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Ban backs UN reforms, lauds Indian democracy


New Delhi : United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Thursday underlined his strong commitment to reforming and strengthening the global body even as he conjured a grim picture for emerging markets and developing countries in the wake of the global financial meltdown.

“For our indispensable partnership to flourish, India must have confidence in the UN itself. If we are to make demands of others, we must demand equally much of ourselves,” Ban said while delivering the 9th Rajiv Gandhi Memorial Lecture titled “India and the United Nations: An Indispensable Partnership” here.

“I am strongly committed to reforming and strengthening the organization, its structures and its management,” Ban said in remarks that endorses India’s vigorous advocacy of the long-pending UN reforms.

India raised the issue of the expansion of the UN Security Council during delegation-level talks between the UN chief and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee later in the evening.

Other global issues, including international financial crisis, food crisis, terrorism and the situation in Myanmar also figured in the discussions. The row over the alleged misconduct of Indian troops in the UN’s Congo mission also figured in the discussions, official sources said.

He also discussed a host of global issues with ruling United Progressive Alliance chair Sonia Gandhi and met Leader of Opposition L.K. Advani.

Ban, who began his diplomatic career in South Korea’s embassy in New Delhi and has visited India earlier as his country’s foreign minister, will call on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Pratibha Patil Friday.

Ban’s trip to New Delhi is part of his three-nation tour that also takes him to Nepal and Bangladesh – his first official trip to India and the region.

Lavishing praise on Indian democracy, Ban said India was an “indispensable partner” of the UN in the efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and promote sustainable development.

“Your (India) experience debunks the commonly heard argument that development must precede democracy. Instead, through democracy, your country has progressed and removed many social ills,” Ban said at a time when the violence against Christians in Orissa and Karnataka has come in for sharp criticism from some European nations.

“Many developing countries look to India for lessons and inspirations. Yet there was still much more to be done in this country. Migrant workers, landless labourers and other disadvantaged groups and women needed greater attention,” he said.

He also spoke highly of late former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi’s 1988 action plan for universal nuclear disarmament, saying it remained a “valuable roadmap” in pursuit of a safer and more secure world.

The global financial meltdown and its impact on the developing world also figured prominently in Ban’s speech.

“Moreover, these are perilous times. We are grappling with higher prices for food and fuel. And we are in the midst of a global financial crisis,” he said.

“I am worried that development assistance will suffer, and that investors might pull back from emerging markets,” he said.

“Remittances could plummet. Poor countries might end up with even fewer resources for social spending,” he said while underlining the need for finding institutional mechanisms that will help “minimize the risk of both market and regulatory failures.”

On climate change, Ban said it was time for India to move towards a low-carbon future, consistent with its development aspirations.

India, he said, was situated in a region still beset by a number of unresolved disputes. “We see terrorism and ethnic strife. Unstable and weak national governance,” he observed while stressing that the region was crucial to global stability and progress.

Hailing the opening of trade through the Line of Control (LoC) between India and Pakistan early this month, he said commerce could build confidence between the two nations. “Small-scale steps were often the harbinger of bigger changes to come,” he pointed out.