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Obama should compliment not criticise India, says former US religious panel chief

Former US president Barack Obama (Photo for representation)

Washington: Former US president Barack Obama should be complimenting India instead of criticizing the world’s largest democracy, former chief of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Johnnie Moore said.

“I think the former president (Obama) should spend his energy complimenting India, more than criticizing India. India is the most diverse country in human history. It’s not a perfect country, just like the United States, it’s not a perfect country, but its diversity is its strength, and we should be complimenting the largest democracy in the world every chance that we can, that we have,” Moore, an evangelical leader, in an interview with ANI said.

Moore’s remarks come in the wake of an interview by Obama to CNN recently in which the former US president said that Biden should raise the religious freedom issue with India, as he (Obama) would have done had he still been the US president.

In an interview with CNN on Thursday, Obama told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that if President Joe Biden meets with PM Modi, “the protection of the Muslim minority in a majority Hindu India is something worth mentioning”.

Asked a question relating to India and China, Obama said he has worked with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the Paris Accords to deal with climate change.

“By the way, 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, then there is a strong possibility that India, at some point, starts pulling apart. And we have 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 Indians but also Hindu Indians. I think it is important to be able to talk about these things honestly. Things are not going to be as clean as you like, because the world is complicated,” Obama told CNN.

USCIRF is a US federal government commission which makes policy recommendations to the US government and was created by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. USCIRF Commissioners are appointed by the President and the leadership of both political parties in the Senate and the House of Representatives

The former USCIRF commissioner told ANI that PM Modi’s historic visit to the US was an occasion to be celebrated.

“And so I think, you know, it was the time to celebrate a historic visit, you know, rather than levelling some criticism on it, you know, with your friends, particularly when it comes to democracy. With your friends, it’s sometimes better to privately criticize and to publicly praise. That’s good geopolitics,” Moore said.

“I disagree with the sentiment of the former president (Barack Obama),” he said, adding, “Even in that critique of the former president Obama couldn’t help but also compliment Prime Minister Modi, and I certainly understand why having spent some time with him,” Moore added.

Moore, who served as a spiritual advisor to former President Donald Trump, praised India’s “diverse democracy” and said that the country should be complemented every chance the world gets.

Notably, Moore who has served on the US Commission on International Religious Freedom for several years was sanctioned by China for his work in 2021.

Obama in his interview to CNN had also said it is important for the US president to say that if China is sending Uyghurs to mass camps and they are being “re-educated, that’s a problem and a challenge to all of us” and there is a need to pay attention to it.

Johnnie Moore also lauded Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first visit to Egypt saying that the “values of democracy and the values of pluralism were on grand display” as the two leaders met, giving away a message of a “bright future”.

“As the prime minister of the most populated Hindu country in the world sat down with the president of the most important Arab country, the message is loud and clear, and that is that there is a bright future,” said Moore in an exclusive ANI interview.

During his Cairo visit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was conferred with ‘Order of the Nile’ award, Egypt’s highest state honour, by the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. This is the 13th such highest state honour that various countries across the world have conferred upon PM Modi and is a moment of pride for India.

“It was a powerful image, which is very important to the president of Egypt, as well as, the leader of the most populated Hindu country in the world, receiving the type of honour that he received in the largest Islamic country in the world,” said Moore praising PM Modi’s accomplishments.

PM Modi paid a visit to Al-Hakim 11th-century mosque and even interacted with the Bohra community in Egypt, which according to Moore sends a “loud and clear” message that despite the political forces wanting to divide communities, there’s something more powerful than politics and division and that is values.

“Egypt is a very significant Arab Islamic country in all of Islamic history. I mean, so the message was loud and clear. The Egyptian president was saying that the Hindu community should feel welcome in Egypt. There are many, many forces, largely political forces all around the world that want to divide religions and want to divide communities and divide languages,” he added.

In the ANI interview, Moore also spoke on democracy in India saying that there’s a lot that the US can learn from India.

He said, “the message from the trip the prime minister made from India to the United States and directly to Egypt, is that there’s something more powerful than politics and division and that is values.”

Moore noted that India, a democracy with a pristine constitution, in spite of being so diverse, having over 2,000 political parties, several languages is an “incredibly pluralistic country”.

“When you look at that, from the outside, you may say, that’s a complicated system. It is a complicated system. You have hundreds and hundreds of languages in single states and so I think the impression that was left here in the United States and the impression that Indians know themselves is that India is a democracy with a pristine constitution. It is an incredibly pluralistic country. It’s a country that fights for its democracy at every single election,” said Moore.