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Modi chides Pakistan over Kashmir, pushes for UN reforms

New York, Sep 27

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing the 69th Session of the UNGA, in New York
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing the 69th Session of the UNGA, in New York

Chiding Pakistan for raking up Kashmir, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Saturday that the UN was not the forum for resolving bilateral issues and underlined that he was prepared to engage in a “serious bilateral dialogue” with Islamabad in a peaceful atmosphere “without the shadow of terrorism”.

Modi, speaking in Hindi in his maiden address to the UN General Assembly, said, “Pakistan must also take its responsibility seriously to create an appropriate environment” for bilateral talks.

While making a strong pitch for reform of the UN, Modi touched on a whole range of issues affecting the world, from terrorism, poverty, hunger, regional tensions, climate change — and underlined the Indian philosophy of “vasudeva kutumbakam” or seeing the world as one family.

Referring to his government’s outreach to neighbours, he said India “desires a peaceful and stable environment for its development”.

“A nation’s destiny is linked to its neighbourhood. That is why my government has placed the highest priority on advancing friendship and cooperation with our neighbours”.

He called for greater engagement between countries. “We must reform the United Nations, including the Security Council, and make it more democratic and participative,” he said in his address to the 69th session of the UN General Assembly.

“We need a genuine dialogue and engagement between countries. I say this from the conviction of the philosophical tradition that I come from. Our efforts must begin here — in the United Nations.”

Pushing for reform of the UN, he said it would be a 70-year-old organisation and it was time to “ask ourselves whether we should wait until we are 80 or 100” to bring changes to the world body.

“Let us fulfil our promise to reform the United Nations Security Council by 2015. Let us fulfil our pledge on a post-2015 Development Agenda so that there is new hope and belief in us around the world. Let us make 2015 also a new watershed for a sustainable world. Let it be the beginning of a new journey together.”

He said “institutions that reflect the imperatives of 20th century won’t be effective in the 21st”.

Modi said that terrorism had spread far and wide and that there was hardly any country that has stayed untouched by it.

“Terrorism is taking new shape and new name. No country, big or small, in the north or the south, east or west, is free from its threat. Are we really making concerted international efforts to fight these forces, or are we still hobbled by our politics, our division, our discrimination between good and bad terrorism…”

In perhaps a tangential reference to Pakistan, Modi said some countries still allowed terrorism to grow on their “territory or use terrorism as instruments of their policy”.

Modi did not directly name the Islamic State terror group that controls large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria where it has declared an Islamic caliphate and which would be governed as per Islamist laws.

“We welcome efforts to combat terrorism’s resurgence in West Asia, which is affecting countries near and far. The effort should involve the support of all countries in the region,” he said, referring to the US-led airstrikes on IS targets in Iraq and Syria.

Referring to the splintering up of the world into smaller blocs instead of being interdependent, Modi said the world today “operates in various Gs with different numbers”. He said “the need for an international compact, which is the foundation of the United Nations, is stronger than before”.

“While we speak of an interdependent world, have we become more united as nations? 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?

“On the one side, we say that our destinies are inter-linked, on the other hand we still think in terms of zero sum game. If the other benefits, I stand to lose.”

“It is easy to be cynical and say nothing will change but if we do that we run the risk of shirking our responsibilities and we put our collective future in danger.

“Let us bring ourselves in tune with the call of our times. First, let us work for genuine peace,” Modi said.

He also proposed that the UN should adopt an International Yoga Day.

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