UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday, October 19, stated clearly that India’s voice on the world stage could gain authority and credibility only from a strong commitment to inclusivity and human rights backhome.
Antonio Guterres is on an official visit to India. He made this sharp and telling statement at his second engagement in the country after his arrival in Mumbai and at a time the Narendra Modi government is aspiring for global leadership.
The UN chief’s first visit was to the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel to pay tribute to the victims of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. At the time, in 2008, a somber leadership under the United Progressive Alliance I (2004-2008) had not allowed the country’s public sphere to slide into hate-mongering and hysteria.
Next stop was the prestigious IIT Mumbai. Delivering a public address on “India @75: UN-India Partnership: Strengthening South-South Cooperation” here, Guterres said: “India’s voice on the global stage can only gain authority and credibility from a strong commitment to inclusivity and respect for human rights at home.”
It appears more than just a passing remark as he went on to dwell at length on the subject without being overtly critical. “As an elected member of the Human Rights Council, India has a responsibility to shape global human rights, and act and promote the rights of all individuals including members of minority communities…. The Indian model of plurality is based on the simple but profound understanding: Diversity is a richness that makes your country stronger. The understanding is the birthright of every Indian but it is not a guarantee.
“It must be nurtured, strengthened and renewed every day in this and in every other society: by practising the values of Gandhi, by securing and upholding the rights and dignities of all people, especially the most vulnerable, by taking concrete action for inclusion, recognising the enormous value and contributions of multi-cultural, multi-religious and multi-ethnic societies, by condemning hate speech unequivocally, by protecting the rights and freedoms of journalists, human rights activists, students, academics, and by ensuring the continued independence of India’s judiciary.
“This is the India that the world has celebrated. And, I urge Indians to be vigilant and to increase your investments in an inclusive, pluralistic diverse community and society.”
Guterres, will now be sharing the stage with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Gujarat on Thursday. He also asserted that India has been a global leader from the moment of its birth.
“Your non-violent independence movement encouraged anti-colonial struggles around the world. Your victory was a catalyst that helped to end the long epoch of European imperialism everywhere,” he said, almost as if responding to external affairs minister S. Jaishankar’s statement at the United Nations General Assembly last month.
Jaishankar had said the agenda of New India for “our centenary” includes liberating “ourselves from a colonial mindset”. The remark of the minister, a former career diplomat, was found to be seriously problematic by members of his own service.
Commenting to The Hindu newspaper, former diplomat Vivek Katju had said it “damages India’s record as a pioneer and leader in the global decolonisation process in the 1950s and 1960s”.
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