US president Barack Obama has surprised the people of India by his utterly irresponsible talk on “intolerance” in the country which, he says, would have shocked Mahatma Gandhi. Delivering his national prayer breakfast address, he said India was “full of magnificent diversity—but a place where, in past years, religious faiths of all types have, on occasion, been targeted by other peoples of faith, simply due to their heritage and their beliefs”. This should be seen in conjunction with the address he gave in New Delhi on January 27, where he took recourse to preaching secularism to India. What is most despicable is that he did this after enjoying the red carpet welcome accorded to him as chief guest at the Republic Day Parade.
Seldom has a visiting dignitary received the kind of welcome Obama received during his recent visit. Prime minister Narendra Modi went the extra mile to make him and his wife as comfortable as possible. Also, India has been providing American multinationals access to the vast Indian market. It has also done whatever was possible to kick-start the India-US civil nuclear deal that has been in a moribund state all these years. Modi also took care to ensure India could be trusted as the US’ strategic partner owing to their commonalities. Alas, Obama seems to have misconstrued all this as a sign of weakness.
India is a subcontinent with over 1.2 billion people professing all kinds of faith. It has a glorious history of welcoming people who had faced persecution. As is bound to happen in a multicultural society, there have been some incidents about which the nation cannot be proud of. Remedial action has been taken to control such situations. In other words, the country knows how to manage its internal affairs without extraneous advice. Obama is not known to have preached secularism to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, which are US allies. He should do well to set his own house in order before preaching to India. On his part, Modi should realise that Obama is a Democrat with a congenital dislike for India.