A veritable whirlwind of diplomatic and social engagements appeared to engulf the schedule of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New York City on Saturday, where he managed to squeeze in not only a speech to the United Nations General Assembly but also a range of bilateral conversations with the heads of governments of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal.
Sticking tightly to his gruelling schedule, however, Mr. Modi held an impromptu meeting with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a conversation with a casually attired former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and delivered a second public address in New York’s Central Park at the Global Citizens Festival for ending worldwide poverty.
Following his “neighbours first” policy, Mr. Modi held conversations with three leaders of South Asian countries, in the process winning their support for his proposal to create an International Yoga Day.
Touching upon a wide range of regional issues, Mr. Modi found time to discuss the plight of incarcerated Indian fisherman in Sri Lanka with President Mahinda Rajapaksa, with whom the Prime Minister also flagged the question of environmental damage stemming from bottom trawling.
With Bangladesh’s Sheikh Hasina, Mr. Modi brought up both the land boundary agreement and the Teesta waters dispute.
In discussions with Nepal’s Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, Mr. Modi said India stood ready to provide all assistance to Kathmandu for the SAARC summit in November.
These positive discussions notwithstanding, the first ever U.N. address of Mr. Modi was in danger of being marred by a possible ‘hot mic’ moment in which the President and Co-Chair of the General Assembly, apparently unaware that they could be heard over the PA system, appeared to allude to a lack of courtesy by the Indian delegation as it departed from the podium perhaps too abruptly for the accompanying protocol personnel to keep up with them.
The gaffe initially came to light after several media commentators suggested on Twitter that they had heard the comments made.
The relevant segment of the audio, which The Hindu has obtained, was not particularly clear, yet in it UNGA President Sam Kutesa of Uganda could be heard saying what sounded like, “Let them settle a bit,” then adding, “Making a racket,” and “You have to have a little courtesy to wait over there” and finally “But I think … India considers itself [unclear].”