Comment: UNGA Speech Delivered by PM Narendra Modi

The Indian Prime Minister delivered an interesting speech that started as a clear declaration that India will resume a direct competition with China in markets dominated by the Red Dragon (South Asia, Africa, Latin America). It is also interesting how Mr Modi singled out certain countries like Afghanistan, as if suggesting that India could play a stabilising role there (as opposed to Pakistan that has played a more destabilising role in that nation).

PM Narendra Modi
"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 for it."

India is willing to normalise relations with Pakistan so that both countries can move on and focus on economic development for both peoples. But the burden of this cannot fall on India alone, Pakistan must do its share (i.e. stop using terror as a foreign policy tool). Is Pakistan willing and able to do it?

"Instead, today, we should be thinking about the victims of floods in Jammu and Kashmir. In India, we have organized massive flood relief operations and have also offered assistance for Pakistan Occupied Kashmir."

Indian knows well how it's like to see part of its territory being usurped by a Muslim nation (note how PM Modi said "Pakistan Occupied Kashmir" as both a wink at Israel - that PM Modi personally considers a friend - and a criticism to UN that has constantly failed to solve territorial disputes such as the Jammu & Kashmir occupied by Pakistan and Samaria & Judea occupied by Arabs in Palestine).

"There are no major wars, but tensions and conflicts abound; and, there is absence of real peace and uncertainty about the future. An integrating Asia Pacific region is still concerned about maritime security that is fundamental to its future. Europe faces risk of new division. In West Asia, extremism and fault lines are growing. Our own region continues to face the destabilizing threat of terrorism. Africa faces the twin threat of rising terrorism and a health crisis."

This summary of world crises is very important as it promises a new era for India: it is prepared to engage more in international affairs. This is also a indication that India foresees a healthy domestic economy and is preparing the way to become a regional leader capable of contributing to international crisis resolution.
China can't afford to feel too comfortable in the region any longer "Asia Pacific region is still concerned about maritime security that is fundamental to its future"... alliances are being put together (side note: by maritime security, it could also be understood the piracy problem that affects the trade of goods).

"Terrorism is taking new shape and new name. No country, big or small, in the north or the south, east or west, is free from its threat.
Are we really making concerted international efforts to fight these forces, or are we still hobbled by our politics, our divisions, our discrimination between countries, distinction between good and bad terrorists?" 

Terrorism is a global problem. India is one of Al-Qaeda's main target (according to the GTD, India ranks 4th in the list of the countries with the most terrorist attacks in 2013) and PM Modi asks a vital question: how serious is the world in the fight against terror when the nodes that fuel it remain intact?
(NB: "our discrimination between countries, distinction between good and bad terrorists" - this is a significant part of PM Modi's speech as it supports his main argument that countries cannot truly fight terrorism when, out of political convenience, they view terrorist groups like Hamas, Hezbollah and Jaish-e-Mohammed as "good guys, fighting the good fight")

"Even today, states allow terrorist sanctuaries on their territory or use terrorism as instruments of their policy."

A direct message to Pakistan, but also to Lebanon, Qatar...

"While we speak of an interdependent world, have we become more united as nations? Today, we still operate in various Gs with different numbers. India, too, is involved in several. But, how much are we able to work together as G1 or G-All."

Food for thought.
Even though we do not believe that the several Gs groups compete with the United Nations, we know that many wonder if there is actual a coordinated plan and reason for the existence of such G groups (that, truth be told, often complement the work of the UN due to a freedom of movement that the latter lacks).

In sum: PM Modi's speech was more like a commentary, with extremely valid criticisms; however, no concrete direction has been given (what is India's position exactly?). Nevertheless, it addressed important issues preoccupying the world today (terrorism, energy, global economic development etc); it sent important messages to its neighbours (i.e. though India is peaceful and believes in multilateralism, it will not allow itself to be manipulated and pushed around by its tough neighbourhood); and it also made a reference to cyber-security (we wonder if some elements of BRICS are worried about the cyber-activities of China).
In general, it was a good speech however excessively diplomatic - which, in a way, contradicts the increase of military expenditure and R&D, and the clear Indian political ambitions in the international arena. Perhaps, a question of oratory style?

(Source of Image: UN Photo Gallery)


  1. I expected more from him and all that yoga talk put me off.

    1. You are proof some leaders are too intelligent for their audience, sorry for telling the truth.

  2. I was surprised by this address cause it cleared the misconceptions I had about India. I always thoughts they were too focused on themselves and at the same time not enough, due to poverty but now I realize they pay more attention to the world than I thought. Narendra Modi is a very intelligent man and your analysis makes sense and yes India can be a regional power first and then a world power if plays her cards right.
    There can't be doubt that India's neighborhood is very hard and complex, this address reflected that but at the same time it was sufficiently clear. It's my opinion.

  3. I think this was a brilliant speech, Max. Unlike you I see the Indian position in his speech, India wants peace around her but if needed be she will react, hence the military expenditure and research and development. But my favorite parts were related to terrorism: yeah, how can we fight it when we discriminate between good and bad terrorists? When we use stupid maxims like one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter, bullshit. I applaud, Mr Modi for his intelligence and his guts to make use of it.
    About your thought of the week: congratulations, you deserve it.

  4. You have no idea what impact he has had on Indians who have been seeing lacklustre and insipid leaders representing the nation. I think that your take is fairly balanced but I do agree that he could have been more forthright about India's equation with Israel. It is about time that we did it openly. I think that the Indian Muslims will understand but I happen to be in the minority on that opinion.

  5. Indeed in the world stage among the best orators Modi is definitely one of the best and that is a part of the reason why he got such resounding success in the last Elections. But one thing back home we all can feel is he has a vision or is a visionary. Yes maybe in the implementation part there will be serious challenges but one thing we have definitely seen in him is his eagerness to carry everyone along. His vision maybe subject to debate but he sees everyone as equal partners rather than one entity taking the centrestage. Even though its a near impossible task, he is trying to take both worlds together.

    On the India part nobody even the harshest critics of Modi doesn't disagree that India has lost a decade, and has virtually thrown away the competitive advantage and the goodwill it had gathered till 2004. And second is some very inaccurate pre-conceived notions about the persons himself who everybody had tried to vilify but he has stood well above his class.

  6. I like PM Modi and he has a new fan in me. I think his speech was very clever and yeah, he is on his way to make India a regional leader...bye bye China.


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