“I am astonished you are attributing this comment to others…India and US both have democracy in their DNA. It is in our blood veins. Our founders put it in our Constitution. If you accept we are a democracy, then there is no question of discrimination,”PM Modi told Wall Street Journal’s Sabrina Siddiqui, one of only two reporters called on to ask questions at a White House presser following his talks with President Biden.
PM Modi in US: Live updates
Visibly worked up, PM Modi retorted that people of all faiths and creeds had access to government benefits and programs, showing that democracy was working in India.
The Prime Minister found some support from President Biden, who refrained public lecture on matter when baited with a question about criticism of PM Modi from his own Democratic party lawmakers. Disclosing that PM Modi and he had a “good discussion on democratic values, he suggested that neither US nor India is perfect in this regard and both needed to work on these issues.
The candour and respect with which they could talk about the issue is what made US-India relations unique, he added, hewing to the new US practice of acknowledging its own shortcomings in the matter of democracy and human rights.
Earlier too, Biden made an oblique reference to issues of religious freedom and diversity, core principles that he acknowledged applied to both the US and India.
“Equity under the law, freedom of expression, religious pluralism, and diversity of our people are the core principles that have endured and evolved, even as they faced challenges, throughout our nation’s histories,” he said.
PM Modi pushed back as subtly in his remarks: “Both countries take pride in their diversity, and both of us believe in the fundamental principle of ‘In the interest of all, for the welfare of all.”
PM Modi holds bilateral talks with President Biden
The treatment of minorities and free speech became a lightning rod during the visit after several Democratic lawmakers pressed Biden to raise the issue with Modi, with some, notably “progressive” Representatives like Ilhan Omar and Alexandra Ocasio Cortez, announcing they will be boycotting the Prime Minister’s address to the US Congress later this afternoon.
Compounding the kerfuffle was an interview of former President Barack Obama in which he said India risks “pulling apart” if its Muslim minority is not respected, while calling for the issue to be raised with PM Modi.