WASHINGTON: Former US president Barack Obama said Thursday that India risks “pulling apart” if the Muslim minority is not respected, calling for the issue to be raised with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Obama spoke in a CNN interview as President Joe Biden welcomed the Hindu nationalist prime minister for a state visit and gently spoke of the importance of “religious pluralism.”
On a visit to Greece, where he is holding a weeklong session for emerging global leaders, Obama said that addressing human rights with allies was always “complicated.”
“I think it is true that if the president meets with Prime Minister Modi, then the protection of the Muslim minority in a majority-Hindu India, that’s something worth mentioning,” the first African-American president said in an interview with CNN International anchor Christiane Amanpour.
“If I had a conversation with Prime Minister Modi, who I know well, part of my argument would be that if you do not protect the rights of ethnic minorities in India, that there is a strong possibility at some point that India starts pulling apart,” Obama said.
“We’ve seen what happens when you start getting those kinds of large internal conflicts. So that would be contrary to the interests not just of Muslim India but also of Hindu India,” he said.
Modi, as the former state leader of Gujarat was banned from entering the United States during much of Obama’s administration over 2002 religious riots in which mostly Muslims were killed.
Since Modi took office in 2014, India has passed a controversial law on citizenship and abrogated the special status of Muslim-majority Kashmir.