Posted by: John Elliott | December 1, 2017

India’s Muslims should be “cherished and nurtured” says Obama

Ivanka Trump “thanks” Modi for “bringing promise to millions”

Contrasting visits by former US president and president’s daughter

India’s politicians and media revel in making an enormous fuss of visiting foreign leaders, especially when they are flooded with compliments in return. This week there has been one American leader – former President Barack Obama who slipped in relatively quietly and made a powerful speech – and one leader’s daughter who was accorded such a head-of-state style welcome that India will find it difficult to surpass it when her father visits next year, the daughter being Ivanka Trump and her father the US president.

Obama picked up on India’s main current social issue when he said that, along with other countries (obviously including America), it should ensure that a Muslim population felt integrated. “That is something that should be cherished and nurtured,” he said.

Obama HT conf

In answer to a question this morning at a conference (above) organised by the Hindustan Times newspaper, he said he had told Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, the same thing in private talks when he last visited India in February 2015.  “I think his impulses are to recognise Indian unity. I think he (Modi) firmly believes unity is necessary for the progress of the nation”.

Many of Modi’s critics, and of his Bharatiya Janata Party’s brand of strong Hindu nationalism, doubt that he recognises such a need for unity because of the way that the Muslim minority has been harassed since his government was elected in April 2014.

Obama had warned in February 2015, during a “town hall” meeting in a Delhi assembly hall, that India needed to be “unified as one nation” and that the country would “succeed so long as it is not splintered along the lines of religious faith”.

This was seen at the time as implicit condemnation of the pro-Hindu and anti-Muslim policies of hardliners in the BJP and its umbrella organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). It was not known however till today whether he had said the same thing in private meetings with Modi.

Obama, who is reported to charge up to $400,000 to speak on Wall Street, went on today implicitly to urge moderate Hindus to make their views heard because, he said that “politicians are often reflections of forces in the society”.

“If you see a politician doing things that are questionable, one of the questions you can ask yourself as a citizen is ‘am I encouraging this?’ If communities across India say they won’t fall prey to division, then it will strengthen the hand of politicians who feel that way”

“Thank you” prime minister

Ivanka Trump’s visit was more razzmatazz and far less profound. Narendra Modi looked grateful and happy than when she told an audience of 1500 entrepreneurs in Hyderabad on November 28, with him sitting in the front row: “What you are achieving here is truly extraordinary. From your childhood selling tea to your election as India’s prime minister, you’ve proven that transformational change is possible. And now you are bringing that promise to hundreds of millions of people across your country. Thank you.”

It was bemusing to watch Trump, age 36, praise 67-year old Modi and then thank him – on behalf of whom? Modi presumably thought it was for her father, but she didn’t say so, though she did repeat that India had a “true friend in the White House”, which President Trump told Modi in Washington earlier this year.

robot Ivanka ModiTogether the prime minister and the US president’s daughter and adviser (right) were opening America’s eighth annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit (something that Obama had started when he was president).

Hyderabad – dubbed “Ivankabad” by one eulogizing newspaper – is a leading information technology centre, as well as being famous for its food, which Ivanka Trump celebrated rather clumsily saying “now, your tech centres may, may, even outshine your world-famous biryani, maybe, ha-ha”.

She was the leader of he US delegation to the conference and switched style after all the praise and attempted laughter-generators to her main serious theme of encouraging entrepreneurs, especially women. The next morning she had a business-like approach with no-nonsense points at a seminar on the role of women in business.

She had been personally invited by Modi to come to the conference, and Hyderabad went to enormous lengths to clean up the city, clearing out hundreds (one report said 4,000) beggars from the streets (as it did for President Clinton in 2000), filling potholes and paving ceremonial areas, as well as parading 10,000 security personnel. There was a banquet the first evening at one of India’s most stylish palace hotels, the Falaknuma, with quests seated at what is said to be the longest dining table in the world that accommodates 101 people.

Cheap labour

The visit was slightly marred by criticisms that the signature clothing brand that she founded uses cheap labour in India and elsewhere, but this was a minor irritant compared with a trip to Berlin in April where she was booed. In Tokyo a month ago, the media made a fuss of her, but her speech at a conference drew a smaller audience than expected – and, according to reports, was partly recycled in Hyderabad.

There were also rumours that Rex Tillerson, America’s secretary of state (soon to be sacked according to media reports), had stopped his officials accompanying Trump because he was unhappy with her high profile.

Obama rose above such matters, referring only to the Hyderabad conference during a “town hall” meeting with young leaders, organised by the Obama Foundation, where he urged them to inspire, mentor and help others to improve society.  “There are so many different ways to bring about change, to do good, and to help people. No one should feel limited to one way of doing it,” he said.

Amb Ken Juster IMG_2504Tweeting inevitably came up during his session at the morning conference where, without actually naming Donald Trump, he said that such technology “can influence snap judgements about complex decisions…instead of deep analysis and evaluation”.

The most extraordinary tweet of the week came as the Hyderabad conference finished from Ken Juster, who arrived in Delhi two weeks ago as the new US ambassador. “We have witnessed #USIndia strategic partnership at its finest,” he said. It had been “a smashing success!”

It wasn’t clear what was “strategic”, except in the sense that Modi and his government had feted Trump’s daughter as if she was the president, presumably in order to please her father and boost the two countries’ relations.

Dec 2: “Strategic” has become clear today because President Trump has called Modi and, says a White House press release, “the leaders expressed satisfaction with the recent Global Entrepreneurship Summit” – which basically means that Trump is satisfied with Ivanka’s reception and Modi is therefore also satisfied.




  1. […] Muslims do not have equal ranking, and where freedoms of speech and expression are harshly curbed. Obama said in Delhi during an October 2017 visit that Muslims should feel integrated, something that “should be […]

  2. […] Muslims do not have equal ranking, and where freedoms of speech and expression are harshly curbed. Former President Barack Obama said during an October 2017 visit that Muslims should feel integrated, something that “should be cherished and nurtured,” […]

  3. At a broader level, what Obama says is true and even Modi does realize and recognize that.
    Having said that, the so called “anti Muslim” and “far Right” in India only calls for equality for all and appeasement to none. It rejects the secular symbolicism which made it mandatory for all politicians to dona skull cap and sing paens to secularism (only in India would these two go hand in hand).
    It is important to note that even the most stringent group doesnt demand anything more than a uniform civil code, a temple at the holiest place for the native believers and protection of the cattle, mostly from smugglers and illegal abattoirs.
    One also wonders what is “…the way that the Muslim minority has been harassed since his government was elected in April 2014.” Could he provide any broader statistics, crime trends or analysis?

  4. A selection of many Comments on the Newsweek website where my blog also appears:

    Helynn Smith · Stirling, New Jersey
    Obama needs to keep his mouth shut. He hates the US and does everything he can to support his Muslim religion.

    Alexander Maunu
    It must kill democrats that every countrybis rolling out the red carpet for the trumps, that every country they visit treats them like the most powerful people on the planet. It must infuriate democrats after watching the pathetic Obama be given the brush off globally. How do delusional snowflakes cope with the fact that the rest of the world isn’t buying their propaganda? Obama went around the world innaproprietly bowing to everyone because he wasn’t qualified to be president. Trump is the first president to be respected by the global community since the fall of the Soviet union. I know I know, your brainwashing is making your head spin, as you just don’t understand why everyone doesn’t see Trump as Hitler. Maybe try opening your eyes, democrats are trying to destroy this country from within. Wake up and smell the communism.

    Amin Hashmi · Wayne State University
    You are not getting Obama’s point, this is in your interest if you want your country to continue up the ladder of success you need to bring into the fold whatever it takes, learn from USA. Even China is a better example only for 5% muslim they have special funds for jobs, school and loans to uplift from poverty. You guys have not lived in a country being minority, its a stigma by itself. Indian’s, muslims and the rest of immigrant group are excelling in USA because they are treated like first class citizen. What Sachar’s report says that Muslims are lower then Dalit, tell the whole story. That is what Obama was advocating in America when he emphasized to bring all left out group in the mainstream. Please take him seriously. A wise enemy is better then fool friends. And whether its 30% or 3% would that make them less human.

    Denzi Mukhtar
    Muslims in India are not citizens of India at all. They divided India in 1947 & got a country of their own under the auspices of UK & the USA. So if a US leader comes to India claiming moral high ground and preaches to Hindus, there’s hardly any credibility yo his claims. If US wants to “integrate” muslims into their folds they are welcome to do so. US should do business with India only if it can limit it to business. It’s political & ideological baggage is something we don’t require.

    Srinivas Suryadevara · Andhra University, Visakhapatnam
    I think India should invite President Trump to balance this Obama non-sense regarding Muslims. I am no fan of Trump but these liberals are such hypocrites that they can’t call Islamic terrorism as such. Spineless cowards.
    Like · Reply · 10 · Dec 2, 2017 12:17am

    Amin Hashmi · Wayne State University
    Sirinavas-He is favoring India by asking India to integrate 30% of population ignored (as reported in Sachar) for its own safety, one of the most sane president look crazy to you when he speaks the truth. “Justice is well served when it goes against your ego and for the good of community at large”
    Reply · Dec 2, 2017 5:16am

    Ryan Purvis
    Amin Hashmi – Muslims make up approx 15% of India’s population, not 30%.
    Reply · Dec 2, 2017 6:27am

    Ashok Bhagat · Thunderbird, The American Graduate School of International Management
    Amin Hashmi : The need for integration and efforts must come from population and government. Populaton need to get involved, achieve education, follow decent public policy not just wait for handouts from certian political parties who do nothing but use muslims as vote banks. That has happened for last 60 odd years and Muslim public has fallen backwards. Unless they stop being used as a vote bank and stop being obscurantist, no amount of govenment effort can intigrate them.

  5. An excellent article . When the Trump/Modi age is over , people will pore over old posts to see who called a spade a spade , in different corners of the world .

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