Former US President Barack Obama on Friday said India should cherish and nurture its large Muslim population that thinks of itself as Indian. Speaking at the 15th edition of the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit today in New Delhi, Obama drew focus on the issue of religious polarisation in communities across India. “Politicians tend to be a reflection of the forces in the society… If communities across India are saying they won’t fall prey to division, then it will strengthen the hand of politicians who feel that way.”
He further added that counter-narrative is taking shape in Europe, US and sometimes in India where tribal impulses asserting themselves.
Obama said he had emphasised the need for religious tolerance and the right to practice one’s own faith during closed-door talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his last trip to India in 2015. The 44th US president, who held office between 2009 and 2017, had made similar comments during a public interaction on the last day of his visit, which had come against the backdrop of controversy over religious conversions.
When asked about the kind of relationship he shares with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and former PM Manmohan Singh, Obama played safe saying he shared different but friendly relations with both leaders. He said both showed political courage and resolve to solve global problems. “I like him (Narendra Modi) and I think he has a vision for the country. He is implementing and in many ways modernising certain elements of bureaucracy. But, I was also great friends with Dr Manmohan Singh,” said Obama.
Praising Modi, Obama said the Indian Prime Minister played a crucial role in reaching the Paris Climate accord. He said the climate accord was a great achievement. The former US President, however, stopped short of mentioning US President Donald Trump, who has decided to walkout of the landmark Paris accord aimed at curbing global warming.
During his tenure as the President of the United States of America, Obama said his job was to see whether the general focus of India was consistent with sound governance. “India’s movement towards a more modern economy that would lift millions of people out of poverty is important. My job was to see whether the general focus was consistent with sound governance,” he said.