NEW DELHI – U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon discussed regional security issues and ways that India could strengthen the U.N.'s work during talks Friday with Indian leaders, officials said.
With its booming economy and growing power, India has been seeking a greater international role, including a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council. It wasn't immediately clear if Ban discussed that issue in meetings Friday with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna.
"We appreciate your efforts to build bridges between developing and developed countries and give voice to the world's poorest and most vulnerable people," Krishna said.
Ban and Krishna talked about security issues and how India could enhance the U.N.'s role in the region and around the world, officials said. India is currently a non-permanent member of the Security Council.
Ban told a news conference later Friday that as a large and diverse democracy, India had much to share with countries in the Middle East and Africa.
Ban said he was "gravely alarmed" at the continuing violence in Syria, and that the continuing repression of civilians there "is totally unacceptable" and "must stop immediately." He said he hoped to accelerate the deployment of the 300 U.N. observers authorized by the Security Council.
Ban also praised India's success in eradicating polio, but said the country needs to improve its dismal record on maternal health and child mortality.
In a speech at a university in New Delhi, Ban pointed out that more than 1,000 women die each week in India due to complications from pregnancy or childbirth, and that every 20 seconds a child under five dies from largely preventable causes.
Ban arrived Thursday on a three-day visit. He travels Saturday to Mumbai, India's financial capital, with a group of U.N. experts to visit health clinics working with women and children. He also will meet business leaders and local officials.