Intro: If at all US President Barack Obama was addressing the Hindus through what he said, he was performing a futile exercise.
It is quite unfortunate that the Indian media blew out of proportion the most ambiguous remarks on religious freedom in India, made by the American President Barack Obama, at the Siri Fort Auditorium, during his recent visit to India.
Here it is pertinent to note that the American foreign policy is always guided by their vested self-interests. And our own experience in the past is enough to prove this point. So, it will be foolish on our part to assess the American foreign policy statements with our yardstick, based on ethics and fair-play.
Coming to Barack Obama, unlike his predecessor presidents, who were never fearful of Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism and stood up to it, Obama through his attitude in various issues, has proved himself to be, though not fearful, diffident in dealing with this menace that is threatening the whole world. Further, in spite of his two terms as the President of the US, he has never been able to leave an indelible mark by making his presence felt through diplomatic moves or manoeuvres? To be frank, his presidency has been a lackluster affair, compared to his predecessors and hence, he can be rightly called a ‘caretaker’ president. Now coming to his intellectual acumen, he can never be compared to George Washington, Abraham Lincoln or Theodore Roosevelt. He is, at the most an average politician. So we have to keep in mind these factors while making an assessment of what he says. And what he said in his speech at the Siri Fort Auditorium is no different.
When, speaking at the annual Prayer Breaking Fast in Washington, he said, “The ‘acts of intolerance’ experienced by religious faiths of all types in India in the past few years would have shocked Mahatma Gandhi,” he was once again totally ambiguous. That is anyone could read any meaning into what he has said in New Delhi, so much so that almost simultaneously during a media readout of Mr. Obama’s trip to India, Philip Reiner, National Security Council Senior Director for South Asian Affairs, had to clarify the president’s comments by saying, “I wouldn’t insinuate that there’s any baggage there at all. It was more of a speech to what are our common interests and values that help drive us forward.” His remarks in Washington were also equally equivocal.
Further, what does Obama know about Mahatma Gandhi ji? Has he ever made a study on the life and the teachings of the Mahatma, to express the above opinion about him with such alacrity and authority?
From the point of view of diplomacy, let us remember that this was the first ever visit of an American President to India that was not immediately followed up by a visit to Pakistan, their greatest ally in South Asia. Also, Prime Minister Modi had given him clear signal that nurturing close relationship with America would not be at the cost of India’s other strategic interests and its relationships with other countries. Obama was addressing the formidable extremist Christian lobby in his own native place, America, while also keeping a tap on its worldwide ambitions. He was trying to keep in good spirits Saudi Arabia, home to the orthodox, primitive, virulent and intolerable Wahhabism that dreams of turning the whole word into a Darul Islam. Or, was he guided by any one of these considerations or all of them put together? No one except Obama and his foreign policy advisers can say for sure. And I feel that this ambiguity had happened not by default but by design. However, everyone is busy interpreting his statements like the proverbial blind men describing the features of an elephant, to suit their purpose.
The Leftists, who, because of their congenital hatred for America, notwithstanding the fact that the US is their most favoured destination for vacation and treatment, did not take part in the banquet held in his honour, had no qualms or shame in accepting his remarks to condemn the Hindutva forces. The Party's politburo member and Rajya Sabha MP Brinda Karat’s remark to the effect that Obama had “made such remarks because of the presence of Hindutva forces”, really betrays their duplicity, because here, blinded by her hatred for Hindutva, when she alluded to the comments made by Obama, she forgot that through her action she was, in fact, acknowledging his statement as a sacred truth.
The Congress Party, unlike the Leftists in India who are ignorant of the niceties and nuances of foreign diplomacy, because of their lack of experience, as they have never had the occasion to rule this great nation, should have exercised restraint and shown maturity in their response, because of their years of experience in international diplomacy. However, blinded by their hatred for the BJP and Hindutva, they were ecstatic at the remarks made by Obama. The principles of international diplomacy never allow any country to interfere with the domestic affairs or policies of other countries, or comment on them. So, at least, the Congress party should have shown the guts to ask the American president to mind his business rather than meddling with the internal affairs of India.
If at all Obama was addressing the Hindus through what he said, he was performing the futile exercise of taking coals to Newcastle. If his words were intended for either Indian Muslims or Christians in India, let us tell him firmly that we are quite capable of looking after our affairs.
And he had better save his advice for his own country where Blacks are discriminated against and even brutally killed just like cattle by the very law enforcement agencies, who have a duty to protect them, and are also unable to look forward even to the judiciary for succour, which is equally or more biased. And rather than wasting our time by brooding over what Obama has said, the best thing for us to do is to ignore whatever he has said.
U Gopal Maller (The writer is a senior columnist))