India needs to “cherish and nurture” its Muslim population, which is integrated and considers itself Indian, former US president Barack Obama has said. It is an idea that needs to be reinforced, he emphasised at an event of a media organisation in New Delhi on Friday.
Obama touched on a host of topics, including his relationship with Narendra Modi and Manmohan Singh during his address and the question-answer session. Obama said he emphasised the need for religious tolerance and the and the right to practice one’s own faith during closed door talks with PM Modi during his last trip to India in 2015.
Responding to questions, Obama said his comments then were general in nature and he had repeated it in the US as well as in Europe. “There’s a counter narrative taking place, at all times, but it’s particularly pronounced now…
You are seeing it in Europe, you are seeing it in the United States and sometimes you see it in India where those old tribal impulses reassert themselves under leaders who try to push back those impulses and under leaders who try to exploit them,” Obama said.
Replying to a question, Obama spoke of India’s “enormous Muslim population”, which is successful, integrated and thinks of itself as Indian. That is unfortunately not always the case in some other countries, Obama added.
Referring to India, he said, “And that is something that needs to be cherished and nurtured, cultivated. It’s important to continue reinforcing it.” To a separate question, he said Modi’s “impulse” was to recognise the importance of Indian unity. “I think he firmly believes the need for that in order to advance to the great nation status,” Obama said.
Asked about terror emanating from Pakistan, Obama said, “What is true, and an understandable source of frustration, is the view that sometimes there are connections between explicit terrorist organisations based in Pakistan and elements that are connected to various more official entities inside Pakistan.” Questioned on his equation with Modi, who often referred to him as “my friend Obama”, the former US president noted that he also shared great rapport with Manmohan Singh.
“I like him (Modi) and I think he has the vision for the country. But I was also great friends with Dr (Manmohan) Singh.” “The unifying thing (between Modi and Singh) was that (they advocated) strong US-India relations were important,” Obama said, adding that both had the same mission to take India towards a more modern economy.
Later, at a town hall meeting with 300 young Indian leaders organised by the Obama Foundation, the former US president said that his post-presidency priorities are to extend his voice to issues that he cares about like fight against discrimination and racism besides training the next generation of leadership.