Prime Minister Narendra Modi today questioned the United Nations for keeping the country, the world’s largest democracy and home to 1.3 billion people, out of the decision-making structures of the world body. Modi asserted that reform in the responses, processes and the very character of the UN was the “need of the hour”.
In his pre-recorded video statement to the landmark General Debate of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), Modi said the stability in the United Nations and empowerment of the world body were essential for the welfare of the world.
The strong push for UN reforms and the much-delayed expansion of the powerful Security Council by Modi preceded India’s commencement of a two-year term as an elected non-permanent member of the 15-member council from 1 January 2021.
“For how long will India be kept out of the decision-making structures of the United Nations? How long would a country have to wait particularly when the transformational changes happening in that country affect a large part of the world?” Modi asked.
The prime minister said that while it was a fact that the faith and respect that the UN enjoyed among the 1.3 billion people in India was “unparalleled”, it was equally true that the people of India had been waiting for a long time for the process for the reforms of the United Nations to get completed. “Today, people of India are concerned whether this reform-process will ever reach its logical conclusion,” he said, adding that every Indian today while seeing the contribution of India in the world organisation, aspires for India’s expanded role in the United Nations.
“Reform in the responses, in the processes, and in the very character of the United Nations is the need of the hour,” Modi emphasised.
India has been spearheading decades-long efforts to reform the Security Council. A structure set up in 1945 does not reflect the contemporary realities of the 21st century, India holds. The country says the body is ill-equipped to handle current challenges.
There is widespread support, including from four out of the five permanent members of the Security Council — the US, the UK, France and Russia — for a permanent seat for India at the Council.
While India had never received a formal offer to join the Security Council, the US had floated the idea. Leftists in the country say it was the American bid to lure India to the anti-Soviet bloc (Source: Shashi Tharoor’s book Nehru – The Invention of India, Anton Harder’s report “Not as the Cost of China” and AG Noorani’s article “Nehruvian Approach” in Frontline, 2002). And the right wing in the country largely believes Jawaharlal Nehru squandered the opportunity by proposing that China — which went on to become a nation hostile to Indian interests — would be a better candidate as the fifth permanent member of the UN body. Nobody but claims that the offer was altogether absent or that Nehru did not favour China when the offer was made. Harder, in fact, accepts that “integrating PRC into the international community by conceding to China’s right to the seat” was in fact the “central pillar of Nehru’s foreign policy.”
Modi referred to India as a country that is the largest democracy in the world. The prime minister said, with more than 18% of the world population, India had hundreds of languages, dialects, many sects and ideologies, and was a leading global economy for centuries and also endured hundreds of years of foreign rule. “When we were strong, we were never a threat to the world, when we were weak, we never became a burden on the world,” he said.
Modi stressed that the world of today was a completely different era from the world of 1945 when the global situation, sources-resources, problems-solutions were all quite different. “With the changing times, if we don’t change, then the drive needed to bring change will also get weakened,” he said.
An objective assessment of the performance of the UN over the last 75 years would yield several stellar achievements but at the same time, there are also several instances that point to the need for a “serious introspection of the work of the United Nations,” the prime minister said. “Several terrorist attacks shook the world and rivers of blood have continued to flow by,” he said.
“During those times and even today, can we suggest that efforts of the United Nations to tackle these issues were sufficient,” Modi said.
The prime minister said India would not hesitate to raise its voice against the enemies of humanity, including terrorism, smuggling of illegal weapons, drugs and money-laundering, and will always speak in support of peace, security and prosperity. “Starting from January next year, India will also fulfil its responsibility as a non-permanent member of the Security Council. I express my gratitude to all fellow member states who have bestowed this trust upon India,” he said, referring to the overwhelming support the country received during the election in June.
“As the world’s largest democracy, we will bring our years of rich experience for the benefit of the whole world,” Modi said.
The prime minister underscored that the ideals on which the UN was founded and India’s own fundamental philosophy had a lot in common and that they were not different from each other. “Within the halls of the United Nations, one has often heard the words ‘the world is one family’,” he said, adding that it is part of India’s culture, character and thinking to treat the whole world as one family.
“In the United Nations too, India has always given priority to the welfare of the whole world,” he said, outlining that India has sent its brave soldiers to about 50 peacekeeping missions the world over to keep peace and in the course of maintaining peace, has lost the maximum number of its brave soldiers. India’s experiences and India’s developmental journey marked with its ups and downs will only add to strengthening the path to global welfare,” Modi said.
“In the changed circumstances of the post-pandemic era, we are moving forward with the vision of a ‘Self-reliant India’,” which will also be a force multiplier for the global economy, the prime minister said.
“In its journey towards progress, India wants to learn from the world as well as share its own experiences with the world,” Modi added.
This year’s high-level UN General Assembly is being held in a largely virtual format due to the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN, T S Tirumurti, introduced Modi’s pre-recorded statement from the General Assembly Hall.