SPECIAL/INDIA AT THE UN
Indian prime minister’s UN address resonates with developing countries
SUMAN GUHA MOZUMDER
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s address to
the United Nations General Assembly last week, in
which he went beyond New Delhi’s immediate concerns to speak about issues affecting particularly the
developing countries, impressed many.
In his address to the 66th session of the United
Nations General Assembly, Dr Singh spoke about
issues raging from terrorism, to the upheaval in West
Asia, the Persian Gulf and North Africa, to the
Palestinian aspiration for statehood, to UN reform, to
the need for investment, technology and market
access for the products of developing countries.
Although Singh addressed the UNGA on a Saturday
morning, a number of foreign ministers from developing countries were present at the General Assembly
to listen to what the prime minister of the world’s
largest democracy, which is also a developing country,
had to say about issues affecting the world.
Singh’s address did not disappoint.
He mentioned that energy and food prices are once
again spiraling and introducing fresh instability,
especially for developing countries. He noted that the
traditional engines of the global economy — countries
like the United States, Japan and in Europe — today
face continued economic slowdown. Recessionary
trends in these countries, he said, are affecting confidence in world financial and capital markets.
‘These developments are bound to have a negative
impact on developing countries, which also have to
bear the additional burden of inflationary pressures,’ Singh,
an economist by training, said.
Reform of the United Nations, he said, was important so
that it could become more effective and stronger and ‘sen-
sitive to the aspirations of everyone — rich or poor, big or
small.’ He urged the world body to bring the development
agenda firmly back to the centerstage of the United
‘We need a much more determined effort to ensure
balanced, inclusive and sustainable development for
the benefit of vast sections of humanity. Each of us
can contribute to this task, but we can achieve far
more if we act in partnership,’ he said.
He said that societies cannot be changed from outside by military force. ‘People in all countries have the
right to choose their own destiny and decide their
own future,’ he said, again without referring to any
“The prime minister’s address resonated very well
with all those who were present at the assembly that
morning, thanks to Dr Singh touching upon issues
that concern the world at large,” a top diplomatic
source insisted. “The Indian prime minister, being the
head of the government of the largest democracy in
the world, could not talk just about its own concerns.
Naturally, Dr Singh spoke about a large number of
issues that concern the members of the world body,
especially the developing countries. That is how India
demonstrated its leadership and its representative
role in the comity of nations.”
Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, India’s perma-
nent representative to the UN, said Prime Minister
Singh’s visit was highly successful.
“The prime minister articulated India’s worldview
with precision, clarity and in a manner that was
appreciated extremely well by the international community,” Puri said. “The prime minister covered a lot
of ground and it was excellent that these issues were
covered at the level of the prime minister at the
General Assembly, which he addressed after two years.”
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addresses at the 66th session of the United
Nations General Assembly, in New York, September 24
Manmohan Singh to visit Iran
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, left, with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
PHOTOGRAPHS: PARESH GANDHI
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly September 23. The leaders, diplomatic sources said, had an “engaging meeting” during
which they discussed a host of issues, including Afghanistan
and West Asia.
Ahmadinejad invited Dr Singh to visit Iran and the prime
minister accepted the invitation. While dates for Singh’s visit
are yet to be finalized, Meera Kumar, speaker of the Lok Sabha,
the lower House of India’s parliament, will visit Tehran before
On the issue of India’s presence in Afghanistan, it was
learned, Ahmadinejad supported New Delhi’s role and told
Singh that he felt there is need for more regular exchanges on
the situation in Kabul. The two leaders agreed that the dispensation in Afghanistan should be Afghan-led.
“The emphasis was entirely on bilateral issues,” India’s
Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai said after the meeting. The
two sides discussed a host of other issues, including potential
cooperation in the field of hydrocarbons.
Asked if the the divergence of opinions between India and the
United States regarding Iran and the Middle East impact US-India ties negatively, given Singh’s meeting with Ahmadinejad
and Delhi’s historical support for the cause of Palestine, Mathai
replied in the negative.
— Suman Guha Mozumder