Indian Prime Minister Modi takes a swipe at China in speech to the UN

Indian Prime Minister Modi takes a swipe at China in speech to the UN and demands nuclear-armed India be added to the Security Council because it is ‘the biggest democracy in the world’

  • Narendra Modi told the UN that India didn’t think ‘about its own vested interests’
  • Instead it ‘always thought about the interests of the whole humankind’
  • It comes after months of tense border standoffs between India and China
  • Dispute over 2,170-mile border separating Chinese and Indian-held territories

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi appeared to take a subtle swipe at China in his speech to the UN after months of tense between the two nuclear-armed nations.

In what has been widely interpreted as a back-handed swipe at the communist superpower, India’s Prime Minister said his nation ‘always thought about the interests of the whole humankind and not about its own vested interests’.

It comes after months of tense border standoffs between the two countries over a disputed 2,170-mile border separating Chinese and Indian-held territories from Ladakh in the west to India’s eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh. 

Mr Modi also used his speech to take a swipe at the intergovernmental organization for not allowing it a permanent say ahead of India taking on it’s two-year seat as a non-permanent member in January.

He said: ‘For how long will India be kept out of the decision-making structures of the United Nations?’ 

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (left) appeared to take a subtle swipe at China (Chinese President Xi Jinping, right) in his speech to the UN after months of tense between the two nuclear-armed nations

With 1.3 billion people, he said, India is the world’s largest democracy, has 18 per cent of the world’s population and is strongly committed ‘to maintain the relevance of this great institution.’  

While China claims the border separating the two territories in its entirety, both nations agreed to ‘quickly disengage’ their troops earlier this month.

Mr Modi said: ‘Any gesture of friendship by India towards one country is not directed against any third country. 

‘When India strengthens its development partnership, it is not with any mala fide intent of making the partner country dependent or hapless.’

He said India has ‘always thought about the interests of the whole humankind and not about its own vested interests’.

The dispute over Ladakh, a region abutting Kashmir, stemmed from a 1962 border war which ended in an uneasy truce. 

The two countries have agreed not to attack each other with firearms, but troops guarding the border have brawled at times.

A new standoff began in May and escalated in June into a clash in which soldiers used clubs, stones and their fists. 

Twenty Indian soldiers were killed and dozens of others were injured. China is believed to have also suffered casualties but has not provided any details.

The rivals have since amassed tens of thousands of soldiers, backed by artilleries, tanks and fighter jets, in Ladakh.

In recent weeks, India and China have accused each other of sending soldiers into each other’s territory in an area near glacial Pangong Lake and have firing warning shots for the first time in 45 years, raising the specter of a full-scale military conflict between the two nuclear-armed nations with the world’s largest populations. 

At least 20 Indian soldiers, including a colonel, were killed in June during a mass brawl at the border, which reportedly involved clubs. Officially no shots have been fired in the area since 1975 when four Indian troops were killed in an ambush

Neither Modi nor Chinese President Xi Jinping directly mentioned it in their speeches to the assembly this week.   

In the speech, he also pledged to help the world produce and deliver potential coronavirus vaccines while making no mention of the heavy toll the pandemic has taken on his own country, where the enormous population has suffered among the highest numbers of cases and deaths in the world.

Modi’s remarks to the UN General Assembly – pre-recorded because the gathering is virtual this year – also said nothing about growing tensions with neighboring Pakistan, whose prime minister, Imran Khan, devoted much of his speech Friday to assailing India, leading to a sharp exchange between the two countries’ diplomats in the Assembly hall.   

Instead, Modi cast India as a country that treats ‘the whole world as one family,’ emphasized the country’s push for a bigger role at the UN, and touted domestic initiatives in areas from technology to sewage sanitation. 

And he promised that the country’s robust pharmaceutical industry would be an international asset in the pandemic.

‘India’s vaccine production and delivery capacity will be used to help all humanity in fighting this crisis,’ Modi said, adding that his country would also help others boost their capacity to provide cold storage for the potential inoculations.

An Indian army convoy moves on the Srinagar- Ladakh highway at Gagangeer, northeast of Srinagar, Indian-controlled Kashmir, this month. Tensions have been mounting between the nuclear armed nations since a melee between troops ended with 20 Indian soldiers killed

India, the world’s second-most populous country, has reported over 93,000 deaths from Covid-19, fewer only than the US and Brazil, according to figures collected by Johns Hopkins University. 

India also is behind only the U.S. in number of cases, with 5.9 million reported so far. However, India’s daily number of new cases has been declining, with recoveries exceeding reported new cases this week.

Modi said the UN hadn’t done enough in the virus fight – ‘where is its effective response?’ Saying the world body has fallen short on other issues over its 75 years, he used the anniversary to press for change. 

Members of the Tibetan Youth Congress participate in a July street protest calling for the boycott of Chinese goods in Dharmsala, India, amid mounting tensions between the nations. India’s economy relies heavily on Chinese goods, which have faced a backlash

He made no reference to India’s increasingly heated relations with neighbors Pakistan.

India and Pakistan split control over Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan area claimed by both. The nuclear-armed neighbors have fought two wars over the territory.

India accuses Pakistan of arming and training insurgents fighting for Kashmir’s independence from India. 

Pakistan denies the charge and says it offers only diplomatic and moral support to the rebels.

The tension hit a new turning point in August 2019, when Modi’s Hindu nationalist-led government stripped the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir and the neighboring Jammu district of their semi-autonomy, removed inherited protections on land and jobs and cracked down on security and communications. 

Armed with spears: Chinese troops near the disputed Himalayan border with India this month where gunfire is banned but soldiers fought in deadly hand-to-hand  combat in June

An internet and social media blackout lasted until March.

Residents of the Indian-controlled area say security forces have arrested thousands of young men, raided people’s homes, inflicted beatings and electric shocks, and threatened to take away and marry their female relatives. 

Thousands of protesters have been wounded by shotgun pellets over the past year. UN-appointed independent human rights experts have called the situation ‘alarming.’

Khan, in his pre-recorded speech shown Friday, urged the international community to investigate and ‘prosecute the Indian civil and military personnel involved in state terrorism and serious crimes against humanity,’ and he called India a state sponsor of anti-Muslim hatred and prejudice.

India on Friday said Khan was spreading ‘lies, misinformation, warmongering and malice’ as the two countries traded barbed remarks in the Assembly hall, where rules allow nations to respond to one another’s speeches. 

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