If Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s last address to the United Nations (UN) in September 2020 was a reminder to democratise and become more representative reflecting a new world order, the focus this time (September 2021) was to highlight that if the world body compromises “reliability” and “effectiveness” it would lose its relevance in the new world order. He was referring to the loss of credibility suffered due to delay or manipulation at the World Health Organization (WHO) in tracing the origin of Covid-19 and data manipulation by the World Bank to reportedly favour China.
“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,” PM Modi said while addressing the UN General Assembly during this three-day visit to the United States (23-25 September).
The world would be a much better place to live in, if global institutions listen to the wisdom of the Prime Minister who represents the largest democracy in the world where every sixth person on the globe is an Indian. PM Modi has shown that he has emerged as a global leader with vision and concerns about global peace, security and well-being. And whether it was climate change, terrorism or fighting Covid, India cannot be ignored.
His unequivocal assertion on how India saw the developments in Afghanistan and the role of Pakistan (without naming it), reference to China’s expansionist design and aggressiveness in the Indo-Pacific region, the role Quad should play either in helping other Asian countries to fight Covid-19, or climate change or in promoting trade and commerce was not missed by anyone. He spoke like a world leader ready to work for global peace, security and prosperity.
These themes permeated PM Modi’s speech at the 76th session of the UN General Assembly and while attending the first physical meeting of Quad. The same is expected to have figured during the bilateral meetings he had with heads of three other Quad countries—Japan, Australia and the US—during his three-day visit to the US (23-25 September 2021). His meeting with US Vice President Kamala Harris and CEOs of MNC giants should be seen as his best efforts to bolster better ties between India and the US.
PM Modi’s vision about the world was outlined in the inaugural speech at the bilateral meeting with US President Joe Biden. He reminded the Gandhian ideal of trusteeship of the world and highlighted that it was incumbent on the US and India and other world leaders to pass on a better world to the next generation. The world has become a global village and every person a global citizen.
Nobody should be in doubt now that the Indo-Pacific region has the potential to emerge as the new conflict zone due to expansionist and aggressive design of China. The world must play its role to ensure that countries play by rule and not browbeat others because of new found love for Steroid induced muscular behaviour. The oceans and the rich resources within are common heritage and must be shared equitably and without endangering ecology.
It is good news for world peace that Quad is picking up momentum. PM Modi’s visit was significant also in the context of the Quad’s first physical summit after the pandemic. The role and vision of Quad and how this would roll out in action was eagerly awaited by world leaders. Cooperation to help people to fight Covid is a splendid initiative that would generate goodwill and trust for a Just Global Order. Biden hosted the meeting on 25 September and other attendees besides President Biden and PM Modi were Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.
China’s adverse reaction to Quad is understandable. China said that any regional cooperation mechanism should not target a third party. “Seeking exclusive closed cliques against a third country runs against the trend of the times and aspirations of countries in the region,” a spokesperson of the Chinese foreign ministry said.
Why should China be worried? Quad is merely trying to ensure that countries in the Indi-Pacific region play by international rules. While littoral countries (coastal countries) have been given an Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) of 200 nautical miles to exploit, conserve and manage natural resources, the high seas beyond this zone are a common heritage of mankind.
If any country tries to cross this line, international institutions must be activated to prevent such usurpation. It is imperative that Quad will help other countries in the Indo-Pacific region from coming under influence of China and get coerced to compromise their rights over the seas. China will resist but will have to eventually accept to play by the rules. The Quad, therefore, is not against China but also against any other country similarly placed. This would apply equally to the US, Australia, Japan or India that have vast ocean space surrounding their land boundaries.
PM Modi pointed out that the broad consensus evolved at the UN Security Council meeting during India’s presidency in August could act as a guiding force for forward movement on maritime security. PM Modi has suggested during India’s presidency that maritime disputes need to be settled peacefully and as per international law. India’s presidency gave a focused response to challenges of maritime security. PM Modi had called for greater international cooperation and transparency in governance and timely and effective intervention to maintain global equilibrium.
A just international order is not possible unless the UN becomes more representative and plays its role more effectively. The Prime Minister stressed that it was essential if the UN wanted to be relevant. The credibility of the UN and other global governance bodies had suffered on account of its conflicting stands on climate crisis, Covid spread, the global proxy war and terrorism, as well as the outcome of events in Afghanistan, he pointed out.
The Prime Minister’s speech at the UN was a no-nonsense reminder to all about the situation in Afghanistan and India’s stand on terrorism. He clarified that Afghanistan soil should not be used to export terror to other countries and also that other countries should not exploit the volatile situation for their “selfish motives”.
“We also need to be alert and ensure that no country tries to take advantage of the delicate situation there, and use it as a tool for its own selfish interests,” he said and warned that those using terror as a political tool would also suffer since this would backfire on them. PM Modi underlined the need to help people of Afghanistan particularly women, children and minorities.
The Prime Minister received thunderous applause at the UN General Assembly when he announced that India was resuming Covid vaccine export that had got halted due to unavailability and crisis at home during the second wave.
PM Modi’s announcement on Covid must have been music to those countries awaiting vaccine supply. Pointing out to the Indian philosophy that stresses on “serving mankind” as prime most duty, he said that India was working round the clock despite limited resources to develop and manufacture vaccines of different kinds to fight Covid.
He said: “I want to inform the UN General Assembly that India has developed the world›s first DNA based vaccine, which can be administered to all people above the age of 12 years. Another m-RNA vaccine is in the final stages of its development. Scientists of India are also engaged in the development of a nasal vaccine for corona. Realising its responsibility towards humanity, India has once again started distributing the vaccine to the needy people of the world.”
He extended an open invitation to vaccine manufacturers to come and make vaccines in India. India’s vaccine programme and its pace have already been lauded all across the globe. This was welcomed by many delegates particularly from African and South American countries that have witnessed tardy progress in vaccination due to shortages. Some of them walked up to PM Modi after his address and complimented him for India’s role.
The vaccine programme is slated to get further boost due to the Quad’s decision to give 1.2 billion vaccine doses to low and middle income countries. This would help to bring normalcy in movement of people and help revive their respective economies. The countries in the Indo-Pacific are going to be major beneficiaries. India is going to manufacture 8 million doses of Johnson and Johnson vaccine by October and the cost would be borne by Quad members.
And there was a clear message to those trying to create artificial barriers on vaccination programmes of other countries. Quad members have decided to recognise vaccination certificates of member countries thereby easing travel and trade restrictions.
The writer is the convener of the Media Relations Department of the BJP and represents the party as a spokesperson on TV debates. He has authored the book ‘Narendra Modi: The Game Changer’. The views expressed are personal.
The Prime Minister received thunderous applause at the UN General Assembly when he announced that India was resuming Covid vaccine export that had got halted due to unavailability and crisis at home during the second wave. PM Modi’s announcement on Covid must have been music to those countries awaiting vaccine supply. Pointing out to the Indian philosophy that stresses on “serving mankind” as prime most duty, he said that India was working round the clock despite limited resources to develop and manufacture vaccines of different kinds to fight Covid.