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United Nations Secretray General Ban Ki-moon has some nuptial ties with India. The revelation came when Ban Ki-moon mentioned that he begun his diplomatic career in India 36 years back in India and that his son was born in India and finally to the boisterous laughter of a select audience that his daughter is married to an Indian. Perhaps, there could not have been anything better to strike a chord with the audience. He made this observation while delivering the ninth Rajiv Memorial lecture on India and the United Nations; An Indispensable Partnership on October 30 in New Delhi [Images].
In his first visit to India after taking over office, Ban Ki-Moon recalled India's long and glorious association with India and said, "throughout these many decades, India has given its best to the United Nations and to the world -- its best economists, doctors and engineers, its most promising ideas. The talented nationals who have served with distinction as envoys and UN staff members. Making a mention of Indian peace-keeping forces he said, "Ours is an indispensable partnership" and that India is "indispensable partner for peace and security. Indian peacekeepers are deployed across the world -- from Cyprus to Sudan. From Kosovo to Cote d'Ivoire. From Lebanon to the Golan Heights. From Georgia to Timor-Leste".
He added that India is the largest contributor to UN "operation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. An Indian infantry brigade and attack helicopters are giving our mission strength as we face insurgents in the most dangerous part of the country. And overall, as of the end of last month, India was the third biggest contributor to peacekeeping, with more than 8,700 personnel at work for peace. You have also heeded my call for help off the coast of Somalia, where piracy is interfering with deliveries of vitally needed humanitarian relief to millions of people. This engagement is not under the auspices of the United Nations. But your willingness to help police those waters is a welcome contribution to our work. Your contributions to peacekeeping are not only a matter of numbers. Indian peacekeepers bring professionalism to their role. They are skilled at reaching out to local populations".
He also took the opportunity to pay tribute to 128 peacekeepers from India who, over the years, have paid the ultimate price while serving the United Nations.
Reviewing the economic scenario and the Millennium Development Goals, he remarked that "India is also an indispensable partner of the United Nations in our efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and promote sustainable development. Many developing countries look to you for lessons and inspiration. Decades ago, a Green Revolution transformed your country".
He further said, "Today, you have registered important gains in the UN's Human Development Index. Yet there is still much more to be done. Migrant workers, landless labourers, other disadvantaged groups and women need greater attention. 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. I am very worried that development assistance will suffer, and that investors might pull back from emerging markets. A slowdown in consumer spending could reduce demand for developing-country goods and commodities. We could see a spike in unemployment. Remittances could plummet. Poor countries might end up with even fewer resources for social spending. People who have striven so hard to rise out of poverty could fall back into destitution. Fear is widespread. We cannot know what twists and turns the crisis will take next. But we do know that it requires an urgent, coherent and concerted collective response".
Alluding to world financial crisis he added that "we can also recognise the pressing need to address the systemic weaknesses at the root of the crisis. We need to find institutional mechanisms that will help minimise the risk of both market and regulatory failures. Most immediately, the least developed countries, the poorest of the world's poor -- children, older persons and others -- stand to suffer most. Along with you, we at the United Nations are determined to see that this does not happen, here or anywhere".
Paying tribute to India's pulsating democracy he said that India's "experience debunks the commonly heard argument that development must precede democracy. Instead, through democracy, your country has progressed and removed many social ills. India is proof of what your Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen has rightly pointed out: that a country becomes fit through democracy".
Making a reference to India's role in the UN Democracy Fund, he further said, "it is quite natural that India is such a steadfast and generous supporter of the UN Democracy Fund. The Fund was launched three years ago to strengthen the voice of civil society in promoting democracy in countries around the world. By working within the UN system to help bring the benefits of democracy to others, the world's largest democracy is demonstrating its solidarity with people and nations beyond its own borders".
He also referred to the Non-Aligned Movement and observed that as "a leading member of the Non-Aligned Movement, India stood up for countries that felt marginalised during the Cold War. You were a principled voice for those who didn't agree with ideological confrontation. And of course, your long association with the United Nations has been a central feature of your foreign policy and international engagement".
Making a mention of climate change, he acknowledged the contribution of Dr Rajendra Pachauri and said that "climate change is a defining issue of our era. Moreover, the consequences are not being evenly felt. Developing countries, especially smaller island ones, are already the first and hardest hit. Climate change weighs heaviest on the most vulnerable, who have neither the resources nor the capacity to cope. Last year, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shared the Nobel Peace Prize. I know you are all proud of the panel's chairman, Dr Pachauri. His work on this subject and in shepherding the wider cause of development has enriched the world".
Lauding India's emergence as a regional and global player, he urged upon New Delhi to continue to champion the causes of democracy, the rule of law and good government, and encouraged India to increase its engagement, including through the UN system, in efforts to promote these goals. He said, "We already lean on you for peacekeeping. I would also like to see even stronger Indian support for UN efforts to peacefully resolve conflict. Myanmar might benefit from greater Indian involvement. My visit earlier this year following Cyclone Nargis [Images] was the first by a Secretary-General of the United Nations in 44 years. Cooperation between Myanmar and the United Nations has improved in recent months. But I regret that there has not been more progress on issues of concern to the international community. These include the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners, and initiating a credible dialogue".
Referring to the paradigm shift in international relations, he remarked that "indeed, we have reached a new multilateral moment. Our institutions need to be reinvented. Our times demand a new multilateralism -- a more inclusive and effective multilateralism. Devastating as it is, today's turbulence has created an opportunity for reform".
Paying tribute to Mahatma Gandhi [Images], whose birthday on October 2 has been declared as International Day of Non-Violence by the United Nations, he quoted the words of the Mahatma that the work of India would not be done so long as there is a single tear in the eye of a single child. He also quoted Baba Amte's [Images] exhortation that, "in public service, the distressed begs your attention and you have to drench it with love and compassion. Goodwill and dedication alone do not suffice. Public service challenges us to discover and accept new values, new attitudes and most important, new commitments".
Earlier while commencing his address he referred to contributions of Indira Gandhi [Images] and Rajiv Gandhi in various spheres and described Sonia Gandhi [Images] as a global citizen and an example of cross-cultural contacts and exchanges that increasingly define our world.
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