India to play greater role in world affairs: Ban

United Nations: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said he expects India to play a greater role in world affairs and "lead by example" in helping countries in the Arab world to achieve democratic stability.

Ban, who begins a three-day official visit to India tomorrow, said the focus of his trip will be towards building an even stronger relationship with India. "India is a very valued and strong partner of the UN and I really want to reinforce such a strong partnership" during the visit, Ban told PTI in an interview here ahead of his trip.

The UN Chief said his message to India will be that he expects the world`s largest democracy to "play a greater role" in global affairs. "India should speak out and also help those countries in transition in the Arab world and North Africa. India can show and lead by example and share its experience in the democratisation process," Ban said.

"All in all I am very happy with current level of partnership between UN and India. But we are working (to have an) even better, even more and even stronger relationship. That is the main purpose (of the visit)," he said.

As one of the leading non-aligned movement and G-77 member as well as an emerging power in world economy, India has been playing a great role in UN Security Council in addressing peace and security particularly in addressing the Arab spring and democratisation process in Middle East and North Africa, he said.

Ban praised India`s contribution to UN peacekeeping operations across the world, taking note of the sacrifices made by Indian men and women during discharge of their duties.

India is one of the largest troop contributing countries, having contributed over 100,000 troops to various peacekeeping missions across the world. "We are very grateful for such a great contribution and many such sacrifices by Indian men and women while discharging their duties. These are very noble sacrifices."

He said the UN hopes to continue to receive greater support from India in peace and security and peacekeeping operations. In addition, India should also continue to promote south-south cooperation since such economic cooperation has taken a much important role in current times than the traditional "north-south" model.

As one of the emerging economic powers, "India has the capacity and has its own experience which will be used by many in the developing world. India has its own models which can be applied to many countries," the UN chief said.

Expressing gratitude for the leadership of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in addressing difficult issues around the world, Ban said he has discussed with the Indian leader ways to address global challenges like sustainable development, climate change and peace and security when he met Singh at various global forums.

During the trip, which is Ban`s third as UN Chief, he will meet Singh, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and several other senior political leaders in New Delhi. He would also visit Mumbai where he will attend an event hosted by Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani, who is member of the Millennium Development Goals Advocacy group, which Ban had established.

In Mumbai, Ban said he is keen to "see for myself" the success stories in the field of health and sanitation adding that India has been making great strides in Millennium Development Goals, particularly in the health issues. "We are really showcasing the Indian success stories to other countries," he said.

Noting that India too has a slew of challenges to overcome, Ban said the country has to step up efforts to significantly reduce high infant mortality rate.