AS the United Nations marks 75 years of its foundation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has articulated what needed to be said — the UN cannot do without reform and India is waiting for that to happen. His pitch for a more prominent role for the country in the Security Council, the global body’s highest decision-making forum, may sound as standard reiteration, but the PM’s call for an objective assessment of the UN’s performance and role would find strong resonance. The virtual speech to the 193-member General Assembly also questioned the UN’s approach in responding to issues such as terrorism and refugee crises, and how it needed to adapt and change to stay relevant.
India, which has previously served seven terms as a non-permanent and elected member of the Security Council, has been re-elected for a two-year term starting January 1, 2021, a move welcomed by the PM. A place on the high table of five permanent members, however, is what New Delhi firmly believes is a deservedly appropriate spot. Hence, the assertion: ‘How long would a country have to wait particularly when the transformational changes happening in that country affect a large part of the world?’ A certain level of weariness with the reform process came through in the remark that the people of India are concerned whether this will ever reach its logical conclusion. Choosing to focus on the big picture, while leaving junior diplomats to deal with the confrontational issues, played out well while contrasting India’s behaviour with that of some new rising powers: ‘When we were strong, we were never a threat to the world. When we were weak, we never became a burden on the world.’
Calling out the global body for failing short in leading a joint fight against the pandemic, PM Modi became the first world leader to declare that India’s vaccine production and delivery capacity will be used for all of humanity. India’s open-handed approach of external aid is in marked contrast to that of several other countries, and a laudatory statement of intent of a responsible world power.