'Bombed 7 Muslim-majority countries': Finance minister Sitharaman hits back at Barack Obama
Indian Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Sunday responded strongly over former US President Barack Obama's remarks about the rights of Indian Muslims. Sitharaman, during a press conference held at the party headquarters in New Delhi, expressed her disagreement with Obama's comments and pointed out military actions in Muslim-majority nations during his presidency. The minister criticised Obama's controversial interview with a media outlet, in which he stated his intention to discuss the situation of Indian Muslims with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The finance minister said, "I was shocked. When PM Modi was campaigning in the US - and by campaigning I mean speaking about India - a former president of the US is speaking about Indian Muslims."
"And I am saying this with restraint because it involves another country. We want friendship with the US but there too we get remarks about religious freedom in India. A former president - under whose rule seven Muslim-majority countries were bombed with more than 26,000 bombs - how will people trust his allegations?" she added.
"I find this deliberate attempt to vitiate the atmosphere in this country because they think they cannot win against the developmental policies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi," the minister claimed.
During the news conference, Sitharaman highlighted Prime Minister Modi's commitment to the "Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas" (Together with All, Development for All) principle and stated that his government does not discriminate against any community.
Sitharaman also criticised the Congress and other opposition parties for raising unsubstantiated issues after facing electoral defeats.
The debate on human rights
The United States has a history of intervening in the affairs of other countries often and the country itself has faced scrutiny. It has often received a befitting reply from India that the United States should focus on addressing its own human rights challenges before attempting to instruct or impose its views on other nations.
On 22 June, former US president Barack Obama expressed his concerns about India, suggesting that the country risks "pulling apart" if the rights of its Muslim minority are not respected. He specifically mentioned the need to address this matter with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was on a visit to the United States at the time.
Obama spoke of his willingness to discuss with PM Modi the concerns surrounding the protection of the rights of ethnic minorities in India if given the opportunity.
PM Modi was questioned in a presser about free speech and religious freedom in India. The US reporter also asked the prime minister about discrimination against minority communities and the measures his government was taking to improve the rights of minorities in the country.
"We are a democracy...India & America both have democracy in our DNA. Democracy is in our spirit & we live it and it's written in our Constitution...So no question of discrimination on the grounds of caste, creed or religion arises. That is why, India believes in sabka saath, sabka vikas, sabka vishwas, sabka prayaas and walks ahead with it..," PM Modi said.