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Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, during his keynote address to the World Governments Summit in Dubai on Wednesday Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Dubai: The 21st century is seeing modernisation but also posing new challenges to the world, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at the World Governments Summit (WGS) 2024 in Dubai on Wednesday.

The session, held on the final day of the three-day WGS, was attended by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE, and Ruler of Dubai. 

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In his 20-minute keynote address as a guest of honour, Modi added that advancements have not yet resolved pending issues. “On one hand the world is moving towards modernisation. On the other, the challenges of the past century are still prevalent,” he said, pointing out that “every government today is bound by its obligation to provide its citizens food, health, water and energy security. The government is bound to make education accessible to its citizens and make the world more inclusive.”

Modi said that terrorism is putting on a new face every time. “The world is also facing a huge challenge with climate change, which is growing along with time. On one side there are domestic concerns, on another international systems are looking fragmented. Amidst all this, every government is also having to save their own contingency. With all these challenges, a Summit like this is much needed for all governments to attend.”

In his speech, the Indian Prime Minister praised the UAE leadership’s vision for development.

“President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan is not just a visionary leader, but also a leader of resolve and a leader of commitment,” he said.

Modi also spoke in awe of Dubai’s advancement as a city and being the epicentre of global economy, commerce and technology. He attributed this to the visionary leadership of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

He started his speech at the Summit, being held in Madinat Jumeirah, stating how privileged he felt to have been invited to deliver a keynote address at the World Governments Summit for a second time.

“I am very honoured to give the keynote address at the World Government Summit. I have been given this privilege for the second time. I am very grateful to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai for this invitation and such a warm respectful welcome.”

He followed this with a special message to President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, referring to the President as his brother.

“I am also grateful to my brother President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan for this opportunity and warm welcome into the UAE. The past few days I have had the opportunity to meet and interact with the President and it has been an absolute honour.”

Praise for Dubai

Modi said the WGS is a great platform to bring thought leaders together. “It is a result of the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. The way Dubai has become an epicentre of global economy, commerce and technology is a very big achievement. Be it the way the UAE handled the [COVID-19] pandemic, the way it successfully hosted the Expo 2020 Dubai or the more recently held COP28. These are all examples of great stories of Dubai. I congratulate one and all for this.”

Tech-savvy, green, inclusive - a model government

Referring to the challenges - both the ones remaining and the ones emerging - cited in his speech, Modi said that in front of every government there is a question looming as to what approach they must take on to tackle these challenges.

“I believe that today the world is in need of governments that are inclusive and take everyone along with them. Today the world needs governments which turn technology into a medium for positive change. Today the world needs governments which are clean, corruption free and those which are transparent. The world needs governments which take the environment seriously. What we need today from a government is that they provide ease of living, ease of justice, ease of mobility, ease of innovation and ease of doing business as a priority.”

India’s own governance

Modi also took the opportunity to speak about his 23 years of experience as a leader. “I served as Chief Minister for 13 years for the state of Gujarat. The last 10 years I have served my country as Prime Minister,” he said.

“We often listen from experts about how citizens lost confidence in their governments after the pandemic. In our case it has been the opposite. If anything, the past few years the confidence of Indian citizens has gone up for their country. And this was only possible because we took into account the dreams and needs of our people.”

Modi added: “This has been possible by taking a top-down, bottom-up approach, as well as taking into consideration the whole society for the country’s growth. We took a holistic approach to meet the citizens’ needs and fulfil their dream.”

India’s achievements

Modi said: “We have seen many achievements thanks to this approach, be it our sanitation drive, girls’ education, digital literacy. All this has been successful only because of people’s participation and co-operation. Social and financial inclusion has been the government’s motto.”

He added: “We have over 50 crores [500 million] of people who are connected to banking. They did not previously have a bank account. The result of this has been that today, we are driving high on Fintech, digital payments.

“We have also encouraged women-led developments to empower our women. We recently changed the regulations in the government to give reservations to women in the parliament.

“We are also making strides for youth development, creating opportunities for them and focusing on their skill development. In just a little time, India has become the third biggest nation in the startup eco-system.”

Digital accounts

Quoting from a recent study, Modi said that India, in the last 10 years, has taken 250 million people out of poverty. “Today more than 130 crore [1.3 billion] citizens have their own digital identity and they are all connected to their smart phones. In the last 10 years, with the help of technology, we have introduced direct benefit transfer which has resulted in more than $400 billion that have been transferred directly into their bank accounts. By doing so, we have thereby stopped corruption from spreading and pulled it out from its roots.”

He said this also prevented $33 billion of the country’s revenues from reaching “corrupt hands”.

Environment focus

With respect to tackling climate change, Modi said India has developed its own unique approach. “Today India is working on solar, wind, hydro, bio fuel and green hydrogen. In India, we have been taught in our cultures to give back to our nature and Mother Earth as much as we receive from her. It is our mission to protect Mother Earth.”