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New Delhi: Terrorism is a global problem that needs to be tackled in a united manner, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the United Nations on Friday as he burnished India’s credentials as a messenger of peace, rather than of war or dissension.

“Harmony and peace, and not dissension," declared Modi, quoting from the speech of Swami Vivekananda, made in Chicago 125 years ago. “The message from the world’s largest democracy today is the same."

In his much-awaited speech to the UN General Assembly that lasted about 15 minutes, Modi stressed on India’s many global contributions that held lessons for other nations, rather than allowing himself to be limited by regional matters.

The Prime Minister called for strengthening multilateralism to address the challenges of the 21st century, including those brought by technological advancements.

Reformed multilateralism has been a theme Modi has been driving home at all international forums, most recently in the G-20 meet in Osaka in June.

India’s position has been that institutions like the UN need to be strengthened and also reformed because its current structure does not reflect the state of play in global politics.

Modi also showcased India’s achievements of the past five years, including the national sanitation mission, the launch of the world’s biggest health insurance scheme, besides the largest financial inclusion and biometric identity programmes, the experience and benefits of which, he added, could be shared by all countries.

Modi’s crisp speech was in sharp contrast to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s address, which focused entirely on the Kashmir dispute, and warnings of possible ethnic cleansing in the region.

Khan also launched a personal attack on Modi, recalling the 2002 riots in Gujarat and describing the events as a “pogrom" against Muslims.

Modi, who spoke first, recalled the massive mandate given by Indian voters to his government in the April-May general elections, noting that this was accomplished in the world’s largest democratic exercise.

(Photo: Reuters)
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(Photo: Reuters)

Listing out the achievements of his government in his first term in office, Modi said as a developing country, India had managed to ensure it was an open defecation-free society, made sure that the world’s largest health insurance scheme had reached all the needy people, and millions of bank accounts opened to ensure financial inclusion.

India’s achievements—that of a developing country—could inspire other countries to draw lessons from, Modi said.

“In the past five years (since the Modi government came to power for the first time in 2014) India has only promoted the values of global brotherhood and welfare."

The issues India has raised are global and the forums at which they have been highlighted are also global, he added.

Raising the issue of climate change, which affects people across the globe, the Prime Minister said one of its immediate effects was the increasing number of natural disasters.

“To combat natural disasters, India has initiated the formation of the ‘Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure’ (CDRI). This coalition will help build infrastructure which can withstand natural disasters," he said.

Calling attention to India’s contributions to international peace keeping missions under the UN flag, Modi said: “We are citizens of the nation that has given the world the Buddha and the message of peace, not war. And so when we warn the international community about terrorism, it is with seriousness and outrage."

“We believe terrorism is one of the biggest challenges, not for any single country, but for the entire world and humanity. A world splintered in the face of terrorism violates the principles on which the UN is founded," he said, adding that it was imperative that the world unite against this challenge. In making this point, the Prime Minister did not mention Pakistan by name even once.

Khan, in his speech, demanded that India lift what he described as an “inhuman curfew" in Kashmir and release all detainees.

He also warned that there would be a bloodbath when India lifts its curfew in the region and that any all-out conflict between the two nuclear-armed nations would reverberate far beyond their borders.

This was Modi’s second address to the General Assembly at the UN, five years after his maiden speech as in 2014.

The Prime Minister also noted that the largest number of supreme sacrifices made by soldiers of any country for UN peacekeeping missions is from India.

At least 160 Indians have been killed while serving with UN peacekeeping missions.

PTI contributed to this story.

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