Obama outmanoeuvres Karan Thapar’s bid against Modi

By Vijay Badhwar

Journalist Karan Thapar, known for upsetting PM Modi by questioning his secular credentials, repeatedly asked former US President Barack Obama at the Hindustan Leadership Summit held in New Delhi on December 1, for character referencing the Indian PM, which the statesman leader adroitly sidestepped.

While there was another famous American in the country at the time, Ivanka Trump’s presence was limited to more glitzy circles, albeit for a meeting with the Prime Minister on the sidelines of Global Entrepreneurship Summit held in Hyderabad, which the Congress party snubbed as “belittling”.

The two Americans should not even be in the same context ”“ one famed for a mere relationship, while the other who stands tall truly as a leader and a statesman, an orator par excellence and a thinker to show the way.

Mr Obama’s speech at the summit acknowledged that the international order was strained due to pressures from globalisation, terrorism, inequality but the world, he said, by most measures was less violent than in the past.

He left much fire for the Q&A session with Karan Thapar which did not disappoint the audience, starting with PM Modi: what was privately discussed with him about secularism.

He replied: There was a huge Muslim population in India that felt integrated. “That is something that should be cherished and nurtured,” he said.

Not to be drawn on his private conversation with PM Modi, Mr Obama, however, said, “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.” He also added that politicians were often a reflection of the society. Mr Modi, I think, “firmly believes unity is necessary for the progress of the nation”.

When Karan Thapar asked about China’s role in blocking India’s entry into the Nuclear Supply Group (NSG), Mr Obama said, he worked hard for India’s entry into NSG, even an interim membership when the initial efforts failed, but, unfortunately it was still pending as it needed unanimous agreement in the Group.

About Pakistan’s role in terrorism, he said that US provided India all the support in dismantling terrorist network after the Mumbai 26/11 attack. “Although Pakistan has been a partner in many ways, it’s also true there are elements that have not been good partners with us,” Mr Obama said.

The 44th US President again sidestepped the question about PM Modi claiming close friendship with him by providing a balance of his similar friendship with former PM Manmohan Singh who had modernised the Indian economy following the 2008 GFC. Mr Modi provided similar leadership in partnering in Paris Climate accord, he said.

Mr Obama obliquely reflected on President Trump’s tweets: that he (Obama) even punctuated his tweets, which his daughter made fun of, heeding advice from his grandmother to think before opening his mouth.



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