United Nations, Sep 29 (IANS) In her speech to the General Assembly that shined a spotlight on Pakistan’s complicity with the “demon of terrorism”, India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj warned on Saturday of a “conflagration” if the world does not act against terrorists and their supporters.
Her speech in Hindi gave an overview of the domestic and global concerns of India, that listed terrorism and climate change as the two biggest existential threats to the world.
With an eye on the domestic audience — a component of many leaders’ speeches — she listed the various development programmes of Prime Ministers Narendra Modi’s government, melding them with the UN’s sustainable development goals.
Striking a note of internationalism as a symbol of the global role India seeks, she began her speech offering help to Indonesia, which took a double-hit on Saturday from both an earthquake and tsunami.
With the General Assembly now headed by a woman, Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces, Swaraj recalled that its first woman president was Vijayalakshmi Pandit.
In a scathing attack on Pakistan’s sponsorship of terrorists, she said, “The demon of terrorism now stalks the world, at a faster pace somewhere, a slower pace elsewhere, but life-threatening everywhere.”
“In our case, terrorism is bred not in some faraway land, but across our border to the west,” she added.
“The killers of 9/11 met their fate; but the mastermind of 26/11 Hafiz Saeed still roams the streets of Pakistan with impunity.”
She accused Pakistan of “duplicity” and “hypocrisy,” citing the shelter it gave Osama bin Laden.
She called for going beyond listing terrorists for sanctions by the UN and taking on their protectors, a direct reference to Pakistan.
To decisively act against terrorists and nations protecting them, she said, “Each year, for last five years, India has been arguing from this podium that lists are not enough to check terrorists and their protectors. We need to bring them to accountability through international law.”
Swaraj called accusations by Pakistan that India was “sabotaging the process of talks” between them “a complete lie.”
“We believe that talks are the only rational means to resolve the most complex of disputes,” she reiterated.
Many Indian governments under different parties tried to hold talks and pursue a peace process, but “if they stopped, it was only because of Pakistan’s behaviour,” she said.
“Please explain to me how we could pursue talks in the midst of terrorist bloodshed,” she asked.
She hit back at Pakistan’s criticism of India’s human rights record saying that Islamabad throws “the dust of deceit and deception against India in order to provide some thin cover for its own guilt.”
“Those who take innocent human lives in pursuit of war by other means are defenders of inhuman behaviour, not of human rights. Pakistan glorifies killers; it refuses to see the blood of innocents,” she said.
She recalled Pakistani debacle last year when its Permanent Representative Maleeha Lodhi displayed a picture at the General Assembly of an injured Palestinian girl claiming she was a Kashmiri.
She called for the early adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism, which was proposed by India in 1996 and has been stalled because of UN members can’t agree on a definition of terrorism.
While India has risen to meet the challenge of climate change, she said that the developed countries bore a special responsibility. “Those who have exploited nature for their immediate needs cannot abdicate their responsibilities. If we have to save the world from the adverse effects of climate change, then developed nations must lift the deprived with financial and technical resources,” she said.
She noted the recent announcement of the UN Champions of the Earth award to Modi and spoke of the International Solar Alliance launched in cooperation with France and based on his concept of “One Sun, One Grid.”
She issued a warning to the UN that it was headed the way of the League of Nations, the failed international organisation that preceded it, if it did not reform and spiraled into a meltdown.
One of the major reforms that New Delhi has been advocating is remaking the Security Council to make it more representative of the contemporary world by expanding its permanent membership to include India.
“India does not believe that the United Nations should become the instrument of a few at the cost of the many,” she said.
Swaraj said, “The United Nations must accept that it needs fundamental reform. Reform cannot be cosmetic. We need to change the institution’s head and heart to make both compatible to contemporary reality. Reform must begin today; tomorrow could be too late.”
To reach the UN’s sustainable development goals, she said India had launched a massive collection of programmes and gave an assurance that it would reach the UN’s vision.
She listed what she described as the biggest programmes in the world: Jan Dhan Yojana for financial inclusion; Ayushman Bharat health insurance, and the housing scheme to ensure a home for everyone, as well as skills development, and Mudra entrepreneurship plans.
She said that by 2022 — the 75th anniversary of India’s Independence — Modi wanted a clean, healthy, prosperous, secure, educated, developed, energised and strong nation and listed more of India’s development initiatives.
Referring to the many warnings during the current session that multlateralism was ebbing, she declared, “We will never weaken the multilateral mechanism.”
Offering a novel solution for the UN, she said that “India believes that the world is a family” and it “must be based on the principles of the family. The UN cannot be run by the I, it only works by We.”
“A family is shaped by love and is not transactional; a family is nurtured by consideration not greed; a family believes in harmony not jealousy,” she added.
(Arul Louis can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at @arulouis)