Contrasting Visions of Modi and Imran Khan
Arvind Gupta, Director, VIF

The two speeches delivered by Prime Minister Modi and by Mr Imran Khan at the UN General Assembly on 27 September 2019 are studies in contrast. Both prime ministers spoke about their visions and their countries. Modi showcased India as confident, progressive nation whereas Imran Khan projected Pakistan as one on whose soil terrorism flourished, as victim of West’s ‘discriminative’ policies, and as a country mired in debt and poverty.

Modi did not utter the word Pakistan. Imran Khan’s speech was full of Kashmir and venom against India. Imran Khan’s hatred for India India was only too apparent.

It is interesting that instead of the allotted 15 minutes, Imran Khan took 45 minutes only to berate the international community and India in a sanctimonious fashion. Full of rhetoric and showing no restraint, he, without thinking, used the words such as ‘pogrom’, ‘bloodbath’, ‘holocaust’, ‘appeasement’ et cetera. Rarely has the august forum of UN General Assembly been misused by a top leader of a country for vitriolic propaganda as did Imran Khan.

Time and again he instigated the people of Kashmir to rise against India. Not stopping there, he repeatedly invoked the imagery of a nuclear war in the context of Kashmir. His attempt was to win Western sympathy by projecting Kashmir as a nuclear flashpoint, something that his predecessors have also done but without success. In a veiled nuclear threat, he said, “When a nuclear-armed country fights to the end, it will have consequences far beyond the borders. It will have consequences for the world.1 He chided the West for falling for India’s markets rather than saving humanity. In short, he described the world’s engagement with India as “appeasement” which would have dire consequences.

In contrast, Prime Minister Modi focused his government’s transformative initiatives aimed at alleviating poverty and raising living standards of the masses. He tried to show how in developing country like India is transforming itself and becoming a model for others. Statesmanlike, Prime Minister Modi shunned any mention of Pakistan or Kashmir and instead talked about how India was focusing on initiatives to mitigate the ill effects of climate change by setting an ambitious target of generating 450 GW of renewable energy. He talked about India’s philosophy of fostering Vishwa Bandhutvva or global fraternity. 2 In contrast, Imran Khan made a narrow pitch for the ummah and Islamic fraternity.

Modi invoked Mahatma Gandhi’s message of truth and non-violence and India’s great spiritual guru Vivekananda’s message of peace and harmony. He also invoked the 3000 year old teachings Tamil poet Kariyan Pungun-dra-naar, “we belong to all places and to every one” 3, invoking an ancient Tamil poet not only to the world audience but also to the domestic constituency. The lofty ideals mentioned by Modi in his speech as guidepost for India’s policies stood in stark contrast to the warmongering rantings of Imran Khan.

The two speeches also tell us which way India and Pakistan are going. India is hoping to become a major power, a responsible global player. It is a country with great past and high hopes for the future, Modi enumerated how Digital India and other such initiatives are going to change India for the better. In his speech, Modi talked about water conservation, infrastructure, financial inclusion, housing for more, and TB eradication program of his government. He gave a call for international Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure. He spoke of the need for new directions to multilateralism and the UN. 4

In contrast, Pakistan’s prime Minister told the world how his country harboured terrorists on its soil. He lamented how Pakistan’s joining the US ‘war on terror’ costed it hundreds of billions of dollars and how Pakistan was now stuck with Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) strict advisories on terror financing. He squarely blamed the West for Islamic radicalisation. Imran Khan’s speech was all about blaming others for all the ills Pakistan is facing. He also lamented the fact that the world was not appreciating Pakistan’s efforts to ‘plant trees’. He pleaded for money so that Pakistan could save its environment. Imran Khan’s ranting about the abrogation of Article 370 ring hollow particularly when Pakistan continued to trample over the human rights of the population in Gilgit Baltistan and the so called ‘Azad Kashmir’.

Pakistan’s only agenda seems to be to internationalise the Kashmir issue. His frenetic appeal to the world to come and ‘save’ Kashmir is a reflection of Pakistan’s growing frustration and isolation in the world. Most countries are not interested as they regard Kashmir as an issue to be resolved bilaterally.

While Modi avoided mentioning Pakistan in the speech, India reacted strongly to Imran Khan’s speech describing it as a “hate speech”. In a sharp, stinging reply, a relatively junior Indian diplomat posed several questions which exposed the reality of Imran Khan’s Pakistan. She asked, “Can Pakistan confirm the fact that it is home to 130 UN designate terrorists and 25 terrorist entities listed by the UN, as of today?”5 Imran Khan would have no credible answer.

While the world is not interested in Imran Khan’s hyper-activism on Kashmir, India will nevertheless have to be cautious about the damage it can do. We are already seeing that China has come to the aid of its “all-weather” friend Pakistan. In the speech at the UN G8, the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi also raised Kashmir. He said, “The Kashmir issue, a dispute left from the past, should be peacefully and properly addressed in accordance with the UN Charter, Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreement.”6 Clearly China and Pakistan are coordinating their position on Kashmir. This is regrettable considering that China is looking for opportunities in the Indian market and Chinese and Indian leaders are slated to have an informal summit sometime in the future.

Kashmir is an internal matter of India. About that there can be no doubt. Yet, Pakistani propaganda epitomised by speeches such as those of Imran Khan will be picked up by a country like China whose own record of human rights in Xinjiang is hardly inspiring. Already, the Western media, which is generally anti-India in its tone, has begun to become even more so on restrictions imposed by India in Kashmir due to security reasons. Once these restrictions are lifted, the pressure on India will reduce. India will also have to show quick results on accelerating development in Jammu and Kashmir. Initial steps have been taken but the follow-up would be equally important.

By not focusing on Pakistan, Modi in his speech clearly showed that India has other, higher priorities. It has the capability to deal with terrorism resolutely. The two speeches show that Modi is emerging as a statesman while Imran Khan, in contrast, is pandering to the gallery. Imran Khan has little to show to his domestic constituency or the world by way of achievement. Increasingly, he is taking resort to anti-Indian rhetoric and hatred against India to survive and be seen.

  1. Imran Khan’s speech at the 74th session of UNGA,, accessed on 28.9.2019
  2. The text of Modi’s Speech at 74th session of the UNGA,, accessed on 28.9.2019.
  3. Ibid
  4. Ibid
  5. India’s reply to PM Imran Kha’s speech at the UNGA 74th session. Accessed on 28.9.2019.
  6. Chinese Foreign Minster’s speech at the 74th UNC session, UNGA session,, accessed on 28.9.2019.

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Nice speech by our PM and nice article


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