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PM Modi not to attend UN General Assembly session next month


New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will not attend the annual high-level UN General Assembly session here next month and the Indian delegation will be led by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, according to the provisional agenda released by the UN here.

Senior Indian diplomats also confirmed to PTI that Swaraj is “as of now” scheduled to head the Indian delegation for the General Debate of the 71st session of the General Assembly. The General Debate will open on September 20 and will run through September 26, when Swaraj will address the annual high-level debate. According to the first provisional list, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is scheduled to attend the General Debate and address the global leaders on September 21.

Sources however added that the programme for Sharif to attend the General Assembly session could change as they cited his health. Modi had given his maiden address to the UN General Assembly as Prime Minister in 2014, when addressing the world leaders in Hindi he had also made a clarion call to commemorate an annual International Yoga Day. Last year, he had attended the high-level UN Sustainable Development Summit ahead of the General Debate, when world leaders had adopted the ambitious 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, an intergovernmental set of aspiration Goals with 169 targets.

He had also attended the UN Peacekeeping Summit hosted by President Barack Obama when he had announced that India will contribute an additional battalion of 850 troops for UN peacekeeping operation.

The summit was the only forum when Modi and Sharif had come face to face during their visit for the UN General Assembly.

The two leaders had only waved at each other as they sat across from each other on a horse shoe-table for the peacekeeping summit. According to the provisional list, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and President Maithrapala Sirisena of Sri Lanka are also expected to address the world leaders. As per tradition, Brazil’s president opens the General Debate every year and is followed by the US President.

The 71st session of the General Assembly will open onSeptember 13.

The General Debate will open on the theme of ‘The Sustainable Development Goals: a universal push to transform our world,’ as announced by President-elect Peter Thomson last month. The UN General Assembly will also host a high-level summit on September 19 to address large movements of refugees and migrants, with the aim of bringing countries together behind a more humane and coordinated approach.

The UN said this is the first time the General Assembly has called for a summit at the Heads of State and Government level on large movements of refugees and migrants and it is a historic opportunity to come up with a blueprint for a better international response. “It is a watershed moment to strengthen governance of international migration and a unique opportunity for creating a more responsible, predictable system for responding to large movements of refugees and migrants,” the world organisation said.

Also on the margins of the General Assembly, on September 20, Obama will host the Leaders’ Summit on Refugees which will appeal to governments to pledge significant new commitments on refugees. While the Presidential Summit will focus on refugees, not migrants, the General Assembly event will address large movements of both. The two events will complement one another.

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