Atal, 1st leader to address UN in Hindi

I am a newcomer to the United Nations, but India is not, having been associated actively with the Organisation from its very inception , AB Vajpayee, FM, 1977.

United Nations : Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the first External Affairs Minister to deliver a speech in Hindi at the UN General Assembly, effectively raised India’s stand on key issues like nuclear disarmament, state-sponsored terrorism and reforms at the world body.

Vajpayee, in his role as foreign minister and Prime Minister, visited the UN headquarters to deliver speeches to the UNGA on seven occasions from 1977 to 2003. Known for his great oratory skills, Vajpayee first addressed the UNGA’s 32nd session in 1977 as the foreign minister under the Janata Party government headed by then prime minister Morarji Desai.

“I am a newcomer to the United Nations, but India is not, having been associated actively with the Organisation from its very inception.

“As one who has been a parliamentarian in my own country for two decades and more, I feel a special sense of exhilaration in attending this assembly of nations for the first time,” Vajpayee said in the historic address.

It was the first time that an Indian leader had delivered the speech in Hindi at the UNGA as other Indian leaders had opted to speak in English, the dominant language at the forum.

It is said Vajpayee, who was also fluent in English, was the force behind uplifting Hindi to the international platform by using the language at the UN each time de delivered a speech.

He touched the subject of the Non-Aligned Movement and said that India “stands firmly for peace, non-alignment and friendship with all countries.”

“The vision of Vasudaiv Kutumbakum — the world is one family — is an old one. We in India have all along believed in the concept of the world as one family,” Vajpayee said.

In his speech, he said India looks forward to consolidating the process of normalisation of relations with Pakistan, not only to ensure durable peace, but to promote beneficial bilateral co-operation.

In 1978, Vajpayee again visited the UNGA as the foreign minister and raised the issue of nuclear disarmament. “There is no let-up in the arms race either quantitatively or qualitatively. Disarmament is still a distant goal; and the probability of a nuclear war looms over us like a menacing shadow.

“India believes that partial measures such as the creation of zones free of nuclear weapons comprising the nuclear ‘have-nots’ are not likely to generate any genuine feeling of security unless there is, at the same time, significant progress towards nuclear disarmament,” he said.

In 1998, Vajpayee returned to deliver a speech at the UNGA as prime minister and met then Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in New York.

“India has demonstrated that democracy can take root in a developing country.

“I am confident that the Indian experience will prove that democracy can also provide the basis for stable, long-term economic growth in developing societies. That is the path that the people of India have chosen, and I stand before the Assembly today as the symbol of this new resurgent,” he said.

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