandemic and ease of Doing Business report, the Prime Minister said: “Institutions of global governance have damaged the credibility they had built, which was a result of decades of hard work. It is essential that we constantly strengthen the UN, in order to safeguard global order.”

India has been campaigning for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council as part of a wider reform of the world body.

The Prime Minister began his speech by updating the assembly members about India’s progress on “the path of integrated equitable development”. He said India had brought 360 million people into the banking system; extended health insurance coverage to over 500 million people, giving them free treatment and access to quality health services; and built 30 million homes for the homeless. India has also launched a campaign to bring clean drinking water to those who don’t have access to it and is trying to give clean land and home ownership titles.

“When India grows, the world grows; when India reforms, the world transforms,” the Prime Minister said, as translated into English.

Modi also detailed India’s battle against the Covid-19 pandemic and its own search for vaccines and contributions to the global effort. He told the member countries that India has decided to resume exporting vaccines and invited manufacturers to make vaccines in India.

The Prime Minister also spoke about India’s efforts on battling the climate crisis and the ambitious plan to produce 450 gigawatts of renewable energy and turn India into a hydrogen hub.

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