Sitharaman's blinkered snark at Obama's US bombing Muslim nations is mere strawman

Nirmala Sitharaman's remarks came after former US president, Barack Obama, in an interview with Christiane Amanpour, highlighted the condition of Muslim minorities in India

Indian finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman (left) and former US president Barack Obama. (photo: Getty Images)
Indian finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman (left) and former US president Barack Obama. (photo: Getty Images)

NH Digital

Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Sunday, June 25, slammed former US president Barack Obama's statement about minority rights in India, saying his remarks were surprising as six Muslim-majority countries had faced US "bombing" during his tenure.

She said prime minister Narendra Modi has received the highest civilian awards from 13 countries, including six with predominantly Muslim populations.

The finance minister alleged that "organised campaigns" were being run to level "baseless" allegations on the treatment meted out to minorities in India at the behest of the Opposition as it cannot electorally defeat the Modi-led BJP.

In an interview with Christiane Amanpour for CNN on Thursday, June 22 — when Modi was on his first official US state visit — Obama said if India does not protect the rights of ethnic minorities, there is a strong possibility at some point that the country "starts pulling apart".

The former Democratic US president urged current president Joe Biden to bring up concerns around India's treatment of Muslim minorities in his talks with Modi.

"I was surprised when Prime Minister Modi was...talking about India in front of everyone, a former US president was giving statements about Indian Muslims at that time," the BJP leader said at a press conference at the party headquarters in New Delhi.

Sitharaman also took exception to the allegations by US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), saying India wants to maintain a good relationship with the US but she is surprised to hear such statements.

"I am exercising restraint while speaking on foreign matters. We want a good friendship with the US. But from there also, USCIRF's comments about religious tolerance in India comes and the former president is also saying something," she added.

"Didn't bombings happen in six countries — Syria, Yemen, Saudi and Iraq and other Muslim countries — during his term (as US President)? When he makes such allegations against India, will the people trust him?" she asked.

Prior to Obama, 75 members of the US Congress urged Biden to raise questions regarding the violation of human rights in India, during Modi’s visit to Washington.

While Modi was celebrating International Yoga Day at the United Nations headquarters on his first day in the US, June 21, the lawmakers wrote a letter to Biden — highlighting the state of affairs in India, the curtailed freedom of religious expression and, consequently, the growing intolerance and violence promulgated against religious minorities.

There were also protests staged by the Indian diaspora in the US against Modi's visit. Trucks bearing banners calling upon Biden to question the BJP leader were seen in the streets of New York on June 21.

Addressed to Biden, digital posters on the trucks carried messages like "Did you know mob lynching of Muslims, Christians and Dalits have surged under Modi’s rule. With almost no accountability" and "Hey Joe! Ask Modi why student activist Umar Khalid has been in prison for 1000+ days WITHOUT Trial?" along side hashtags #CrimeMinisterOfIndia.

Dismissing the allegations, Modi at a press conference on June 23 in the White House on how his government works on 'Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas' principle and doesn't discriminate against any community whatsoever.

Sitharaman's remarks come across as mere strawman as observers allege that the decisions made by Obama's administration in the US doesn't justify Modi's treatment of Muslim minorities in India.

"Did the US discriminate against minorities as your govt does?" asked a Twitter user.

"Nirmala Sitharaman claims that Obama bombed Saudi Arabia ! Fact check please!" documentary filmmaker and human rights activist Anand Patwardhan wrote on Twitter.

"Childish petulance & logic. Modi bombed a Muslim majority country (in Balakot), is she saying that makes him anti-Muslim?! Better to ask why Obama didn’t raise Muslim issue as Prez over tea when Modi wore his 10 lakh monogram suit! Unless RoD shows he did," remarked another user.

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