Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi led a yoga session featuring New York City Mayor Eric Adams, actor Richard Gere, and representatives from at least 180 countries at the United Nations on Wednesday morning, his first major public appearance during this week’s trip to America.
Modi landed in New York on Tuesday and held engagements with several high-profile individuals, including science personalities Elon Musk and Neil DeGrasse Tyson. He is expected to travel to Virginia following the United Nations event and begin his scheduled events with President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) June 21, 2023
Landed in New York City. Looking forward to the programmes here including interaction with thought leaders and the Yoga Day programme tomorrow, 21st June. pic.twitter.com/6V5gHglLCg
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) June 20, 2023
The Biden administration has touted the long-planned visit by the head of the world’s largest democracy as a historic event to elevate bilateral ties, which for decades have been friendly but hindered by America’s support of India’s top geopolitical rival, Pakistan, and India’s subsequent engagement and reliance on Russia. New Delhi-Washington relations have improved in part as a result of China’s growing belligerence against both governments, particularly concerns over military exchanges in the South China Sea and along the Indian-Chinese border.
India has expressed a heightened willingness to improve its relationship with America since a military battle in June 2020 between Indian forces and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) that left about 40 Chinese and 20 Indian soldiers dead. The incident occurred when Indian soldiers confronted Chinese forces attempting to erect tents on the Indian side of the border, prompting an attack by the Chinese. Regular military engagements have continued to occur as China attempts to colonize northern India, which it incorrectly refers to as “South Tibet.”
Prior to those discussions at the White House, however, Modi presided over an event at the United Nations headquarters in New York to celebrate the International Day of Yoga.
“Yoga comes from India and is a very old tradition, but like all ancient Indian traditions, it is also living and dynamic,” Modi told attendees. “Yoga is free from copyright, free from patents, and free from royalty payments. Yoga is adaptable to your age, gender, and fitness level. Yoga is portable, you can do it at home or at work or in transit. Yoga is flexible, you can practice it alone or in a group, learn from a teacher, or be self-taught.”
Modi addressed a large crowd on the United Nations grounds, all equipped with yellow yoga mats and prepared to participate in a session following remarks by the prime minister and other special guests.
“Yoga is unifying, it is for everyone. For all ethnicities, for all faiths, and for all cultures. Yoga is truly universal. Friends, when we do yoga, we feel physically fit, mentally calm, and emotionally content but it is not just about doing exercise on the mat,” he continued. “Yoga is a way of life, a holistic approach to health and wellbeing.”
“Let us use the power of yoga not only to be healthy, happy, but also to be kind to ourselves and to each other,” Modi advised. “Let us use the power of yoga to build bridges of friendship a peaceful world and a cleaner, leaner, and sustainable future.”
Also in attendance was Mayor Eric Adams, who used the occasion to urge the world to “use the spirit and emotions of yoga to challenge and fight against war, to fight against gender oppression, to fight against violence, to fight against the lack of clean water, to fight against the food insecurity, to fight against the destruction of our planet.”
Adams is a vocal vegan – though one who admits to occasionally eating fish – and has vowed to use the power of his mayor’s office to force New York City’s children to eat more plant-based meals in schools and impose “carbon footprint” surveillance over the diets of citizens.
“We are no longer focused solely on the physical body, but the anatomy of our spirit. For far too long we have separated what our needs are emotionally, spiritually, and physically,” Adams said. “We are going to go to the root causes of that which troubles many of us, from how we interact to the food we eat to allowing our children to have breathing exercises in the morning as they start the school day.”
“Our connectivity is not just how we are connected to our families and our parents,” he added, “we have two mothers, one gave birth to us and one sustains us. Yoga keeps us connected to both mothers and connected to each other.”
Following the addresses, the attendees participated in a yoga exercise session. Modi took his place on a mat next to Richard Gere.
Hollywood actor #RichardGere and President of United Nations General Assembly, #CsabaKorosi, were among some of the prominent personalities who joined PM #NarendraModi for #yoga session at the #UN headquarters in New York to mark International Day of Yoga (#IYD).… pic.twitter.com/tENhFZvURA
— IANS (@ians_india) June 21, 2023
#WATCH | It is a lovely message. He (PM Modi) is a product of Indian culture and comes from a vast place like Indian culture does. This message of universal brotherhood and sisterhood is the one we want to hear again and again, says Richard Gere after Yoga Day event in New York pic.twitter.com/9fKXLpCYyh
— ANI (@ANI) June 21, 2023
The event earned a recognition from the Guinness Book of World Records for the most nationalities represented in a yoga session.
#WATCH | Guinness world record for most nationalities in a Yoga session created at the Yoga Day event led by PM Narendra Modi, at the UN headquarters in New York. #InternationalDayofYoga2023 pic.twitter.com/1uClPB1led
— ANI (@ANI) June 21, 2023
Prior to his arrival in America, in conversation with the Wall Street Journal, Modi said he aspired for the visit to help elevate India to its “rightful position in the world.”
“India deserves a much higher, deeper and wider profile and a role,” the prime minister said. “Let me be clear that we do not see India as supplanting any country. We see this process as India gaining its rightful position in the world.”
“Look at the membership of key institutions—does it truly represent the voice of democratic values?” Modi asked. “A place like Africa—does it have a voice? India has such a huge population and is a bright spot in the global economy, but is it present?”
Modi added that he hoped for a permanent seat for India on the United Nations Security Council and a general “evaluation” of its current structure. Only five nations – China, America, the United Kingdom, France, and Russia – hold permanent seats.
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