Modi spotlights India’s role as a ‘reliable, democratic global partner’

September 26, 2021
Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India addresses the general debate of the UN General Assembly’s 76th session. — courtesy UN Photo/Cia Pak
Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India addresses the general debate of the UN General Assembly’s 76th session. — courtesy UN Photo/Cia Pak

NEW YORK — In his address to the high-level debate at the UN General Assembly on Saturday, Narendra Modi reaffirmed India's commitment to democracy, highlighted its great strides in developing and manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines, and warned against “countries with regressive thinking.”

In a pre-recorded address, Prime Minister Modi highlighted that India is a country that has been known by its democratic tradition. “India is proud to be known to be the mother of democracy”, he said, adding that: “Diversity is the identity of our strong democracy.”

India is moving forward

Mr. Modi said that his country’s priority was that development should be all-inclusive, all-pervasive, universal and one that nurtures all.

Listing insurance coverage, access to quality health services, and housing, as areas where India has shown progress in the past years, Modi went on to speak about the problem of water pollution.

“Polluted water is a problem not only for India, but for the entire world, and in particular for poor and developing countries.”

In order to address this challenge in India, Modi said that the country is carrying out a campaign to ensure that piped clean water reaches over 170 million homes in India. For the development of any country, people must have property rights to their homes and land.

To that end, India was using drones to map over 600,000 villages to give people digital records of their homes and lands, a process that will reduce property disputes and give people increased access to credit and bank loans.

‘Come, make vaccine in India’

The prime minister went on to say that India’s progress in the scientific and technological sectors was scalable, cost effective and could benefit the world. Indeed, its new COVID-19 vaccine delivery program offered digital support to register the administration of millions of doses in a single day.

He also announced that India has developed the world’s first DNA vaccine, which can be administered to anyone above the age of 12, and an mRNA vaccine that is in the final stages of development, he added. He also informed that Indian scientists were also developing a nasal vaccine against COVID19.

“Despite limited resources, India ... is completely invested in the development and manufacture of vaccines,” said Modi, issuing an open invitation to manufactures across the world: “Come, make vaccine in India.”

He highlighted that “the coronavirus pandemic has taught the world that the global economy needed to be further diversified. That is why the expansion of global value chains is very important. He stated that India’s “Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan” (Self-Reliant India Mission) was inspired by this sentiment”.

Science-based, progressive thinking is the way forward

The pandemic had taught the world that the global economy needs to be expanded further, he continued, stressing that for its part, India is becoming a democratic and reliable partner for global industrial diversification. Moreover, India has struck a balance between economy and ecology, and is moving forward with “great speed” on its renewable energy goals.

“Science-based, rational and progressive thinking must be the basis for development,” said Modi, explaining that India was rolling out innovative programs in schools, creating ‘start-up labs’, and, in honor of the 75th anniversary of the country’s independence, planning to launch 75 satellites — made by Indian students — into space.

The prime minister said that countries with regressive thinking, “that use terrorism as a political tool, must realize they create a threat for themselves, as well.” In that context, it was essential to ensure Afghanistan was not used to spread terrorism, and that “no country takes advantage of the delicate situation there for its own selfish interests.”

A more effective United Nations

“Today, all kinds of questions have been raised about the UN,” Modi said. “We have seen such questions being raised related to the climate crisis. And we also saw that during COVID-19, the proxy war going on in many parts of the world, terrorism, and the recent Afghan crisis have further highlighted the seriousness of these questions.”

He stressed that if the United Nations is to remain relevant, it will need to improve its effectiveness and enhance its reliability, vital for the organization to meet current challenges. However, “with regard to the origin of COVID-19 and the ease of doing business rankings, institutions of global governance have damaged the credibility they had built after decades of hard work,” he noted.

Modi said that it is essential to strengthen the United Nations to protect the global order, global laws and global values asserting that the oceans were the lifeline of international trade which needed to be protected from the race of expansion. The international community must speak in one voice to strengthen a rule-based world order.

India’s global importance

Modi emphasized that India’s growth was beneficial for the world's growth. "When India grows, the world grows and when India reforms, the world transforms," he asserted.

He also informed that the Indian government has started work on making India the world's largest green hydrogen hub, adding that the world was facing an increased threat of regressive thinking and extremism. In such a situation, the entire world must make science-based, rational and progressive thinking the basis for development.

High-level delegation

Modi visited the US, leading a high-level delegation comprising Foreign Minister Dr. S Jaishanker, NSA Ajit Doval, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla and other senior officials. The visit was symbolic of strengthening bilateral relations between the two largest democracies of the world as both countries have strategic convergence in the Indo-Pacific region.

During the visit, Modi held bilateral talks with US President Joe Biden, US Vice President Kamala Harris, Quad (United States, India, Japan and Australia) leadership in the US on the sidelines of the 76th session of the UNGA.

Modi met US President Joe Biden on Friday at the White House where the two leaders reviewed the Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership between the US and India and also exchanged views on regional and global issues of mutual interest. This was the first meeting between the two leaders since President Biden assumed office in January this year.

In a joint statement issued after the meeting, both leaders said that the United States and India stand together in a shared fight against global terrorism. They "condemned cross-border terrorism, and called for the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks to be brought to justice. Earlier, Biden had tweeted that he was looking forward to strengthening the deep ties between the two nations, working to uphold a free and open Indo-Pacific, and tackling everything from COVID-19 to climate change.

Exchanging views on areas of convergence

A day earlier, Modi met US Vice President Harris and exchanged views on areas of convergence that include shared geopolitical interests between India and the US being “natural partners”. The two leaders stressed priority-based cooperation in the areas of strengthening supply chain, new emerging technologies, and space. Besides, they also discussed collaboration in IT and healthcare sectors.

Shringla said Modi and Harris appreciated India-US bilateral relationship, exchanged views on recent global developments, including in Afghanistan and reaffirmed their commitment toward a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region. He asserted that the US Vice-President agreed with Modi’s briefing on cross-border terrorism and the fact that India has been a victim of terrorism from several decades now. “She emphasized the need to rein in and closely monitor Pakistan's support for such terror groups," added Shringla.

Lauding India's COVID-19 vaccination drive, she welcomed India's announcement that it will soon be able to resume vaccine exports. Modi expressed his gratitude to the US for extending help when the country was hit by the second wave of COVID-19 earlier this year.

Meeting with leaders

On Thursday, a day before the Quad Leaders' scheduled Summit, Modi met with prime ministers of Australia and Japan in Washington separately. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison termed the discussion with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi "productive" and said both leaders look to further deepen the partnership between the two countries.

The two leaders discussed regional and global developments and a wide range of subjects aimed at deepening economic and people-to-people linkages between the two countries and bilateral cooperation in areas of COVID-19, trade, defense and clean energy while advancing their shared objective of an open, free, prosperous and rules-based Indo-Pacific region.

Modi also met his Japanese counterpart Yoshihide Suga on Friday wherein both leaders reaffirmed their commitment towards a free and open inclusive Indo-Pacific region. They agreed to enhance bilateral security and defense cooperation including the areas of defense equipment and technologies and exchanged views on recent global and regional developments including in Afghanistan during their first-in person meeting. They also highlighted the increasing importance of digital technologies and in this regard positively evaluated the progress in the India-Japan Digital Partnership, especially in start-ups.

Quad leaders summit

During the Quad leaders' meeting on Friday, Modi proposed a common international traveling protocol involving mutual recognition of the COVID-19 vaccination certificate and the proposal was "well-received" by all leaders of Quad nations. On terrorism, in a joint statement issued after the meet, Quad leaders said they will closely coordinate their diplomatic, economic and human-rights policies towards Afghanistan and will deepen their counterterrorism and humanitarian cooperation in South Asia.

"We denounce the use of terrorist proxies and emphasized the importance of denying any logistical, financial or military support to terrorist groups which could be used to launch or plan terror attacks, including cross-border attacks," the joint statement said.

Meeting the Indian Diaspora

On the sidelines of state-level meetings, PM Modi met a large number of Indian Diaspora in New York on Thursday. He also held meetings with five global CEOs in order to persuade them to invest in India. Modi held meeting with the US multinational corporation First Solar CEO Mark R. Widmar, Qualcomm CEO Cristiano R Amon, Adobe Chairman Shantanu Narayen, CEO of General Atomics Global Corporation Vivek Lall and Blackstone CEO Stephen A Schwarzman. The CEOs represented diverse areas of specialization ranging from technology, IT sector, finance, defense and renewable energy.

The discussion with Qualcomm CEO focused on recent electronics and telecom manufacturing Production Linked Incentive (PLI) schemes in India and measures to strengthen the innovation ecosystem while highlighting the vast business opportunities in India.

Amon expressed keenness to work with India in areas such as 5G and other ‘Digital India’ efforts. The meeting with chip giant Amon assumes significance, given India's push for the 5G technology. Modi and Lall discussed strengthening the defense technology sector in India. Lall appreciated the recent policy changes to accelerate Defense and emerging technology manufacturing and augment capacity building in India. They discussed India’s strides in drone technology, including the path-breaking reforms and PLI scheme.

Modi also had a productive meeting with Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen. The discussion centered mostly on innovation in the field of technology including the need to create centers of excellence in Artificial Intelligence in India. After the meeting, Narayen stated that investment in India is his company’s secret weapon. —UN News/Agencies

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