Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday asked where the United Nations was in the joint fight against the coronavirus pandemic. He was addressing the United Nations General Assembly, which is being held virtually for the first time, on its 75th anniversary.
“Over the last eight to nine months, the whole world has been battling the pandemic of the coronavirus,” Modi said. “Where is the United Nations in this joint fight against the pandemic? Where is its effective response?”
Modi also assured the United Nations that India would help the world with a vaccine against the coronavirus. “As the largest vaccine producing country of the world, I want to give one more assurance to the global community today,” he said. “India’s vaccine production and delivery capacity will be used to help all humanity in fighting this crisis.”
Modi said that India’s pharmaceutical industry has sent medicines to more than 150 countries during the pandemic.
Globally, the coronavirus has infected more than 3.24 crore people and killed 9,87,679, according to Johns Hopkins University. The number of worldwide recoveries is more than 2.23 crore. India’s coronavirus count rose to 59,03,932 on Saturday, while the toll touched 93,379.
The prime minister’s speech also focussed on matters such as sustainable development, global peacekeeping efforts and terrorism.
Modi also made a pitch for a stronger role for India in the UN Security Council. “When we were weak, we didn’t trouble the world,” he said. “When we became strong, we didn’t become a bojh [burden] on the world. Till when do we have to wait? India has sent soldiers to UN peacekeeping missions and has lost the most number of soldiers.” the Prime Minister said in powerful opening remarks.
Modi said that Indians believed in the UN’s ideals but added that the organisation needed to adapt and change to stay relevant. “Reform is needed at the United Nations and India is waiting for that reform to happen.” The prime minister wondered whether the reform process of the United Nations will ever reach its logical conclusion. He asked how long would India continue to be left out of the decision-making structures of the United Nations.
“Starting from January next year, India will also fulfil its responsibility as a non-permanent member of the Security Council,” he added. “India will always speak in support of peace, security and prosperity.”
The United Nations Security Council is the UN’s highest-decision making body. It has five permanent members, the US, the UK, China, Russia and France, which have veto powers.
Modi called terrorism, smuggling of illegal weapons, drugs and money-laundering the “enemies of humanity”. He said India will not hesitate to speak on the global stage against these evils.
“Large scale efforts are being made in India to promote women entrepreneurship and leadership,” Modi said. “Indian women, today, are biggest beneficiaries of world’s largest micro financing scheme. India is one of those countries where women are provided paid maternity leave of 26 weeks.” He said the rights of transgender persons were also being secured through legal reforms.
“In the changed circumstances of the post-pandemic era, we are moving forward with the vision of ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’,” the prime minister said. “A self-reliant India will also be a force multiplier for the global economy.”
Pakistan PM attacks India over Islam, Kashmir
On Friday, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, in his speech to the UN General Assembly, accused India of trying to cement control in Kashmir, and called the Narendra Modi-led government a sponsor of hatred and prejudice against Islam.
Khan added that there could be no durable peace and stability in South Asia until the Kashmir dispute was resolved on the basis of international legitimacy. “Pakistan has always called for a peaceful solution,” he added. “To this end, India must rescind the measures it has instituted since August 5 in 2019, end its military siege and other gross human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir.”
Following this, First Secretary in India’s Permanent Mission to the UN Mijito Vinito walked out of the General Assembly hall in protest.
In response, India accused Islamabad of peddling “another litany of vicious falsehood, personal attacks, war mongering”. New Delhi said Pakistan’s only crowning glory was “70 years of terrorism, ethnic cleansing, majoritarian fundamentalism, and clandestine nuclear trade”.