Modi Slams Pak At UN

27 September 2014
The Telegraph (Kolkata)
KP Nayar

New York: Prime Minister Narendra Modi today put Pakistan squarely on the mat for its lack of concern over floods in Jammu and Kashmir even as it attempts by means fair and foul to grab the Indian state. Addressing the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Modi said: 'Today we should be thinking about the victims of floods in Jammu and Kashmir.' Instead, 'raising issues in this forum is not the way to make progress towards resolving issues between our two countries.... In India, we have organised massive flood relief operations and have also offered assistance for Pakistan-occupied Kashmir'. That was a reference to Nawaz Sharif's address to the same forum yesterday in which the Pakistani Prime Minister demanded a plebiscite in Kashmir to settle its future. Modi's maiden address to the UN was a throwback to the days of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, both as foreign minister and later as Prime Minister, when he spoke in Hindi at the General Assembly. Arrangements were in place for simultaneous translation of Modi's Hindi speech for the benefit of all delegates into official languages of the UN: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish. Fairly early on in his 35-minute address, Modi dealt with the new government's neighbourhood diplomacy, for which he earned universal praise at the start of his prime ministership. 'A nation's destiny is linked to its neighbourhood. That is why my government has placed the highest priority on advancing friendship and cooperation with her neighbours.' He extended his hand of friendship to Pakistan, but with conditions. 'I am prepared to engage in a serious bilateral dialogue with Pakistan in a peaceful atmosphere, without the shadow of terrorism, to promote our friendship and cooperation. However, Pakistan must also take its responsibility seriously to create an appropriate environment.' It was clear from the exchanges at the UN between the two Prime Ministers that there was no immediate possibility of any resumption of high-level dialogue between India and Pakistan. New York has traditionally been the venue for legwork between the two sides during the General Assembly towards bilateral attempts to patch up relations. As a result, there was much international interest here this week in the course of events in South Asia's festering disputes. But external affairs ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin poured cold water on any rapprochement yesterday itself. At a media briefing he said: 'If your question is that and if I gather correctly - is there a meeting planned between the (Indian) Prime Minister and the Prime Minister of Pakistan, my answer to you is that there is no meeting planned between the Prime Minister and Prime Minister of Pakistan.' At a forum such as the UN, which gives priority to minimising human suffering from both natural and man-made disasters, Modi's public offer of relief work for flood-affected people in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir won him brownie points. And he effectively contrasted it against Sharif's disregard of such suffering and efforts to internationalise the Kashmir dispute. As expected before his talks with US President Barack Obama next week, Modi pleaded for a multi-polar world. 'No one country or group of countries can determine the course of this world. There has to be a genuine international partnership. This is not just a moral position, but a practical reality. We need a genuine dialogue and engagement between countries. I say this from the conviction of the philosophical tradition that I come from.' The speech had at least one typically Modi hallmark catchphrase. 'Today, we still operate in various Gs with different numbers,' the Prime Minister said with reference to G-20, G-77 and a flood of other groups to whose summits he has been invited since assuming office. 'India, too, is involved in several. But, how much are we able to work together as G1 or G-All? On the one side, we say that our destinies are inter-linked, on the other hand we still think in terms of zero sum game. If the other benefits, I stand to lose.' Soaring high on this note, Modi continued: 'Today, more than ever, the need for an international compact, which is the foundation of the United Nations, is stronger than before. While we speak of an interdependent world, have we become more united as nations?' In another typically Modi twist, he called for an International Yoga Day. 'Yoga is an invaluable gift of our ancient tradition. Yoga embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfilment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature. By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help us deal with climate change.' Even as he talked about ancient Indian concepts like yoga, there was a refreshing flavour in Modi's address when he dwelt on concepts like social media. 'If you think of the speed with which Facebook or Twitter has spread around the world, if you think of the speed with which cell phones have spread, then you must also believe that development and empowerment can spread with the same speed.'