PM Modi’s U.S. visit: After Houston, it’s a busy New York week

Great fanfare: Drummers performing before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address at the Community Summit at the NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, on Saturday.   | Photo Credit: AFP

After a weekend in Houston, Texas, focused mainly on the diaspora, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s week begins in New York City with the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). 

The highlight of Mr. Modi’s packed schedule will be the India-U.S. bilateral interaction, carrying forward the weekend engagement of President Donald Trump’s participation at the “Howdy, Modi!” diaspora rally.

Two plurilateral events

India is pushing for greater plurilateral engagement this year — forums with large groups of countries, India’s UN envoy Syed Akbaruddin told presspersons in New York. The two scheduled plurilaterals are the India-Pacific Island Leaders’ Meeting and India-CARICOM meeting (includes island nations such as Antigua & Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Haiti, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago).

Mr. Modi will be accompanied by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, Minister of State V. Muraleedharan and Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar. The Prime Minister and Mr. Jaishankar have a total of approximately 75 meetings scheduled, with the Prime Minister participating in over 40 of these.

Mr. Jaishankar will also lead the Indian side in meetings of the Quadrilateral Dialogue, BRICS and SAARC on Thursday.

Mr. Modi will start his week by addressing the UN Climate Action Summit on Monday where he is expected to outline India’s environmental and climate action policy since Paris Climate Agreement of 2015, particularly in solar energy. He will also discuss domestic policy on water and transport, Mr. Akbaruddin said. 

He will also talk about the launch of the Coalition for Disaster Relief Infrastructure — in partnership with the U.K., Australia and island nations such as Fiji and the Maldives. Consistent with a green theme, he will inaugurate, on Tuesday, the Gandhi Solar Park on — an installation of solar panels and a ‘green roof’ at the UN headquarters with a projected annual output of 86,244 kWh/year as per India’s UN Mission.

There are several other events related to Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary — such as the release of a UN postage stamp to mark the occasion and a discussion, the ‘Relevance of Mahatma Gandhi in the Contemporary World’ hosted by Mr. Modi on September 24.

Health and terror

Mr. Modi will also participate in a high-level meeting on universal health coverage and in a leaders’ dialogue on “strategic responses to extremist and terrorist narratives”.

On Tuesday, Mr. Modi will hold a bilateral with Donald Trump, after the latter’s UNGA address. The tone for this meeting has been set over the weekend with the joint participation of both leaders in the Houston rally and the exchanging of an (updated) MoU between Indian LNG company

Petronet and U.S. energy company Tellurain Inc. Petronet intends to invest $2.5 billion in Tellurian Inc.’s in return for rights to up to 5 million tonnes of LNG per year over 40 years.

Mr. Modi will receive the Global Goalkeeper Award for 2019 from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, also scheduled for Tuesday. The award is for his leadership in India’s achievements in sanitation, as part of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, as per the Foundation. The award announcement for Mr. Modi has been accompanied by controversy — with petitions, letters and opinion pieces expressing opposition to it. Last week, human rights group Stop Genocide/ Justice for All delivered a petition with over 100,000 signatures to the Gates Foundation’s Seattle headquarters criticizing the Foundation for giving Mr Modi the award, citing India’s restrictions in Kashmir, the NRC in Assam, and human rights records of Mr Modi and the BJP. 

Three Nobel Laureates, Mairead Maguire, Tawakkol Abdel-Salam Karman, and Shirin Ebadi wrote to the Foundation on September 13 asking it to rescind the award.

On Wednesday, Mr. Modi will also address the Bloomberg Global Business forum where he will deliver the keynote address.

Imran’s Week

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s engagements and speeches in New York will also be watched given the heightened tensions between India and Pakistan over Kashmir.

Eyes will also be on the Khan-Trump meeting which is scheduled for Monday and Mr Khan’s UNGA address on Friday. Mr Khan’s agenda will likely include lobbying the international community on Kashmir and India’s abrogation of Article 370 as well as seeking relief for Pakistan’s difficult financial situation. Mr Khan will be meeting U.S. and other country officials to mitigate the risk of Pakistan being blacklisted by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in October as well as to discuss the IMF’s review of a program loan to his country.

“I expect that Imran Khan will devote much his public engagement to fulminating about India’s policies in Kashmir, and signaling to American policymakers Pakistan’s willingness to support the seemingly-moribund peace talks in Afghanistan,” Joshua White, former director of South Asian affairs in Barack Obama’s National Security Council , told The Hindu.

“But the real substance of the visit may well happen behind the scenes, as the prime minister faces pressure to negotiate reprieves for Pakistan in advance of the upcoming FATF meeting and the IMF quarterly program review, both of which are looming in October,” Mr. White said.

Sequence of Modi, Khan Speech

Prime Minister Modi’s week will end with his UNGA address on Friday morning. India has the seventh slot, followed by Norway, Singapore and then Pakistan. Since Mr. Modi will speak before Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, it is possible that India will exercise its right of reply. “Given the rapidly changing global and regional geopolitical environment, the world is looking for a stronger voice of India in the world,” Kevin Rudd, former Australiam Prime Minster and president of the Asia Society Policy Institute, told The Hindu.

“In the past, there has been a perception in the international community that India has been preoccupied with its own particular continental security challenges, and the protection of its own economy. Now is the time for India to look out well beyond its shores as a major global actor enhancing the global rules-based political, economic and security order - an order anchored in principles of free societies and open economies, and an order which is now under duress. That is why the international community will be listening attentively to what Prime Minister Modi will be saying this week In New York,” Mr. Rudd said.

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Printable version | Jul 24, 2021 2:50:17 AM |

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