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.
Modi and Obama meet again
Prime Minister Narendra Modi met former US President Barack Obama here on Friday and discussed ways to further strengthen the US-India relationship. “It was a pleasure to meet, once again, former President @BarackObama, and learn about the new initiatives being taken forward under his leadership at the @ObamaFoundation and of his perceptions on further strengthening India-US strategic partnership,” Modi tweeted after the meeting.
Modi met Obama an unprecedented nine times when the latter was in office. Obama is also the first US President to visit India twice while in office.
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.”
‘Positive change since NDA came to power’
Modi said that there has been a “positive change” in the mindset and self-confidence of the people ever since his government came to power in 2014.
“If we see the country as a living entity then the positive attitude that has come to India, was never before,” Modi said while addressing the inaugural session of the Hindutan Times Summit.
Earlier the youth, women, farmers and the poor had minimal faith in the country’s resources, Modi said and added that now they trust the government and its resources.
Emphasising that the citizens of India in 2014 not just voted to change the government, Modi said that people wanted and therefore voted for “change in system that will be permanent, stable and irreversible”.
“Every where in the country, someone had to fight with the system day and night. I am trying and have committed that there will be irreversible change — ease of living will improve,” said Modi.
‘Aadhaar a weapon against benami properties’
Describing Aadhaar as a major “power” to bring about an “irreversible change” in the common man’s life, Modi on Thursday said that the Unique Identification Number will now be used in cases involving benami properties.
“By linking Aadhaar to Mobile and Jan Dhan, we have created such a system that could not have been imagined few years back.
“In last three years, with the help of Aadhaar, crores of fake names have been removed from the system. Now it is going to be a big weapon against benami properties,” Modi said while addressing the inaugural session of the Hindustan Times Summit.
He said that the country saw a “behavioural change” after demonetisation, which helped in converting to a “clean and healthy economy”.
“For the first time after Independence the corrupt people are scared of transacting in black money. They are scared of being caught. The black money which was earlier base of parallel economy, has now become part of formal economy,” he said.
“Such an irreversible change is getting boost from Aadhaar. Aadhaar is such a power through which this government want to ensure rights of poor. It is also playing a big role in providing subsidised ration, scholarships, medicines, pensions and other government subsidies,” he said.
He said the day the country would adopt maximum transactions via digital addresses, “organised crime would come to an end to some extent”.
Modi said “big transformations” do not come easily and for it “hauling up of the entire system was needed”.
“We can increase our ease of doing business ranking from 142 to 100 only when we take initiatives for big transformation,” Modi said.