June 13, 2020 12:27:42 am
Senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Friday hit out at the BJP-led government during a conversation with former US diplomat Nicholas Burns. He argued that there is an “atmosphere of fear” in India and accused the government of taking “unilateral decisions” in its response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Arguing that the element of “tolerance” which was in India’s DNA is “disappearing”, he said the people who are “weakening the structure of the country” by dividing Hindus and Muslims and Sikhs are calling themselves “nationalists”. Burns, on his part, slammed US President Donald Trump, saying he is “in many ways an authoritarian personality”.
They spoke about the Black Lives Matter protests and the India-US relationship which Rahul said has become “episodic” now. Burns said millions of Americans are trying to protest peacefully “yet the President treats them all like terrorists.”
Rahul responded, “You mentioned that you are an immigrant nation. We are (a) very tolerant nation. Our DNA is supposed to be tolerant… but the surprising thing is that that DNA, that open DNA is sort of disappearing. I mean I say this with sadness that I don’t see that level of tolerance that I used to see. I don’t see it in the United States and I don’t see it in India.”
“When you divide African Americans, Mexicans and other people in the US, so you divide Hindus and Muslims and Sikhs in India, you’re weakening the structure of the country. But then the same people who weaken the structure of the country say that they are the nationalists,” he said.
Burns said President Trump wraps himself in a flag and declares that he alone can fix the problems. “I must say, I think President Trump is in many ways an authoritarian personality.”
Rahul said the relationship between India and the US used to cover multiple sectors like education, defence and healthcare, but has now become episodic and transactional and focused mainly on defence.
Burns said both Democrats and Republicans agree that the US “ought to have a very close, supportive and all-encompassing relationship with India”. “One of the challenges we face is the coming power of authoritarian countries. I mentioned two…China and Russia. We never want to fight. We don’t want war but we want to preserve our way of life and we want to preserve our positions in the world… I think our relationship is so important between our two countries for that reason,” Burns said.
Rahul said China has an authoritarian worldview whereas India has a democratic worldview which he was confident will do well.
“But to achieve that, that has to start from inside our countries. We can’t have an authoritarian perspective internally and then make that argument. That argument has to be made from the foundation of democracy, within the country itself, within our countries. And that’s where I see the problem. That it becomes very difficult for us to, from our perspective, to make an argument of democracy when our institutions are being torn apart. When our people are scared, when millions of people in our country are terrified of what is going to happen to them,” he said.
“So, there is this atmosphere of fear (in India). You take unilateral decisions, you do the biggest lockdown in the world… then you have millions of manual labourers walking thousands of kilometres back home. So, it is this unilateral episodic type of leadership, where you just come in and do something and go away. It’s very destructive.”