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ICC Note:

Former U.S. President Barak Obama has revealed that he privately warned India’s Prime Minister against growing religious intolerance. Obama was in India attending a summit on economic development when he met with the Prime Minister. While in office, Obama made multiple public speeches against religious intolerance in India, including at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC. Will public discussions of growing religious intolerance in India help curb its growth? 

12/05/2017 India (UCA News) – As a debate rages over growing intolerance in the country, former US President Barack Obama on Friday disclosed that he had privately told Prime Minister Narendra Modi that India must not split on sectarian lines and that it must cherish the fact that Muslims here identify themselves as Indians.

“Particularly in a country like India where you have such an enormous Muslim population that is successful, integrated and thinks of itself as Indian and that is unfortunately always not the case in some other countries where a religious minority nevertheless feels a part of. I think that is something that should be cherished, nurtured and cultivated.

“And I think that all farsighted Indian leadership recognizes that but it is important to continue and reinforce that,” he said speaking at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit.

Obama, who was making his first visit to India after demitting office earlier this year, was reminded of his speech at Siri Fort auditorium on January 27, 2015 — the last day of his last visit to India as US President — in which he sounded caution “against any efforts to divide ourselves along sectarian lines” and pointedly asked if the message was directed at the Modi-led BJP government.

He said the message was meant for “all of us” and “the same thing” was told “in private to Prime Minister Modi”.

“If you see a politician doing things that are questionable one of things as citizens you can ask yourself is am I encouraging or supporting or giving license to the values? If communities across India are saying we are not going to fall prey to division then that will strengthen the hands of those politicians who feel the same way.”

Asked how Modi responded to his message on religious tolerance particularly in the wake of Western media highlighting incidents of lynching in the name of cow protection and love jihad cases, Obama dodged a direct reply saying his goal was not to disclose his private conversations with other leaders.

But, he said, Modi’s impulses recognize the need for unity in India “to advance to the great nation status that India possesses and will continue and amplify in the years to come”.

He said he had shared the concern in public in the United States of America, in Europe “because people feel worried and insecure about all the changes some of which are economic but some of which are cultural and social”.

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