Obama avoided mention of religious freedoms issue

Mr. Modi’s five-day tour of the U.S. came in the wake of a nine-year visa ban issued against the Prime Minister

Updated - December 04, 2021 11:24 pm IST

Published - October 03, 2014 10:38 pm IST - Washington:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves as President Barack Obama looks on after briefing the media at the White House in Washington.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves as President Barack Obama looks on after briefing the media at the White House in Washington.

U.S. President Barack Obama apparently avoided any mention of minority rights in India in his bilateral summit with visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, despite pressure from multiple constituents, including a bipartisan group of eleven Congressmen, to introduce the subject of curbs on religious freedoms affecting Muslims and Christians in the country.

When asked if the issue came up in the two leaders’ conversation given that the Congressmen had written a strongly-worded letter to Mr. Obama days ahead of the summit, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Nisha Biswal, said during a briefing with select media here days after Mr. Modi’s high-profile visit, “We didn’t – I’m not aware of a specific conversation.”

Responding to a question from The Hindu on this National Security Council Senior Director for India Philip Reiner said, “Part of our agenda going forward, part of our action agenda going forward, of course, will cover what you’re asking about.”

He added that the U.S. would be working closely with the Indian Government on this matter, “not just in response to any… letter, but because it’s a critical issue for both of our governments.”

Ms. Biswal went on to add that this part of the ongoing discussion with the Indian administration would be situated within the broader framework of social issues including, “human rights, of religious freedom, religious tolerance, of women’s empowerment,” all of which came under the purview of the Global Issues Forum.

She added that the U.S. considered such forums to be opportunities to share best practices and lessons learned, emphasising that for both countries it was a case of “works in progress,” and the “spirit” of conversation was to be able to “reinforce with each other the values that bring us together as societies.”

Mr. Modi’s five-day tour of the U.S. came in the wake of a nine-year visa ban issued against the Prime Minister when he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat owing to his alleged role in the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom in the state.

However his trip to this country was hailed by many as a success for the great warmth with which he was received at a reception hosted for him at Madison Square Garden in New York by the Indian-American community and for the hope pinned for greater investments into India that could come out of the meetings he held with CEOs of top U.S. corporations.

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