Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday displayed a willingness to bat on the front foot on cross-border terrorism when he said, >in his speech at the United Nations General Assembly here, that progress in resolving the Kashmir issue would require that Pakistan prevent its territory and areas under its control from being used to facilitate terrorism aimed at India.
Striking a strong note before the world body on the eve of his much-vaunted meeting here with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Dr. Singh said that even if Pakistan-based “terrorist machinery” were “shut down,” there must be a clear understanding that Jammu and Kashmir was an integral part of India, and in this context there could “never, ever, be a compromise” on India’s territorial integrity.
Epicentre of terror
Though Dr. Singh reiterated that India was “committed sincerely” to addressing this territorial question through bilateral dialogue on the basis of the Shimla Agreement, he underscored India’s persisting concerns at “state-sponsored cross-border terrorism,” particularly owing to the fact that the “epicentre of terrorism in our region is located in our neighbourhood in Pakistan.”
Underscoring some of the wider issues relating to terrorism and the nuclear threat, Dr. Singh said that 25 years after the former Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, put forward a comprehensive Action Plan for a Nuclear Weapon-free and Non-violent World Order, “We must strengthen efforts against nuclear proliferation and pursue time-bound, universal, non-discriminatory, phased and verifiable nuclear disarmament,” and guard against “terrorists and non-state actors gaining access to sensitive materials and technologies.”
A dominant theme in Dr. Singh’s speech was India’s firm belief in multilateralism as the vehicle to tackle a variety of global policy challenges, from universal concerns such as growth and poverty in a post-recession world to specific strategic questions relating to recent developments in Syria, Palestine and Afghanistan.
In the context of multilateralism, Dr. Singh not only flagged India’s successful partnerships with other developing nations in Africa, for example, but also exhorted delegates to press ahead with long overdue reform of the United Nations, including the Security Council.
Dr. Singh said the U.N.’s 70th anniversary in 2015 would be the moment to ensure that “the U.N. is ready for this century by completing the much-needed reforms of the United Nations and its Security Council.”
Along with other BRICS nations, Dr. Singh’s efforts in this mission have gathered some momentum after U.S. President Barack Obama backed India’s bid to become a permanent member of the Security Council during his 2010 visit to India.
However, at the U.N. General Assembly this weekend, Dr. Singh cautioned: “Never has scepticism about the U.N.’s capacity… been higher, or the external environment less propitious for multilateralism.” The U.N. enjoyed the most success when it based its decisions on “the widest possible consent and balancing equitably the needs and responsibilities of nations at different stages… of development,” he said.