‘Time to Act is Now’: PM’s UNGA Speech Has a Not-So-Subtle Message For China

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While addressing the General Debate of the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on Saturday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi sent out a not-so-subtle warning to China amidst its attempts to increase influence in the Indo-Pacific region, and said that ‘we cannot let our oceans be misused’. India, the US and several other world powers have been talking about the need to ensure a free, open and thriving Indo-Pacific in the backdrop of China’s rising military manoeuvring in the region. LIVE updates

“Our seas are our legacy. We cannot let our oceans be misused. We cannot let our access to oceans be made exclusive,” PM Modi said in his address at the UNGA, adding that maritime security is a huge requirement today.

“The time to act is now. The UN has to keep itself relevant. It has to better its reliability. Proxy war, terror and the situation in Afghanistan are asking us tough questions,” he said in his crisp speech.

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China has remained one of the biggest agendas of Modi’s US trip, and the prime minister also brought up the issue during his bilateral talks with US President Joe Biden and during the Quad Summit with Biden, Australian PM Scott Morrison and Japanese PM Yoshihide Suga on Friday.

China claims nearly all of the disputed South China Sea, though Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam all claim parts of it. Beijing has built artificial islands and military installations in the South China Sea.

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Ahead of the Quad summit, China on Friday criticised the grouping, saying the formation of exclusive closed cliques runs against the trend of times, and it is doomed to fail. Asked for China’s reaction as the Quad summit is expected to address the challenges and rising risks Beijing poses in the Indo-Pacific region, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told the media that the quadrilateral grouping should not target any third country and its interests.

As per the second provisional list of speakers for the General Assembly, about 109 heads of state and government will address the General Debate in person and nearly 60 will deliver speeches through pre-recorded video statements. Modi had last addressed the UN General Assembly session in 2019. Last year, world leaders had submitted pre-recorded video statements for the United Nations General Assembly session in September, as heads of state and government could not physically attend the annual gathering due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It was the first time in the UN’s 75-year history that the high-level session had gone virtual. This year too, the option has been kept open for the world leaders to send in pre-recorded statements since the pandemic continues to rage across several nations around the world. Modi will return to India after his address to the General Assembly.

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