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    Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, center, performs yoga along with thousands of Indians to mark International Day of Yoga in Dehradun, India, Thursday, June 21, 2018

    Chinese Support to India for International Yoga Day at UNGA Did the Trick - ex-Diplomat to UN

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    While addressing the UNGA in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi proposed: “Yoga embodies unity of mind and body… a holistic approach to health and well-being. It isn’t about exercise... By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help us deal with climate change. Let us work towards adopting an International Yoga Day.”

    New Delhi (Sputnik): As the International Day of Yoga is being celebrated in different parts of the world, with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi credited with being the primary mover behind its observation but according to a former Ambassador to the UN it was including China as a co-sponsor of the motion at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) which ultimately helped India get its proposal accepted.

    The strategy revolved around the requirement that a resolution declaring an International Day of Yoga by the UNGA should be supported by at least a simple majority of UN member-states. This meant at least 97 of the 193 UN member-states had to support it says Ambassador Asoke Mukerji, who was Indian representative at the UN and led the Indian team which together with177 co-sponsor countries implemented Modi's proposal to declare an International Day of Yoga.

    Ambassador Mukerji shed light on the various developments that ultimately helped India get its project of International Day of Yoga accepted by UNGA.


    Sputnik: What was the strategy to get co-sponsoring countries?

    Asoke Mukerji: In the beginning, the diplomatic outreach to implement the proposal was made either individually to country-delegations, or in informal sessions of the UNGA which were open to all delegations. The outreach revealed other reasons why countries supported the proposed resolution.

    The most significant outreach was to get China as the co-sponsor of the proposal. This came about because of President Xi Jinping’s historic first visit to India a few days before Prime Minister Modi made the proposal at the United Nations. There is a strong sentiment in favour of practising Yoga in China, as has been seen every year when International Yoga Day is celebrated.

    ​The link between yoga and health played a major role in getting co-sponsors, eventually totalling 48, from the 56-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) group. These co-sponsors included Egypt, Nigeria, Senegal, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Indonesia, the five Central Asian states, and South Asian countries like Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Maldives.

    From South Asia, Nepal and Sri Lanka took a special interest in co-sponsorship of the resolution.

    Sputnik: How would you look at Russia’s role at the UNGA in strengthening the Indian Prime Minister’s efforts towards  International Yoga Day?

    Asoke Mukerji: The positive response to implementing the proposal was apparent in the initial round of consultations held by India with member-states in the UNGA. A critical role was played in these consultations by the participation of envoys who were themselves interested in Yoga. I remember the support extended to the proposal by the late Ambassador Vitaly Churkin of Russia. In fact, Russia became one of the early co-sponsors of this Indian proposal.

    Sputnik: Was there any role played by the Indian diaspora in getting this proposal adopted?

    Asoke Mukerji: Yes, definitely. Countries with large Indian diaspora in Africa, Asia-Pacific and the Caribbean, as well as Latin American countries like Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and Argentina, where yoga schools have been nurtured by well-known Indian yoga gurus, became enthusiastic co-sponsors. In addition, the popularisation of Yoga by eminent teachers from India in countries like the United States and in Western Europe played a major role in getting these countries to co-sponsor the proposal.

    Sputnik: Is the International Yoga Day a landmark achievement in India’s foreign policy under Prime Minister Modi?

    Asoke Mukerji: I think so. It was the first major multilateral initiative taken by Prime Minister Modi.

    The very fact that it was supported so widely and swiftly makes this a major achievement of Indian diplomacy, especially in terms of India’s “soft” power.

    The fact that the resolution was co-sponsored by 177 United Nations member-states and adopted within just 75 days after being proposed by Prime Minister Modi are both records for this kind of initiative in the United Nations.

    Ambassador Asoke Mukerji, was India’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN in New York in 2013-2015 when the UN adopted Agenda 2030 on Sustainable Development. He is currently a Fellow of the Delhi-based think tank the Vivekananda International Foundation


    Views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik


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