Former US President Barack Obama on Friday said he told Prime Minister Narendra Modi that India must not be split on sectarian lines and emphasised how the country must cherish the fact that Muslims here identify themselves as Indians.
"A country shouldn't be divided on sectarian lines and that is something I have told Prime Minister Modi in person as well as to people in America," Obama said at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit.
"...People see the differences between each other much too vividly and miss the commonalities. Commonalities are always based on gender and we need to focus on that," Obama said.
Asked how Modi responded to his message on religious tolerance, Obama dodged a straight reply, saying his goal was not to disclose his private conversations.
But he said India's majority community and government needed to cherish the fact that minorities, particularly Muslims, in India identify themselves as part of the Indian society.
"For a country like India where there is a Muslim population that is successful, integrated and considers itself as Indian, which is not the case in some other countries, this should be nourished and cultivated," Obama said.
He said in a democracy the most important office was not the office of the President or Prime Minister but the office of the citizen who needed to question themselves about which ideology they encourage by supporting a particular politician.
"When you see a politician doing something questionable, ask yourself 'Am I supporting this?' Politicians are like mirrors which reflect the community's view. If communities across India are saying they won't fall prey to division, then it will strengthen the hand of politicians who feel that way."
Meanwhile, former US President Barack Obama conducted a town hall event in Delhi for the Obama Foundation, where he interacted with an estimated 280 young leaders from across India. Obama spoke about several important issues pertaining to both US and India.
“The partnership I believe between the world’s oldest democracy and the world’s largest democracy could be a defining partnership of the 21st century,” Obama said.
He also shed light on the role of technology that can have impact (positive and negative) on everyone’s lives.
Below are the LIVE UPDATES
5.40 pm: Thanks guys for joining our LIVE blog. A detailed copy will be up soon.
5.34 pm: Concluding his remarks, Obama said, “You can be a full-time activist to bring about change, you can primarily be a writer..you can be an extrovert and want to run for office…the key is to find what the right is for you..if each of us are finding the way, even of small measures of courage, then India will be better and the world will be better.”
5.20 pm: “Trying to stay rooted in the work that is important to you and the people that you claim to advocate for is absolutely vital for you to be effective as an advocate,” Obama said.
4.50 pm: On building consensus among different parties, Obama said, “It’s not easy. You have to listen more than you speak. In the political context, it’s getting harder as it is getting noisier and competitive.”
4.30 pm: Obama also talked about the role of mentorship. “I think part of the reason I consider the idea of mentorship important is the absence of mentors during my childhood… I can’t say I had someone who groomed me or took me under their wing.”
4.10 pm: Obama talks about the negative aspects of technology. “Just information and technology is not the key. Application of that knowledge is what makes the difference. The dangers of technology is that it isolates people,” he said.
“We have to understand how we can best use it for good, but also avoid some of the traps of technology. When it comes to training young people, the obvious advantage of technology is you can just leverage and reach more people very quickly,” he continued.
“When I started my campaign in 2008 we were one of the earlier adapters of social media. We weren’t favored in my election, but the big advantage I had was I had a lot of enthusiastic volunteers and supporters all across the country.
“It would have been impossible for us to directly coordinate with all of them without building a huge bureaucracy and infrastructure, the fact that we have had social media available fairly early.”
4.05 pm: “There are all sorts of things that I care about. All sorts of specific issues that I am going to continue to work on. I plan to lend my voice to, to focus the rest of my career on. I will be out there advocating on behalf of doing something about climate change and doing something about inequality and making sure that women are getting the same opportunities as men and fighting against forces of discrimination and racism,” he said.
4.03 pm: India and US have common set of goals, says Barack Obama. “India and US have so much in common. The US, is home, of course, to millions of Indian Americans and their proud heritage is at the same time combined with an incredible contribution they make in every field in United States.”
“Both of our countries are hugely diverse. we have different languages and backgrounds and different ethnicities and different race.”
“The partnership I believe between the world’s oldest democracy and the world’s largest democracy could be a defining partnership of the 21st century.”
4.00 pm: It is wonderful to be back in India, says Barack Obama.