New Delhi: UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon on Friday met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and lauded India's efforts on public health and sustainable development.

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Ban, who is on a four-day visit, met Singh at his residence and the two are believed to have discussed a host of issues, including regional and global.

During the meeting, the UN chief lauded India's efforts on public health and sustainable development, the Prime Minister's Office said.
Soon after his arrival on Thursday, Ban had commended India's success in combating polio.

He had said the UN would wish to help India in dealing with polio, malaria, tetanus, measles and HIV transmission related mortality.

India must work on peace, security

Describing India as a "regional and global force", UN Secretary-General asked it to "do even more" in advancing peace and security in the region while tackling human rights challenges through legislation and other means.

He also hoped that India would find a way to build and strengthen partnerships of common ground with its neighbours without naming any specific country.

Addressing a gathering after being conferred Degree of Doctor of Letters (Honoris Causa) by Jamia Millia Islamia, he said it was imperative for India to tackle its own human rights challenge through legislation, policy and action to protect citizens regardless of gender, identity or social origin.

"I believe India will also find the way to build and strengthen partnerships of common ground with your neighbours. I know there are many challenges, but I see a future of steadily warmer ties built on a shared heritage and a common future," he said in his 20-minute speech.

Calling himself a "student of India", Ban lauded the country's rise as a economic power and asked it to make more efforts to eradicate maternal mortality rate and reduce the number of children dying due to preventable diseases.

As the world looks ahead, Ban said he would encourage India as a "regional and global force" to do "even more" in advancing peace and security, in sharing its experiences and in deepening south-south cooperation.

In his speech which began with a 'Namaste' and ended with "Dhanyavad', Ban quoted Mahatma Gandhi, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore to drive home his point that India has to play a larger role in the 21st century.

Noting that tolerance is being tested here and around the world, Ban said it is crucial for India to pass those tests not only for the country but for the world in which the country's profile is so distinct and admired.

Lauding the "Indian progress" and "Indian leadership" in eradicating polio, the UN chief hoped that same would be achieved in eradicating other diseases. He reminded India that it has to do a lot more in eradicating maternal mortality rate and reduce the number of children dying due to preventable diseases.

Every week, more than 1,000 Indian mothers die from pregnancy or childbirth and every 20 seconds, an Indian child under five dies from a largely preventable cause, he said.

"This is one of the most difficult development challenges we face anywhere in the world. But if we make progress on women's and children's health, we can unleash progress across the Millennium Development Goals," he said.

Referring to India's "rich tradition of outstanding" women leaders, he termed the election of 10 lakh women to village councils as a "remarkable achievement".

Contending that worries about economic uncertainties and corruption have raised questions whether institutions are up to the task, Ban said old order is breaking and "we do not yet know the shape of the new."

"The 21st century mix of change and challenge brings me to India. You are the world's largest democracy. You are an emerging economic leader. You are a superpower on the information superhighway. You are a beacon for the world -- proving that democracy and development is one and the same path," he said.

On economic slowdown and inequality, Ban said growth was alone not enough and that the world needs inclusive growth that reduces inequalities and moves people from the "margins to the mainstream".

"That is why we have made the challenge of sustainable development the leading priority of the United Nations," he said.

During his four-day stay, India will convey its views on major regional and global issues apart from strongly pitching for an expansion of the Security Council with its inclusion as a permanent member. He arrived here on Thursday.