Great happening in India : Barack Obama is the first serving US President to visit India twice. He is the Ist US President to be the Chief Guest at our Annual Republic Day Parade. On his last public appearance in India, US President Barack Obama stressed the importance of religious tolerance, women’s rights, and clean energy. Obama said that the ties between India and the US can be the “defining partnership of the century.” In that spirit, Barack Obama gives this exclusive interview to JUST IN PRINT’s SOUMITRA BOSE & MUKESH KUMAR SINHA.
Q: Mr President, how are You welcoming Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi’s Assurance on Religious Freedom considering US was perturbed on projected religious intolerance?
A: I welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent condemnation of religious-based violent acts and his assurance that his Government will give equal respect to all religions. I underscored (in my Siri Fort, New Delhi, speech) that India’s success depends on the nation not being splintered along the lines of religious faith. I welcome Prime Minister Modi’s February 17 condemnation of religious-based violent acts, and his assurance that his government will give equal respect to all religions. In both our countries, in India and in America, our diversity is our strength. We are committed to working with India to reaffirm this principle not just within our countries but around the world. India’s secularism is positive. It is evident from the success of Muslim leaders in India, a country with one of the World’s largest Muslim populations.
Q: How is US committed to work with India to reaffirm on diversity around the world ?
A: US is fully committed to working with India to reaffirm the principle of diversity around the world. During my recent trip to India, I discussed the importance of religious freedom and tolerance in India on January 27 during my speech at Siri Fort in New Delhi.
I underscored that India’s success depended on the nation not being ‘splintered along the lines of religious faith.’ …I also welcomed Prime Minister Narendra “Modi’s February 17 condemnation of religious-based violent acts, and his assurance that his government will give equal respect to all religions.In my January 27 speech in New Delhi I had said, In both our countries, in India and in America, our diversity is our strength. We are committed to working with India to reaffirm this principle not just within our own countries but around the world.
Q: Your comments on our Prime Minister Narendra Modi?
A: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarkable life story-from tea-seller to Prime Minister is a reflection of the determination of the Indian people. …The Prime Minister Modi has a clear vision of the big things he wants India to achieve. When I addressed the Indian Parliament on my last visit (in 2010), I outlined my vision for how we could become global partners meeting global challenges… I’d like to think that the stars are aligned to finally realise the vision I outlined…
Q: What according to you were the hallmarks of your visit in India?
A: On my last public appearance in India, I stressed the importance of religious tolerance, women’s rights, and clean energy. The ties between India and the US can be the defining partnership of the century. I lay importance to these points (the most important quotes from his speech) :
- In US, we are still working to ensure our women get equal opportunities. In India, it is the wives and mothers who hold the family together.
- Even as we live in a world of wrenching inequities, we’re also proud to live in countries where even the grandson of cook can become president, even a Dalit can help write a constitution, and even a tea-seller can become prime minister.
- Your Article 25 says that all people are ‘equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion. In both our countries, in all countries, upholding this fundamental freedom is the responsibility of government, but it’s also the responsibility of every person.
- Every daughter deserves the same chance as our sons. And every woman should be able to go about her day — to walk the street, or ride the bus — and be safe and be treated with the respect and dignity. She deserves that.
- America wants to be your partner in igniting the next wave of Indian growth. As India pursues reforms to encourage more trade and investment, we’ll be the first in line. We want to help India build bullet trains and smart cities.
- I propose a new United Nations Security Council with India as a permanent member.
- We will succeed as long as we empower our young. Here in India, most people are under 35 years old.. So you, young Indians, are going to define the world.
- Every person has the right to practice any faith or none as he chooses, without the fear of prosecution. Our nations will be strongest when we see all as equal. Sometimes I have been discriminated against on the basis of the colour of my skin. India will succeed so long as it isn’t splintered along religious lines.
- We know from experience that nations are more successful when their women are successful. These are facts. So if nations really want to succeed in today’s global economy, they can’t simply ignore the talents of half of their people
Q. Do you agree that greater urgency is needed in US-India bilateral ties? And are you and PM Modi making up for lost time?
Forging deeper ties between our two nations has been a key part of my foreign policy since I took office. I recognised India with our first state visit, and I came to India early in my presidency, because I firmly believe that the relationship between the United States and India can be one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century. We’re natural partners. As two great democracies, our strength is rooted in the power and potential of our citizens. As entrepreneurial societies, we’re global leaders in innovation, science and technology. Given India’s strategic location, we can advance our shared security and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific. When India and the United States work together, both our countries, and the world, are more secure and prosperous. That’s why, when I addressed the Indian Parliament on my last visit, I outlined my vision for how we could become global partners meeting global challenges.
While it’s true that progress has not always come as fast as we would have liked, we’ve succeeded in deepening the US-India relationship across the board. In the last few years, we’ve increased trade between our two countries by about 60 per cent, creating more jobs for Indians and Americans. Our militaries are conducting more exercises together. We’ve deepened our cooperation against terrorism, and we work together to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. We work together to promote agricultural development in Africa. Prime Minister Modi’s commitment to a new chapter in the relationship between our countries gives us an opportunity to further energise our partnership. I’d like to think that the stars are aligned to finally realise the vision I outlined in Parliament- India and America as true global partners. That’s why I accepted the generous invitation to become the first US president to attend Republic Day as the chief guest. I’m deeply honoured, and I look forward to joining President (Pranab) Mukherjee, Prime Minister Modi and the Indian people in celebrating the 65th anniversary of the Indian Constitution. I’m also proud to be the first US president to visit India twice, and that I’ll be joined again by my wife Michelle. And while I recognise the important symbolism of this visit, I also see it as an opportunity to work with Prime Minister Modi to make begin a new era in the history between
Q. What would be the essentials for a good India-US relationship?
A. On the most basic level, a good India-US relationship has to be based on the same principles as our successful partnerships with our other close partners and friends around the world. That includes mutual respect, where even as we acknowledge our different histories and traditions, we value the strengths that we each bring to our relationship. It includes recognising our mutual interests-that both our countries will be more secure, and our people will have more jobs and opportunities, when we’re working together.
No two nations agree on everything, and so of course sometimes India and the United States will disagree. But I believe that we can work through any differences in a spirit of mutual respect. Moreover, whatever differences we may have are greatly outweighed by the many interests we have in common. All this requires good communication and coordination, not just between leaders but between governments. When those of us at the leadership level agree on a course of action, our governments have to actually implement our decisions. We have to make sure that words are matched by deeds.
In terms of the India-US relationship, I think there are specific areas where we can concentrate our efforts. In both our countries, our focus is on improving the daily lives of our people, including creating jobs, improving education and creating more opportunities, including for girls and women. We can work together to reduce barriers to trade, investment, and high-tech collaboration. American companies are ready to help build the infrastructure that will be the catalyst for the next wave of Indian growth. We can work together to support PM Modi’s efforts to uplift Indian communities with cleaner air, more water, and more electricity, including under our civil nuclear agreement. We can deepen our security cooperation, including on maritime security in the Asia-Pacific. And I believe that part of being global partners means working together to meet one of the world’s urgent challenges- climate change.our countries.
Q. How important is personal chemistry in world relations? Please share with us some of your impressions of Prime Minister Modi?
A. My personal relationships with other leaders are important because they can help work through the difficult issues that inevitably come up between governments, even among allies and close friends. Prime Minister Modi’s historic election clearly reflects the desire of many Indians for economic growth that is inclusive, good government that serves citizens, and education that delivers the skills Indians seek. And his remarkable life story-from tea-seller to prime minister-is a reflection of the determination of the Indian people to succeed.
I was pleased to welcome Prime Minister Modi to the White House in September. I invited him because I felt that it was important for us to meet early in his tenure so that we could take full advantage of the new energy and new hopes surrounding his election. He has a clear vision of the big things he wants India to achieve, and I’ve been impressed with his energy and his readiness to address many of the barriers that have stood in the way of greater economic growth. In particular, I appreciate the Prime Minister’s eagerness to take the India-US partnership to the next level. On his visit this fall, we agreed to a new joint vision to guide our efforts, and my visit to India is an opportunity to advance that vision.
During his visit to Washington, the Prime Minister and I also had a wonderful opportunity to visit the memorial to Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. Mahatma Gandhi was inspired in part by the founding ideals of America. Dr (Martin Luther) King, in turn, drew inspiration from Gandhiji and his commitment to social change through non-violence. In other words, India and America are the diverse and democratic societies we are today in part because of each other. Even as both of our countries continue to strive to live up to our founding ideals, I believe that our racial, ethnic and religious diversity is a source of our strength, at home and in the world.
Q. Where does President Obama stand on the big issues confronting the US and the world? Are our multilateral organisations behind the curve on many of these?
A. With our nations and peoples interconnected more than ever, today’s world presents us with both extraordinary opportunities and urgent challenges that no nation can meet alone. That’s why I’m committed to forging a greater partnership with India, both on a bilateral basis and within multilateral organisations. I believe that when our two countries work together we have a better chance of seizing the opportunities and meeting the challenges of our time. And even as we expand our cooperation on a bilateral basis, we have to keep working to make sure that multilateral institutions are effective. That’s why I pushed for elevating the role of the G-20 to give emerging economies-including India-a greater voice in global economic decision-making. And it’s why I believe that a reformed United Nations Security Council should include India as a permanent member.
In terms of opportunities, we have to keep the global economy growing. I was pleased that Prime Minister Modi and I were able to work together this fall to achieve a breakthrough in the World Trade Organization so that talks could resume on a global trade deal. As democracies, we have a responsibility to stand with citizens in other countries as they reach for a democratic future and their human rights. Technologies pioneered by Indians and Americans, often through joint collaborations, give us unprecedented opportunities to improve the lives of people around the world. I’m convinced that we can do even more together to promote agricultural development in Africa, fight diseases like Ebola and improve global health, and achieve our ambitious goal of ending extreme poverty. In terms of challenges, our first obligation is the security of our citizens. The United States and India can continue deepening our robust counterterrorism cooperation. In the Asia-Pacific, we can work with regional organisations to ensure that all nations abide by the same rules of the road. We need to sustain our efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and technologies. And even as we recognise that our economies are at different stages of development, we can come together with other nations and achieve a strong global agreement this year in Paris to fight climate change. Every nation is being impacted by climate change, and every nation has a role to play in combating it.
Q: Your comments on India as Nuclear Power?
A: We (US and India) achieved a breakthrough understanding on two issues that were holding up our ability to advance our civil nuclear cooperation and we are committed to moving towards full implementation. This is an important step that shows how we can work together to elevate our relationship.