Congress leader Rahul Gandhi Friday, in an interaction with US diplomat Nicholas Burns, said he was saddened to see India’s tolerance and acceptance of new ideas “disappearing”. Gandhi added the “division of people was weakening the structure of the country”.
“We are a very tolerant nation. Our DNA is supposed to be tolerant. We’re supposed to accept new ideas. We’re supposed to be open, but the surprising thing is that that DNA, that open DNA, is sort of disappearing. 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,” Gandhi said.
“When you divide African Americans, Mexicans and other people in the United States, so you divide Hindus and Muslims and Sikhs in India, you’re weakening the structure of the country. But, the same people who weaken the structure of the country say they are nationalists,” Gandhi added.
During the conversation, Burns, Professor of Diplomacy and International Relations at Harvard, said the US and India had the advantage to correct themselves unlike “an authoritarian country” like China.
“In many ways, India and the US share many traits. We were both subjects of the British empire, we both liberated ourselves from that empire in different centuries… Countries sometimes have to go through a discussion and a political debate about who are we at the core? What kind of nation are we? We are an immigrant nation, a tolerant nation,” Burns said.
Of the US’s “deep political and existential crisis”, he added, “I do see strengths that democracies go through trials. We play out our differences, in political campaigns or in street protests, but at least we can do that. You can authoritarianism coming back in China and Russia. We democracies, we sometimes go through painful episodes because of our freedoms, but we’re so much stronger because of them.”
Burns described Trump as having an “authoritarian personality”. “He (Trump) wraps himself in a flag. He declares that he alone can fix the problems. I must say, I think President Trump is in many ways an authoritarian personality. But in our country, you’re seeing the institutions remain strong,” he said.
On the coronavirus pandemic, Burns expressed disappointment at the lack of coordination between countries. “This crisis was made for the G20. It was made for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping and Donald Trump to work together… for the common global good,” he said.
Gandhi noted that people were becoming “insular”, a behaviour that was accelerated by the Covid crisis. However, he later added: “I do see new ideas and new ways emerging after Covid. I can already see people cooperating much more than they were before. Now, they realise that there are advantages to being unified.”
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