Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is slated to visit the United States on a bilateral visit and also address the United Nations General Assembly on September 27th. This will be after a resounding victory of his party at the General elections of 2019 wherein his party and coalition secured an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha (Lower house of the Indian parliament).
He will also take part in other UN-related engagements which include addressing the UN Climate Action Summit on September 23rd and other bilateral and multilateral meetings on the sidelines.
What exactly should the Prime Minister highlights in his speech before the UNGA?
Former Permanent Ambassador of India to the United Nations Office in Geneva and other institutions, Dilip Sinha believes that the Prime Minister should speak about the following points:
1. His speech should reflect both domestic and foreign policy achievement/agenda, with the latter finding more space.
2. Over the past few years, various institutions such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural organization (UNESCO) among others has been weakened. The UN system itself is suffering from many inherent deficiencies. It is important to strengthen these multilateral global institutions.
3. Unilateral actions such as those in Iran, Yemen and Syria have no place in a multilateral world that India believes in. Despite having certain reservations with respect to the composition and functioning of the UN Security Council, India has always abided by its decisions. In the recent issue of Commander Kulbhushan Jadhav who was sentenced to death by a Pakistani court without following any of the principles of natural justice, India chose to approach the International Court of Justice and not take any unilateral actions.
4. The abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian constitution conferring special rights on the state of Jammu and Kashmir has ensured that the issue looms large at the UN with a belligerent neighbour being obsessed with it. However, the Prime Minister should only make a passing reference to it, briefly explaining the benefits to be accrued by the integration of the former state with the Indian Union.
5. Though the Prime Minister is slated to address the issue of climate change separately at the UN Climate Action Summit, this issue should be raised even in his General Assembly speech too. India’s steadfast contributions as part of its Intended Nationally Determined contributions (as part of the Paris Agreement 2015) be it on the issue of reduced emissions, transformation of the economy through new renewable energy, launching of the International Solar Alliance with France and other domestic schemes such as the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, PAT (Perform, achieve and trade) scheme of the Ministry of Power should be highlighted as examples to be adopted by the global community. An appeal too should be made to other nations such as Australia, Canada and China, more importantly, to aggressively reduce their emissions and contribute to a cleaner and a safer world. China has been the biggest emitter of various greenhouse gases in the world.
6. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO)’s Chandrayaan-2 has had a spectacular journey as India attempted to land at the southern pole of the earth only natural satellite at its very first attempt. The mission is being reworked presently. The Prime Minister should highlight this in his speech as an example of India’s growing achievements in space technology.
7. Efforts should be made to arrest the global economic slowdown that has gripped the world and India (recent estimates have shown that the GDP growth rate has reduced to 5% in the last quarter). In this regard trade wars and disputes such as the ones between US-China and Indo-US have to be resolved. Ambassador Sinha is critical of China’s role here. Exploiting its status as a developing nation and as a market economy at the WTO it has trade surpluses with almost all nations and has even been accused of dumping its goods. They have been accused of currency manipulation to achieve this. President Donald Trump has been critical of the Chinese position on this issue and has condemned it.
8. With many of the nuclear disarmament treaties under strain and President Trump announcing the withdrawal from it, there is an urgent need to renegotiate and rework these treaties which could be adhered to. The Prime Minister should highlight India’s credentials in this area and stress upon peace.
9. The world has been gripped by a massive humanitarian crisis in the form of various refugee crises due to political situations (Syria), wars (Yemen) and climate change. Ambassador Sinha is of the opinion that these agreements and framework need to be converted into workable treaties. He highlights the case of India which has never denied refuge to any community despite having not signed either the Refugee convention of 1951 or its subsequent protocol. The recent National Registry of Citizens in Assam which is a Supreme Court-monitored exercise is an example of the inclusivity practised by India. Those individuals who have been left out have been given the opportunity to appeal in accordance with the due process of law. The Prime Minister can emphasize on India’s belief in the old Sanskrit saying ‘Vasudeva Kutambakam’ or the world is one.
10. Finally, India’s domestic development agenda can be highlighted before the world. Schemes such as the PM Ayushman Bharat (a health insurance scheme which has also been praised by the World Health Organization) and Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s MAA (Mother’s absolute affection which promotes the practice of breastfeeding of infants) can be highlighted.