TOKYO (Japan): Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says he plans to resign because of declining health.
Speaking to reporters Friday in Tokyo, Abe said he has decided to step down from the post since he is suffering from a recurrence of the ulcerative colitis that ended his first term in office in 2007.
Abe, whose term would have ended in September 2021, is expected to stay on until a new party leader, who will serve as prime minister, is elected and approved by the parliament.
Speculation about Abe’s resignation emerged earlier this year after visits to a Tokyo hospital for health checkups. No details were made public at the time.
The 65-year-old Abe had acknowledged suffering ulcerative colitis since he was a teenager, and said he was undergoing treatment for the condition.
On Monday, Abe became Japan’s longest-serving prime minister by breaking the record of his great-uncle, Eisaku Sato, who served 2,798 days from 1964-72.
Tokyo’s benchmark Nikkei index closed down 1.5% on Friday after reports of Abe’s intentions.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited a hospital Monday for what sources say was a follow-up to his regular checkup, although the visit generated renewed worries about his health.
Video from TV Tokyo showed a black car believed to be carrying Abe pulling into Keio University Hospital in Tokyo.
The prime minister’s office declined to comment on the hospital visit, saying it was not on his official schedule. Abe has been on a summer break recently, as has much of Japan.
Abe, 65, has had health concerns before. He was forced to step down in 2007 after just one year in office due to complications from ulcerative colitis. He says the condition is now under control with medication.
Although Abe sometimes goes to his summer home in the countryside about this time of year, he has stayed in Tokyo amid widespread concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, according to Kyodo.
Abe, Japan’s longest-serving leader, is in his second tenure as prime minister.
ARCHIVES: Nagorno-Karabakh as a Reference Point for Stability in the Greater Caucasus, 2013-14
Apart from Armenia and Azerbaijan, Turkey, Russia and Iran play a significant role in the dispute.
Two decades of international community administered talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, a predominantly Armenian enclave inside Azerbaijani territory, have failed to reach a resolution. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan’s petro-dollar-aided exponential increase in defence expenditure amid pitched rabble-rousing and frequent sniper skirmishes in the region has led many to fear that the disputed landlocked mountainous enclave in the Greater Caucasus could be one of the most likely sites of Europe’s next war. The sense was reiterated on March 28 by Arayik Haroutiounian, the secessionist enclave’s prime minister, who said in Paris that Azerbaijan and Armenia are unlikely to reach a deal this year and there is a risk of the region sliding towards war.
But is peace such an imminent casualty in Nagorno-Karabakh, and by extension in the Greater Caucasus?
The Caucasus is largely a mountainous region lying between the Black Sea in the west and the Caspian Sea in the east, and is situated where Europe and Asia converge. Running from the west-northwest to the east-southeast are two parallel mountain chains: the Greater Caucasus and the Lesser Caucasus. While the mountainous terrain in itself impedes navigable waterways for trade and continuous stretch of arable land for large societies, the Caucasus region on the whole offers as much natural and strategic advantage as any comparable region in the world.
High peaks with glaciers and permanent snow nourish river streams that water plains both to the north and the south, where a variety of crops can be grown and livestock grazed. The ample river activity cut innumerable deep valleys into the Greater Caucasus range, resulting in those distinct, protected shelters getting occupied by a host of minority groups. Over a period of a couple of centuries, socially cohesive groups of countless ethnicity got firmly entrenched in their respective – and self-sufficient – valleys and fiercely resisted any outside interference.
But outside interest, and the resulting conflicts, could not be avoided by the region because of a host of reasons. The Caspian Sea on the east provides an easy waterway to Central Asia and, via the Volga, to the heart of Russia. The Black Sea provides a sea link to Turkey, Ukraine, the Balkans, and through the Turkish Straits to the Mediterranean region. Importantly, vantage position in the region allowed both opportunity for and defence against transcontinental (Central Asia-Europe) expansionist designs of the powers that were – like the Ottoman Empire and Russia.
That strategic aspect gets exploited even in the present era.
Currently, the region is critical to the United States and NATO’s military interests.
For example, the Northern Distribution Network (NDN) played an important role in transporting the United States and NATO supplies out of Afghanistan when in November 2011 Islamabad closed supply routes between Pakistan and Afghanistan following a United States airstrike that accidentally killed 24 Pakistani troops.
The Caucasus has also been noted for its mineral wealth since ancient times. In the previous century, Azerbaijan’s oil-fuelled much of the USSR economy during the Soviet period. Today, the region is a critical energy corridor for hydrocarbon resources en route to Europe from the South Caucasus and Central Asia. Three of the four major pipelines that transport Azerbaijani oil and gas to Europe lie close to the front line positions of Armenian and Azerbaijani forces stationed along both the Line-of-Contact between Azerbaijan and the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, and the Armenia-Azerbaijan border. In the event of a fresh war over Nagorno-Karabakh, these pipelines could become early targets for Armenian artillery, hitting Europe’s goal of diversifying its energy supply.
Nagorno-Karabakh is a landlocked secessionist enclave in the Greater Caucasus that is a subject of dispute between Azerbaijan, in which it lies, the Armenian ethnic majority of the enclave, and neighbouring Armenia.
With the roots of the conflict said to be dating back well over a century into the rivalry between Christian Armenian and Muslim Turkic and Persian influences, the history of Nagorno-Karabakh is the subject of furious argument between Armenian and Azeri historians about the original inhabitants of the region.
Nagorno-Karabakh claimed its independence for the first time during the first Congress of the Armenians of Karabakh in 1918. Following the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, Soviet Union’s leader Joseph Stalin in 1921 put the region of Nagorno-Karabakh under the control of the Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan. The region came to be known as the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO) in 1923.
Though disputes were commonplace between Armenians and Azerbaijanis about the way the autonomy of the region was exercised in the NKAO, the smouldering frictions exploded into violence only in 1988 when the enclave’s legislature cited historical and ethnic reasons to pass a resolution in 1988 to join Armenia – a request that was swiftly denied by Moscow on the grounds of Azeri territorial integrity. In the same year, anti-Armenian pogroms occurred in Sumgait, and Armenians started getting expulsed from Azerbaijan.
Once the Soviet Union collapsed, Nagorno-Karabakh’s legislature unilaterally proclaimed their independence in 1991 and the enclave became a de facto republic (which no world body recognises as yet) – leading up to a full-scale war between Azerbaijan and Armenia in 1992. Within months, the Armenian army controlled the bulk of NagornoKarabakh and pushed further into Azerbaijani territory to establish the so-called Lachin Corridor, an umbilical cord linking the breakaway enclave with Armenia mainland. By 1993, Armenian forces had occupied nearly 20% of the Azerbaijani territory surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh and expelled hundreds of thousands of ethnic Azeris. A year later, Russia brokered ceasefire between the two countries, which is where things stand at the moment.
As per a 1994 study by Human Rights Watch, the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh resulted in an estimated 25,000 dead as well as around one million refugees and Internally Displaced People (IDP) on both sides.
NAGORNO-KARABAKH: THE REGIONAL ASPECT
Apart from Armenia and Azerbaijan (and the geographical areas of Nagorno-Karabakh), Turkey, Russia and Iran play a significant role in the dispute.
Turkey, which is accused by Armenia of the ‘Great Crime’ (the 1915 massacre of over a million Armenians by Ottoman Turks), shares a ‘one nation-two states’ doctrine with Azerbaijan because of the cultural similarities between the two. Consequently, the Turkish government has been participating in the conflict through military cooperation with the Azerbaijanis and declared a blockade on Armenia in 1993 in support of Azerbaijan. Turkey has been refusing to re-open diplomatic relations and its border with Armenia until the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is resolved.
On the other hand, Russia is linked to Armenia by cooperation treaties, especially the 1997 treaty of friendship between both countries, which guarantees the support of Russia to Armenia in case the latter is subjected to foreign attacks.
The remaining major regional actor in the dispute is Iran, which has economic interests in the region and which, like Russia, wants to keep Western countries away from the region. Despite being an Islamic state, Iran has been a major partner for Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, and has helped the two fight the economic blockade enforced by Azerbaijan and Turkey after the war.
NAGORNO-KARABAKH: PEACE PROCESS AND THE CHALLENGES
Since 1994, there have been a number of attempts to broker peace by the so-called Minsk Group, a subset of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) chaired by Russia, the United States, and France. The Minsk group is currently working towards making the warring sides agree on the Madrid principles of 2010 which would include that (1) Armenian forces leave the occupied territories outside Nagorno-Karabakh, (2) an interim status is granted to Nagorno-Karabakh until a self-determination referendum, (3) the return of IDPs and refugees, (4) the establishment of a corridor linking Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh in Lachin with the presence of peacekeeping forces.
One of the biggest obstacles to the signing of a peace treaty is the issue of sequencing: Azerbaijan wants Armenia to end its occupation first and withdraw its forces before discussing the republic’s final status; Armenia is seeking a resolution first on the status question before pulling out its forces; Nagorno-Karabakh wants its independence officially recognized prior to all other negotiations.
NAGORNO-KARABAKH: FORECAST 2013-14
While stubborn stances of the warring actors based upon ethnic and historical arguments and applicable competing principles of international law – the right of self-determination and territorial integrity – promise to make the coming years equally difficult for a negotiated agreement, the oft-repeated talk of a fresh war may not match up with the realities of limited abilities of the warring states to win a war outright, and dependence of external actors, notably the United States, Russia and Europe, on continued status-quo, if not negotiated peace, towards serving their economic and geopolitical interests in the region.
Given that hypothesis, there is a possibility of the following scenarios developing in the coming year (2013-14):
⇒ The United States, Russia and Europe expand their cooperative efforts in facilitating the resolution of a conflict towards pre-empting any threat to their respective interests in the Greater Caucasus. The efforts could rescue the U.S.-Russian ‘reset’, and signal a new era of European-Russian cooperation.
⇒ Sustained pressure at home in the wake of opinion surveys showing high levels of discontent in Armenia about corruption, poverty, and abuse of power could force Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan to divert (at least a tiny) part of the military and economic resources from Nagorno-Karabakh – without changing the official stance on the dispute – to public welfare schemes in Armenia.
⇒ President Ilham Aliev of Azerbaijan could up the rabble-rousing ahead of the October presidential elections, without walking the talk on the ground – both because of the dangers of getting into a war that he cannot win at the moment, and the prospects of a harsh response from the international community making his own position vulnerable at home.
⇒ As a lead up to the 20th anniversary of truce between Armenia and Azerbaijan, international rights groups could lead a sustained campaign at world bodies to force the two-nation take more action on the issue of the internally displaced people.
The ‘frozen conflict’ of Nagorno-Karabakh presents itself as an ideal case study for the Greater Caucasus region – and indeed other conflict zones of similar nature in Europe and elsewhere – to understand the conflict between ethnic minority groups’ fierce attachment to their socio-historical and geographical identities and modern world’s need for enforcement of legal principles. The conflict in this case is not about resources but is about identity – something that cannot be divided.
There are no easy political solutions to such complex disputes. While all-round mediation efforts by neutral parties should be encouraged, the effectiveness of those efforts is hostage to a host of internal, global, political, ability and intent issues. On the other hand, the welfare of the affected people – directly, as opposed to a trickle effect via the state – in a visibly unbiased and meaningful manner could provide the healing that functions as the foundation for a negotiated agreement.
Currently, the talk is more about the “best alternative to a negotiated agreement” (BATNA). For Azerbaijan, it is war, and for Armenia, it is status-quo.
The future of Nagorno-Karabakh would tell the Greater Caucasus region what to do in such complex situations — or, what not to do. That future, however, may not arrive this year.
So Then, Is Sri Lanka Firmly On Path Towards Dynastic Rule?
The Rajapaksa family’s hold on the Government is much stronger after the Parliamentary Elections.
The Mahinda Rajapaksa-led Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP, Sri Lanka People’s Front) has swept the August 5, 2020, Parliamentary Elections. SLPP received 6,853,693 votes (59.09 percent) and secured 128 electoral seats. The Sajith Premadasa-led Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB, United National Power), the breakaway faction of the former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe-led United National Party (UNP), came in second with 2,771,984 votes (23.90 per cent) wining 47 electoral seats.
The Anura Kumara Dissanayake-led Jathika Jana Balawegaya (JJB, National People’s Power) got 445,958 votes (3.84 per cent) winning two electoral seats.
The Illankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi (ITAK), the main constituent party of Tamil National Alliance (TNA), got 327,168 votes (2.82 per cent) winning nine electoral seats. The UNP came at a distant fifth place receiving only 249,435 votes (2.15 per cent) and it failed to secure even a single electoral seat. Former Prime Minister Wickremesinghe himself lost the election.
The Ahila Ilankai Thamil Congress got 67,766 votes (0.58 per cent) and one seat; Our Power of People Party got 67,758 votes (0.58 per cent) but failed to secure even a single electoral seat; Thamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal, 67,692 votes (0.58 per cent), one seat; Sri Lanka Freedom Party, 66,579 votes (0.57 per cent), one seat; Eelam People’s Democratic Party, 61,464 votes (0.53 per cent), two seats; Muslim National Alliance got 55,981 votes (0.48 per cent), one seat, Thamil Makkal Thesiya Kuttani, 51,301 votes (0.44 per cent), one seat; All Ceylon Makkal Congress, 43,319 votes (0.37 per cent), one seat; National Congress, 39,272 votes (0.34 per cent), one seat; and Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, 34,428 votes (0.30 per cent), one seat.
On August 5, 2020, Sri Lanka’s 9th Parliamentary Elections were held at 12,985 polling stations across the country under strict health guidelines amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the Election Commission (EC), 71 per cent of eligible voters out of 16,263,885 voters cast their ballot to elect 196 lawmakers. A total of 7,452 candidates from 40 recognized political parties and 313 independent groups contested the election.
The 225-member Parliament has 196 elected members and 29 members are elected from a national list according to the number of votes received by the respective parties or independent groups. According to the August 5 results, out of the 29 national list seats, SLPP gets 17; SJB, 7; JJB, ITAK, UNP, Ahila Ilankai Thamil Congress and Our Power of People Party, one seat each.
The Director of the Police Elections Division Senior Superintendent of Police Ashoka Dharmasena, at a special media briefing, stated that the election was held peacefully. However, according to Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV), an independent non-partisan organization, 340 incidents of election-related violations, including 63 incidents of intimidation/assault/influencing, were reported on Election Day.
Between March 2 (the day of the dissolution of the 8th Parliament) and August 2, 2020, (the day the ‘silent period’, with no canvassing or political activity preceding the General Election, came into effect), the CMEV reported 1,101 incidents of election-related violations, including 55 incidents of assault/threats/hate speech. CMEV did not report any incident of election-related violations on August 3 and 4.
However, Sri Lanka’s oldest election monitoring group, the People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL), reported 37 incidents of election-related violations, including two assault incidents on August 3; and 120 incidents of election-related violations, including two assault incidents and one incident of attack on Political Party/Candidate Office on August 4.
In the last Parliamentary Elections held on August 17, 2015, the voter turnout was 77.66 per cent. However, the voters gave a fractured mandate, with none of the parties securing a simple majority. UNP, led by the then incumbent Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, secured 106 seats, falling seven short of a simple majority in a 225-member House; the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) secured just 95 seats. The main Tamil political party, the TNA won 16 seats; and the main Marxist party, Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP, People’s Liberation Front) won six.
However, following a historic agreement on August 20, 2015, between UNP and SLFP to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), the incumbent Prime Minister Wickremesinghe took the oath as the 26thPrime Minister of the island nation on August 21, 2015.
According to CMEV, between June 26, 2015, midnight, when the elections were notified, and August 14, 2015, when the campaigning officially ended, it registered 143 ‘major incidents’ across the country. ‘Major incidents’ included murder, injuries, assaults, threat and intimidation, misuse of state resources, robbery, arson, abduction, damage to property, etc.
However, in a political slugfest, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was sacked on October 26, 2018, and Mahinda Rajapaksa became the Prime Minister. Ranil Wickremesinghe was sacked by Maithripala Sirisena, who became President after winning the Presidential Elections held on January 8, 2015, defeating the incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa.
President Sirisena, realizing that his de facto Prime Minister, Rajapaksa, would not command a majority in Parliament, announced the dissolution of Parliament with effect from November 9, midnight, in an extraordinary Gazette notification, and scheduled General Elections to be held on January 5, 2019.
However, exactly 34 days later, on December 13, 2018, the Supreme Court (SC) of Sri Lanka ruled, that President Sirisena’s decision was illegal and unconstitutional. After the SC ruling, UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe was sworn-in on December 16, 2018, for a fifth time, as the Prime Minister, ending a nearly two-month-long political crisis. However, his Government did not last long, and Mahinda Rajapaksa became the Prime Minister again on November 21, 2019.
The five-year term of the 8thParliament was due to expire in August 2020. Paving the way for General Elections, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who is Mahinda Rajapaksa’s younger brother, who won the Presidential Election, held on November 16, 2019, on the SLPP ticket. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa dissolved the eight Parliament on March 2, 2020. According to the Gazette Notification, the Parliamentary Elections were to be held on April 25, 2020, and the new Parliament was to meet on May 14, 2020.
However, considering the uncertain situation prevalent in the country with the spread of COVID-19, on March 19, 2020, the EC postponed the General Election indefinitely. However, on April 20, 2020, the EC decided to hold the Parliamentary Elections on June 20, 2020.
Meanwhile, several Fundamental Rights petitions were filed in the Supreme Court requesting the court to issue an injunction against holding the General Elections on June 20. On June 1, 2020, the Supreme Court dismissed the Fundamental Rights petitions filed challenging the holding of the General Election on June 20.
Pronouncing the ruling, the Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya announced “By majority decision, preliminary objections are overruled. By unanimous decision, Leave to Proceed is refused for all applications.”
On June 3, 2020, the Health Ministry handed over health guidelines in connection with holding the General Election to the EC. Finally, following several rounds of discussions with the Health and Security authorities and other stakeholders, on June 10, 2020, the EC announced that the General Election 2020 would be held on August 5, 2020.
With the SLPP winning 145 seats, just five short of a 2/3rd majority, there is a strong probability of the Government overturning several of the decisions taken by the Ranil Wickremesinghe-led National Unity Government.
The focus is on the 19th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution, which the party has promised to scrap. Significantly, speaking about the 19th Amendment to the Constitution on December 29, 2019, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa observed,
All of you know that there is a massive crisis in governing the state because of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution done by the previous regime. We have to remove this now. For that, we are in need of a strong Parliament.
On March 5, 2020, President Gotabaya called for a two-third majority in the Parliamentary Election, declaring that the 19th Amendment to the Constitution had taken away the people’s freedom and questioned the meaning of the Constitution, as it circumscribed the powers of the President elected by the people. The 19th Amendment reduced the presidential term from six to five years and the two-term limit was restored. The President could no longer dissolve Parliament until the expiration of four and a half years of its term unless he was requested to do so by a resolution of a two-thirds majority of Parliament. Moreover, the presidential immunity from suit was abridged by extending the Supreme Court’s fundamental rights jurisdiction to cover official acts of the President. Meanwhile, on July 31, 2020, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa asserted,
The Yahapalana Government (National Unity Government) introduced the 19A mainly to violate the fundamental rights of the Rajapaksas. Though this was the main intention, it has also violated the rights of the people. Even amid all obstacles and to the dismay of the previous government, 6.9 million people elected Gotabaya Rajapaksa as the President thus approving his programme for the country.
The 19th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution was passed by the Ranil Wickremesinghe-led Government on April 28, 2015, with 215 out of 225 members voting in favour of the amendment to weaken the power of the presidency.
The 19th Amendment envisaged the dilution of many powers of the Executive Presidency, which had been in force since 1978. It established a Constitutional Council which exercises some executive powers previously held by the President. It also empowered the Constitutional Council to set up Independent Commissions.
Meanwhile, on January 7, 2020, an official attached to the Justice Ministry disclosed that the Government has decided to review the Office of Missing Person (OMP) Act enacted by Parliament under the preceding regime. The official further stated that a preliminary discussion has already been held and that the Government would review it and decide what needs to be done. OMP was operationalized on March 13, 2018, with the mandate to search for and trace the fate and whereabouts of missing and disappeared persons during the Eelam War between the Government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) which officially ended on May 20, 2009.
Earlier, on February 17, 2020, the Rajapaksa Government decided to immediately withdraw from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolutions 30/1 and 40/1 co-sponsored in 2015 and 2019. In 2015, the Ranil Wickremesinghe-led Government had co-sponsored the UNHRC resolution, 30/1, making commitments to promote reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka. Renewing the commitments, in 2019, the Ranil Wickremesinghe-led National Unity Government (NUG) co-sponsored UNHRC resolution, 40/1.
The Rajapaksa family’s hold on the Government is much stronger after the Parliamentary Elections. Under Mahinda Rajapaksa’s previous tenure as President (2005-2015), many members of the family occupied senior positions in the Sri Lankan state. The sweeping majority that Mahinda Rajapaksa has now secured in the Parliamentary elections, even as Gotabaya Rajapaksa is President, suggests the possibilities of a consolidating autocracy.
On August 9, 2020, Mahinda Rajapaksa was sworn as Prime Minister for the fourth time by his younger brother and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
The Ranil Wickremesinghe Government had sought to further the national reconciliation process, though it failed to achieve much of significance. This process is now likely to suffer a major setback.
Disclaimer: The facts and opinions expressed in this article are strictly the personal opinions of the author. League of India does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article.
Published with permission from South Asia Intelligence Review of the South Asia Terrorism Portal.
FULL TEXT: PM Modi’s PM’s Address At 75th UNGA Session
Reform in the responses, processes, character of the United Nations is the need of the hour: PM Modi
For how long will India be kept out of decision-making structures of UN: PM Modi at UNGA session
The Full Text:
Respected President of the General Assembly. On behalf of over 1.3 billion people of India, I would like to congratulate every member country on the 75th anniversary of the United Nations. India is proud of the fact that it is one of the founding members of the United Nations. On this historic occasion, I have come to this global platform to share the sentiments of 1.3 billion people of India.
The world of 1945 was significantly different from today’s world. The global situation, sources-resources, problems-solutions; all were quite different. And as a result the form and the composition of the institution, established with the aim of global welfare, were in accordance with the prevailing situation of those times. Today we are in a completely different era. In 21st century, The requirements and challenges of our present as well as our future are vastly different from those of the past. Therefore, the international community today is faced with a very important question: Whether the character of the institution, constituted in the prevailing circumstances of 1945, is relevant even today? If century changes and we don’t, then strength to bring changes becomes weak. If we assess the last 75 years of the United Nations, we see several achievements
But at the same time, there are also several instances that point to a serious need for introspection for the United Nations. One could say that we have successfully avoided a third world war, but we cannot deny that there have been several wars and many civil wars. Several terrorist attacks shook the world and there have been bloodsheds. The people who lost their lives in these wars and attacks were human beings, like you and me. Thousands of children, who would have otherwise enriched this world, left us prematurely. So many people lost their life savings and became homeless refugees. Were the efforts of the United Nations sufficient during those times or are these efforts adequate even today? The whole world is fighting the global pandemic of Corona for the last 8-9 months. Where is the United Nations in this joint fight against the pandemic? Where is its effective response?
Reform in the responses, in the processes, in the character of the United Nations is the need of the hour. It is a fact that the faith and respect that the United Nations enjoys in India are unparalleled. But it is also true that the people of India have been waiting for a long time for the completion of the reforms of the United Nations. Today, people of India are concerned whether this reform-process will ever reach its logical conclusion?
For how long will India be kept out of the decision-making structures of the United Nations? A country, which is the largest democracy of the world, A country with more than 18% of the world population, A country, which has hundreds of languages, hundreds of dialects, many sects, many ideologies, A country, which was a leading global economy for centuries and also one which has seen hundreds of years of foreign rule.
When we were strong, we did not trouble the world; when we were weak, we did not become a burden on the world.
How long would a country have to wait particularly when the changes happening in that country affect a large part of the world?
The ideals on which the United Nations was founded are quite similar to that of India and not different from its own fundamental philosophy. The words Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam, the whole world is a family, have often reverberated in this hall of the United Nations. We treat the whole world as one family. It is part of our culture, character and thinking. In the United Nations too, India has always given priority to the welfare of the whole world. India is the country, which sent its brave soldiers to about 50 peacekeeping missions. India is the country that has lost the maximum number of its brave soldiers in the course of establishing peace. Today every Indian, while seeing the contribution of India in the United Nations, aspires for India’s expanded role in the United Nations.
It was India that initiated the ‘International Day of Non-Violence’ on 02 October and ‘International Day of Yoga’ on 21 June. Similarly, the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure and the International Solar Alliance are realities today due to efforts of India. India has always thought about the interests of the whole humankind and not about its own vested interests. This philosophy has always been the driving force of India’s policies. One can see the glimpses of this philosophy in India’s Neighbourhood First Policy to our Act East Policy, in the thought of Security and Growth for All in the Region, and in our approach towards the Indo Pacific region. India’s partnerships are also guided by this very principle. Any gesture of friendship by India towards one country is not against someone else. When India strengthens its development partnership, it is not with any malafide intent of making the partner country dependent or hapless. We have never hesitated from sharing experiences of our development.
Even during these very difficult times of a raging pandemic, the pharma industry of India has sent essential medicines to more than 150 countries. As the largest vaccine producing country of the world, I want to give one more assurance to the global community today, India’s vaccine production and delivery capacity will be used to help all humanity in fighting this crisis. We are moving ahead with phase 3 clinical trials in India and in our neighbourhood. India will also help all the countries in enhancing their cold chain and storage capacities for the delivery of Vaccines.
From January next year, India will also fulfil its responsibility as a non-permanent member of the Security Council. I express my gratitude to all our fellow countries who have bestowed this trust upon India. We will use the prestige and experience of the largest democracy for the benefit of the whole world. Our path goes from human welfare to the welfare of the World. India will always speak in support of peace, security and prosperity. India will not hesitate in raising its voice against the enemies of humanity, human race and human values – terrorism, smuggling of illegal weapons, drugs and money-laundering. India’s cultural heritage, tradition, thousands of years of experience will always stand in good stead for the developing countries. India’s experiences, India’s developmental journey with its ups and downs will strengthen the way towards world welfare.
In the past few years, following the mantra of Reform-Perform-Transform, India has made great efforts to bring about transformation in the lives of millions of its citizens. These experiences are as useful for many countries of the world as they are for us. Connecting 400 million people to banking system in just 4-5 years was not an easy task. But India proved that it can be done. It was not easy to free 600 million people from Open Defecation in 4-5 years. But India achieved it. It was not easy to provide access to free health care services, within 2-3 years, to more than 500 million people. But India was able to do this. Today, India is one of the leaders in Digital Transactions. Today, India is ensuring empowerment and transparency by providing Digital Access to its millions of citizens. Today, India is implementing a huge campaign for tuberculosis-free India by 2025. Today, India is implementing a programme for providing piped drinking water to 150 million rural households. Recently, India has initiated a huge project for connecting its 6 Lakh villages with broadband optical fibre.
We are moving forward with the vision of “Self-reliant India” in the changed circumstances of the post Pandemic era. A Self-reliant India will also be a Force Multiplier for the Global Economy. Today, it is also being ensured that there is no discrimination in extending the benefits of all the schemes to every citizen of the country. Large scale efforts are being made in India to promote Women Enterprise and Leadership. Indian women, today, are the biggest beneficiaries of the largest Micro Financing Scheme of the world. India is one of those countries where women are provided Paid Maternity Leave of 26 weeks. The rights of Transgenders are also being secured through necessary Legal reforms.
In its journey towards progress, India wants to learn from the world as well as share its own experiences with the world. I am confident that on the occasion of its 75th anniversary, the United Nations and its member countries will endeavour with a strong commitment to maintain the relevance of this great institution. Stability in the United nations and empowerment of the United Nations are essential for the welfare of the world. On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, let us once again pledge to dedicate ourselves for the welfare of the world.
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