- Speaking to CNN chief international anchor Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview, the former president warned of a “strong” possibility of the country “pulling apart” if the rights of ethnic minorities are unprotected.
Just as President Biden was hosting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and flattering him sky high, despite warnings from critics and many from his party about rising authoritarianism in India, former president Barack Obama opined on the leader and his autocratic tendencies. Speaking to CNN chief international anchor Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview that aired last night (June 22), the 44th president of the United States discussed the challenges to the survival of democracy around the world.
Noting that meeting with dictators or other anti-democratic leaders is just one of the complex facets of the American presidency, Obama said it is “appropriate” for Biden to challenge foreign leaders on issues in their country that are “troubling.”
“Look, it’s complicated,” Obama said, recalling how he dealt with many leaders he didn’t agree with during his presidency. “The president of the United States has a lot of equities,” he told Amanpour. “And when I was president, I would deal with figures in some cases who were allies, who, you know, if you pressed me in private, do they run their governments and their political parties in ways that I would say are ideally democratic? I’d have to say no.”
He stressed on the importance of raising concerns about Indian democracy and integrating them into diplomatic conversations. “Part of my argument would be that if you do not protect the rights of ethnic minorities in India, then there is a strong possibility India at some point, starts pulling apart. And we’ve seen what happens when you start getting those kinds of large internal conflicts,” he said. It was obvious that he was making a veiled prediction of India descending into a civil strife if Modi does not change course from his illiberal policies.
Obama’s comments on Modi came hours before the White House laid a red carpet for the visiting leader who was on his first official state visit. Biden and Modi held a press conference after a series of bilateral talks yesterday, after which Modi addressed a joint session of the Congress. Later that evening, more than 380 guests, including prominent Indian Americans, lawmakers, and business leaders attended a banquet hosted in Modi’s honor.
It is ironic that it was Obama as President who lifted the State Department ban on Modi that was imposed after the Gujarat riots which took place under his watch and was alleged to have been complicit in them. President Obama went even further by not only inviting Modi to the White House but also visiting India twice during the BJP leader’s first term as Prime Minister.