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We expect India to contribute to broader global effort to tackle climate change: US

Washington: India has taken “important steps” in addressing the challenges of climate change, the US said on Tuesday hoping that the country would contribute more to this global effort.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“We certainly would expect that India would contribute to this broader global effort and this is something that is economically challenging for India, as the Indian government would be the first to tell you,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters at his daily news conference.

“But at the same time, we have seen India take important steps in the past, and there was, earlier in the President’s administration, a commitment that was made by the Indians to limit hydrofluorocarbons,” Earnest said.

“And these are pollutants that have a much more significant impact on bringing about climate change than just the burning of oil and gas,” he said in response to a question on India’s role in addressing the challenge of climate change ahead of the Paris Summit, which would be attended by both US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“There’s been a willingness on the part of the Indians in the past to make important commitments that contribute to this broader effort. But we certainly would like to see a country with an economy as large as India step up and make an important contribution to this effort,” Earnest said.

PTI

Nawaz Sharif heckled in US with slogans of ‘Free Balochistan’, called friend of Osama

Washington: Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was heckled by a protester on Friday who demanded to free the restive Balochistan province where activists say army is engaged in abductions, torture and killings.

As Sharif began delivering his address at the US Institute of Peace, a prominent independent think-tank in Washington, a protester raised slogans including “free Balochistan”, “stop war crimes in Balochistan”, besides calling him a “friend of (Osama) Bin Laden”.

File photo of Nawaz Sharif. ReutersFile photo of Nawaz Sharif. Reuters

File photo of Nawaz Sharif. Reuters

The man, identified as Ahmar Musti Khan of the Free Balochistan Campaign USA, was also holding a poster that read “Pakistan, China: Hands off Balochistan”.

He was taken out of the auditorium by the security forces following the incident that forced the visiting premier, Sharif, to pause briefly and then resume his address.

65-year-old Sharif, currently on his second bilateral visit to the US,on Thursday met US President Barack Obama and held wide-ranging talks.

The army has fought separatist Baloch militants on several occasions during much of Pakistan’s existence.

The latest wave of insurgency was triggered after the Pakistan Army, under the direction of the then President General Parvez Musharraf, bombed and killed elderly Baloch tribal chief Nawab Akbar Bugti in 2006.

Pakistan says it is winning the battle against separatists in the restive southwestern province, but Baloch activists say abductions, torture and killings by the army are deepening hostility for the government.

Ahead of Sharif’s visit, Free Balochistan Campaign USA had said it will hold peaceful rallies outside the White House to protest against atrocities of the Pak Army in Balochistan.

In a statement, the group had said Pakistan’s war crimes and crimes against humanity continue unabated in Balochistan.

PTI

Pakistan wants better bilateral relations but India’s response ‘discouraging’: Sharif

Washington, DC: Terming the Kashmir issue as the bone of contention between India and Pakistan, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday said New Delhi’s response to Islamabad’s desire for better bilateral ties has been discouraging.

“New Delhi’s response to the desire of bilateral ties is discouraging,” Geo TV quoted Sharif as saying during his address to the Pakistani diaspora soon after arriving in the US on a four-day official visit.

File image of Nawaz Sharif. AFPFile image of Nawaz Sharif. AFP

File image of Nawaz Sharif. AFP

Sharif said the Kashmir issue is the bone of contention between the two neighbours and it will have to be resolved for peace and stability in the region.

Earlier in the day, Sharif was received at the Andrews Airforce Base by the Assistant Secretary of State Peter Selfridge and accorded a Guard of Honour by the United States armed forces.

During the visit, the Pakistan Prime Minister will hold discussions on wide-ranging issues of bilateral interest with President Barack Obama on 22 October, Vice President Joe Biden, and various Cabinet members.

Sharif will also interact with members of the US Senate and the House of Representative as well as senior US Government officials.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the US president hoped to strengthen ties between security forces of both countries to counter extremist forces in that region.

“What the President hopes to do is to strengthen the relationship between the two countries based on our shared interest…in countering extremist forces in that region of the world.

“I am confident that the President will come to his meeting with Prime Minister Sharif with some ideas about what more the Pakistanis could do to strengthen the relationship between our two countries and to advance the security interests of our two countries,” he said.

PTI

World has to stand united against terrorism: PM Modi

San Jose: On the eve of his meeting with US President Barack Obama and leaders of France and Britain, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday asked the international community to unitedly combat increasing challenges posed by terrorists across the globe.

PM Narendra Modi. PTI

PM Narendra Modi. PTI

Devoting the last phase of his speech at the SAP Centre on the fight against terrorism, Modi rued that so far the international community – the UN in particular – have not even been able to have a definition of terrorism or identify who can be called a terrorist.

Observing that India has been a victim of terrorism for the past 40 years, Modi said the West and many other countries woke up to the menace of terrorism only after bomb blasts or terror attacks in their nation.

“We cannot let 21st century to be stained with terrorism,” Modi said, adding that he would be raising the issue again before the United Nations tomorrow when he is scheduled to address a UN Peacekeeping Summit.

And before that he would hold three important back-to-back meetings with British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Francois Hollande and Obama.

“The world has to stand united in tackling terrorism,” he said.

“Terrorism is Terrorism, there is no difference between good terrorism and bad terrorism,” he said.

“We cannot waste time in defining ‘terrorism’,” he said, adding that India is the land of Mahatma Gandhi and Gautam Buddha who preached peace and non-violence to the world.

“The world has to realise that terrorism can hit anyone at anyplace, and it is the world’s responsibility to recognize it and unite against terrorism,” the Prime Minister said in an unusual aggressive speech on terrorism.

Several top American lawmakers were present on the occasion.

PTI

Author Jhumpa Lahiri awarded National Humanities medal by Barack Obama

Washington: US President Barack Obama has presented the prestigious National Humanities Medal to Pulitzer Prize winner, Jhumpa Lahiri, in recognition of her “beautifully wrought narratives of estrangement and belonging” which highlight the “Indian-American experience”.

Indian-American Lahiri was presented with the medal yesterday in the East Room of the White House in the presence of luminaries from the field of arts and humanities. First Lady, Michelle Obama, was also present during the ceremony.

US President Barack Obama presents the 2014 National Humanities Medal to author Jhumpa Lahiri. AFPUS President Barack Obama presents the 2014 National Humanities Medal to author Jhumpa Lahiri. AFP

US President Barack Obama presents the 2014 National Humanities Medal to author Jhumpa Lahiri. AFP

“The 2014 National Humanities Medal to Jhumpa Lahiri, for enlarging the human story. In her works of fiction, Dr Lahiri has illuminated the Indian-American experience in beautifully wrought narratives of estrangement and belonging,” the White House citation read.

Lahiri’s parents and other family members were also present on the occasion.

Obama described the annual awards ceremony as his favourite White House event when “truly extraordinary artists and innovators and thinkers” are recognised for their brilliance while the rest of us look on and feel totally inadequate.

“The men and women that we honour today, recipients of the National Medals for the Arts and the Humanities, are here not only because they’ve shared rare truths, often about their own experience, but because they’ve told rare truths about the common experiences that we have as Americans and as human beings,” Obama said.

“They span mediums and methods. We have artists, actors, writers, musicians, historians, a landscape architect, and a chef. Without them there would be no Edible Schoolyard, no Jhumpa Lahiri novels, no really scary things like Carrie and Misery,” the US President said amid laughter.

“They are versatile — poets and opera singers who were also master teachers at liberal arts colleges and Detroit public schools; philosophers who wrote novels. They are visual artists who work filling pages that spilled over to screens, three-dimensional gallery floors, and most of a New York City block,” he added.

“And they all have one thing in common: They do what they do because of some urgent inner force, some need to express the truth that they experience, that rare truth. And as a result, they help us understand ourselves in ways that we might not otherwise recognise. They deepen and broaden our great American story and the human story,” Obama said.

The first National Humanities Medal was awarded in 1996.

Since then, the medal has been bestowed upon 163 individuals and 12 organisations, including this year’s recipients.

PTI

Sorry, but the story of US flag flying half-mast to honour Kalam is a hoax

It all started when somebody put up a picture of the US flag being hoisted on the White House at half-mast and claimed that it was done in honour of the former Indian president APJ Abdul Kalam, who passed away on Monday.

People all over social media began posting about the “first time in history the US White House flag was half down for Dr APJ Abdul Kalam” and how they were “proud to be an Indian”.

Even Subhash Ghai tweeted about it.

There’s just one problem though: The entire story is a hoax.

Former Indian President APJ Abdul Kalam. AFP

Former Indian President APJ Abdul Kalam. AFP

According to International Business Times, while it is true that recently US President Barack Obama had asked the US flag to be hoisted at half-mast, it was not done in honour of Kalam.

In fact, it was also done before Kalam’s death. In an official circular which Obama released on 21 July, it was announced that the US flag, at the White House as well as all federal buildings including overseas embassies, will be lowered till 25 July to honour the soldiers killed in a shooting incident at Chattanooga, Tennessee.

However, Obama had condoled the demise of Kalam. “On behalf of the American people, I wish to extend my deepest condolences to the people of India on the passing of former Indian President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam,” he had said, according to PTI.

“A scientist and statesman, Kalam rose from humble beginnings to become one of India’s most accomplished leaders, earning esteem at home and abroad,” he had said in a statement. “His tenure as India’s 11th president witnessed unprecedented growth in US-India ties. Suitably named ‘the People’s President’, Dr Kalam’s humility and dedication to public service served as an inspiration to millions of Indians and admirers around the world.”

(With inputs from PTI)

MEA rejects RTI seeking President Obama’s visit expenses

Mumbai: An RTI query seeking details of expenses incurred by the Centre on hosting US President Barack Obama earlier this year has been rejected by the Ministry of External Affairs on the ground that such information is sensitive and may affect bilateral relations with the foreign country.

Mumbai-based activist Anil Galgali, who filed the query with the MEA, had sought details of the total expenses incurred by the Indian government on hosting the US President and the American contingent that accompanied him in January this year.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

He also sought information on the accommodation provided to the dignitaries and security personnel of Obama, besides details of the number of police personnel deployed and security arrangements made during his visit.

In response to his query, MEA’s Deputy Chief Protocol Officer Rohit Rathish said every year the Indian government hosts various dignitaries from several countries and the visit of each dignitary is differentiated by various factors like the type of delegation visiting the country, the purpose of their visit, the manner in which the guest is hosted, the number of Indian cities the visitor goes to, among others.

“It would not be wrong to say that each visit by a foreign dignitary is unique. In such circumstances, the expenses incurred by the Indian government on different dignitaries are different and the issue is sensitive for the government. Also, relaying this information may have a negative impact on the bilateral relations with the foreign nation,” the reply said.

“Thus, to maintain confidentiality of the sensitive information as per the established norms of the Section 8(1)(C) of the RTI Act 2005, any process to seek information on such nature comes under the relevant section that can hamper cordial relations with foreign nations,” it added.

Expressing disappointment over the MEA’s reply, Galgali said the BJP had come to power promising transparency and accountability and thus it should keep its assurance (of maintaining transparency) after coming to power.

“It would not be required of us to file RTI queries if the government itself informs citizens of the expenses incurred by it as this money actually belongs to the common man who works hard and pays his taxes on time,” Galgali said.

PTI

Barack Obama had a historic visit to India, says US presidential aide

Washington: President Barack Obama had a historic visit to India early this year as part of his efforts to deepen America’s partnership with India in the Asia Pacific region, a presidential aide has said.

Barack Obama had a historic visit to India, said the US. AP

Barack Obama had a historic visit to India, said the US. AP

“President Obama had a good trip to India earlier this year, an historic visit, as the Chief Guest at Republic Day, where he discussed, obviously, the climate change effort, but also deepening our own relationship and partnership with India in the Asia Pacific,” said Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor.

Rhodes was speaking to reporters yesterday during a conference call ahead of the US visit of the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe.

“This of course is an area that Prime Minister Abe has also discussed with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in terms of their collaboration in the region, as well,” Rhodes said in response to a question.

“So many of the different partnerships that we are forging across the region have been mutually reinforcing, and we believe can contribute to the stability and prosperity of the broader region,” Rhodes said.

Abe arrives in US next week on a state visit. Obama would host him for a state dinner at the White House on Tuesday.

During his trip, Abe would be visiting Boston, Washington, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

PTI

Resurging India under Modi’s leadership is driving energy across South Asia: US

Washington: The US has said India’s resurgence under the new leadership was driving energy and optimism across South Asia and the two countries were now “indispensable partners” in promoting peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

US said India under PM Narendra Modi was driving energy across South Asia. PTI

US said India under PM Narendra Modi was driving energy across South Asia. PTI

“If there is one overarching positive trend that is driving the energy and optimism across South Asia, it is the resurgence of India as evidenced by their vibrant election last year, which was the largest such democratic exercise in history,” Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Nisha Desai Biswal told US lawmakers during a Congressional hearing.

“Less than a year after the election of Prime Minister Modi, our relations with India are stronger than ever,” she said.

She said US President Brack Obama’s Republic Day visit to India was “critical not only for the symbolism but also for the important outcomes in advancing our strategic partnership, deepening security cooperation, revitalizing the economic partnership, and advancing critical clean energy and environmental goals.”

Biswal said India needed to be strong at home to become a strong partner in the region and around the world.

She counted the agreements reached between Obama and Modi to strengthen the India-US partnership on economy, women empowerment, human rights and governance fronts.

“The President and Prime Minister Modi agreed to elevate our commercial and economic partnership as part of the Strategic and Commercial Dialogue to advance our shared prosperity.

“Our countries have resumed discussions on a Bilateral Investment Treaty, which, if realized, would provide enormous benefits and necessary protections to US companies,” she said.

“They also committed in Delhi to restart the Global Issues Forum and our bilateral dialogue on women’s empowerment, which can help our two countries tackle key governance and human rights issues to ensure that India’s development is inclusive and sustainable,” she added.

Biswal said the US was optimistic that challenges to creating the investment climate and innovation economy that will power India’s growth in the 21st century can be overcome.

She said the new Indian government had energized the bilateral ties and the two countries were now essential partners in promoting peace, prosperity, and stability across the Indo-Pacific region.

“As we have energized bilateral relations with the new Indian government, there can be no doubt about the strength of our joint strategic vision. Our two countries are indispensable partners in promoting peace, prosperity, and stability across the Indo-Pacific region. We are drivers of growth across the region and around the world,” she said.

“We are net providers of security, together ensuring freedom of navigation and safeguarding the maritime domain. These values are clearly enshrined in two new documents: our Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region and the Delhi Declaration of Friendship, leaving no doubt about our commitment to a peaceful, prosperous, democratic, and stable Asia,” Biswal said.

During the presidents India visit in January this year, the US also secured forward movement on issues that were holding up its ability to advance civil-nuclear cooperation with India, she said.

Biswal said by leveraging the private sector and Indian resources, the US was getting sizable outcomes out of small inputs.

“Our programs connect to India’s public and private sectors to jointly achieve development gains in a cost-effective manner in India and in third countries, where India’s achievements stand to jump-start development results,” she said.

“This model of assistance – which positions India as a development lab with global reach – combines US and Indian innovation and best practices, which can be road-tested and refined in India and then exported to developing countries in Africa and Asia,” Biswal said.

On the Sri Lankan political scene, Biswal said the defeat of powerful Rajapaksha Government in the recent election held there represented another dramatic opening in South Asia.

“Sri Lanka represents a dramatic opening that was ushered in by an election where the voice of the people turned conventional wisdom on its head and provided hope to a country that has been captive to corruption, cronyism, and divisive policies that threatened to divide and destabilize the country,” she said.

Biswal praised new Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena for working in a government of national unity with Sinhalese and minority political parties.

She said he was pivoting his country away from the harmful policies of his predecessors.

“The prospects for strengthened democratic institutions, equitable economic growth, and reduced ethnic tensions are much greater under his leadership than they were during the previous regime,” she said.

“Immediately upon taking office, newly elected President Sirisena and his coalition took actions that reflect their commitment to a comprehensive governance reform agenda, including development assistance and support for civil society and vulnerable communities,” she added.

She said the US was encouraged by the Sri Lankan government’s pledges to create a credible domestic accountability mechanism to address the end of the war and foster reconciliation between the North and South.

“We have expressed our support for the new government’s focus on strengthening its democracy, rebuilding its economy and pursuing meaningful reconciliation, and strongly signaled our commitment to rebuild US-Sri Lanka ties,” she said.

She noted that in its first few weeks in office, the Sirisena administration lifted restrictions on the media and on travel to the North, invited all exiled journalists to return, and moved the NGO Directorate out of the purview of the Ministry of Defense.

Last week, the cabinet approved reforms to limit the power of the executive and the government has taken welcome steps to address ethnic grievances and fight corruption for which they have welcomed the US’ assistance, she said.

Biswal said that despite these encouraging signs, the Sri Lankan people and the Sirisena government face tough challenges in the months ahead including the financial mess they inherited, and the difficult road on accountability and reconciliation.

She said the US was looking forward to deepening its partnership with Sri Lanka and working with it to advance democracy, prosperity and dignity for all Sri Lankans.

On Bangladesh’s political crisis, she said violent political impasse impeded the economic progress in the country that has the potential to become a model of a modern, prosperous, strong and inclusive country that connects the economies of south and southeast Asia.

But to seize this potential, she said, Bangladesh would require a reversal of negative governance trends as well as “political leadership that eschews violence and puts people before party politics.”

“We can clearly see what is possible in Bangladesh because our assistance programs there have yielded some of the best returns on investment in the world.

“Mortality of infants under five years of age has been reduced by 60 percent and maternal mortality by 66 percent. Rice shortages have been turned into surpluses. Protected forests are mitigating the impacts of climate change,” she said.

She denounced the violent political impasses in Bangladesh that impede the country’s economic progress. “Just last week the IMF blamed the political disruptions in its reduced growth projection for Bangladesh,” she said.

On the US’ assistance in probing the murder of American citizen and prolific blogger Avijit Roy, she said that an FBI team is currently in Dhaka to work with Bangladeshi authorities to identify the perpetrators of the “heinous” murder.

Biswal said notwithstanding frequent natural disasters and significant development challenges, Bangladesh’s economy has grown at an average annual rate of about 6 per cent for over two decades, which has helped reduce the poverty rate from over half of the population to less than a third.

She also laid stress on the key challenges in many sectors including agriculture, health care, nutrition, governance, and the rule of law.

“More than 120 million Bangladeshis live on less than USD2 per day, 30 percent of women are chronically undernourished, and 41 percent of children under five are stunted.

“The US’ assistance will continue to focus on expanding economic opportunities for Bangladeshis, improving governance, and developing social services. These efforts will greatly contribute to Bangladesh’s goal of becoming a middle-income country by 2021, its 50th year of independence,” she added.

Biswal also expressed concern over increasing political turbulence in Maldives which, she said, is adding to the other challenges of the island nation.

She said Maldives’ democratic institutions “remain weak and are easily manipulated, while the judiciary has become increasingly politicized.”

She criticised the last week’s conviction and sentencing to 13 years in jail of former president Mohamed Nasheed, the country’s first democratically-elected leader.

“This calls into question Maldives commitment to the minimum fair trial guarantees and the rule of law,” Biswal said.

The financial assistance requested for the Maldives allows US to continue its engagement on counter-terrorism, maritime security, and climate change issues, she added.

Talking about Nepal’s political scene, she said that despite the country’s tremendous progress since the conclusion of the civil conflict in 2006, it faced major challenges to secure a durable and democratic peace.

She said in Nepal, political leaders and the Constituent Assembly continue to struggle to achieve consensus and compromise on the extremely difficult task of drafting a new, permanent constitution that articulates its vision of federalism.

She said Nepal government must commit to establish a credible and independent commission on truth and reconciliation, and enforced disappearances.

Biswal said the US would continue to work closely with Nepal on refugee issues.

“For decades, Nepal has been a host to thousands of refugees, including Bhutanese refugees… the US has welcomed over 80,000 Bhutanese refugees to our shores since resettlement started in 2008.

“As this successful program begins to wind down, we are committed to working with the United Nations and international NGOs to establish a durable solution to the refugee issue,” she said.

Biswal said the US continue to advocate support for the long-staying Tibetan community and urge respect for their fundamental rights, including the freedom of religious expression.

PTI

New Indian leadership of Modi has energised ties with US, says Pentagon official

Washington: The US remains heavily engaged with India and the strategic relationship between the two countries has energised under the new leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a top Pentagon commander has said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi (left) with US President Barack Obama. AP

Prime Minister Narendra Modi (left) with US President Barack Obama. AP

“Last year, India held the largest election in its history. With new leadership in place, India is energising the US-India strategic partnership,” Admiral Samuel J Locklear United States Navy Commander of Pacific Command has said.

The US military remains heavily engaged with New Delhi’s military, having conducted 69 major exercises in the past five years, he said.

The Indian Navy continues its strong participation in multilateral exercises including INDRA with Russia, MALABAR with the US and Japan, and RIMPAC with 23 navies from across the Indo-Asia-Pacific, Locklear said.

Noting that over the past three years the US has been India’s largest defence trading partner, Locklear said India’s participation in these exercises signals its commitment as a regional security provider.

“Through military modernisation, robust defence trade (C-17s, C-130Js, and P-8Is, among other items), and a growing network of defence partnerships, India is asserting its role as an important regional actor determined to protect common interests and ensure free access to economically vital sea lanes,” he said.

“Although with respect to military activities, India still asserts a security interest in its EEZ that does not conform to the law of the sea,” he said.

Testifying before the Congressional sub-committee, Locklear said China is executing a strategy that includes expanding outposts in contested areas through land reclamation on South China Sea features.

China is taking actions to prevent other nations from establishing/maintaining outposts, exploring for natural resources in disputed waters, and increasing its naval and air forces’ presence through exercises and patrols, he said.

China’s aggressive land reclamation and construction projects at eight South China Sea military outposts include new buildings, more capable berthing space for ships, and presumably an airfield on the Fiery Cross Reef (China’s largest reclamation project), he said.

“The US does not take a position on issues of sovereignty with respect to territorial claims in the East and South China Sea, but we do insist that all maritime claims must be derived from land features in accordance with international law as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention,” Locklear said.

He said the US emphasised the importance that maritime and territorial disagreements be resolved peacefully in accordance with international law and opposes the use of intimidation, coercion, or force to assert claims.

PTI

Modi joins Obama, Beyonce as 30 most influential people on Internet: Time

New York: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been named among the 30 most influential people on the internet by Time magazine in a list which also features US President Barack Obama.

The list, which analysed social-media followings, site traffic and overall ability to drive news, also includes British author of the Harry Potter series J K Rowling and singers Taylor Swift and Beyonce.

Time said the Indian Prime Minister has roughly 38 million followers on social networking sites Twitter and Facebook, putting him ahead of any other leaders in the world except Obama.

“And unlike many of his contemporaries, Modi recognises that social media can be invaluable when trying to reach India’s 200 million-plus online population directly,” the Time magazine said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

Modi, an ardent user of social media to communicate with people, announced in an unconventional way, Obama’s strategic visit to India in January this year. He took to Twitter to make the announcement, “bypassing traditional media outlets,” the magazine said.

Time said given the power of the social media, anyone with a web connection can start a global conversation.

“Yes, it helps to be famous in real life. But the rise of social networks has levelled the playing field, allowing unknowns to command audiences rivalling those of real-world leaders, even if by accident,” it said.

On Obama’s virtual influence, Time said the US President is the most-liked world leader on Facebook and the most-followed on Twitter.

“But more impressively, Obama is able to meme himself to push an agenda,” Time said citing a video he featured in for American internet news media company Buzzfeed. In it Obama used a selfie stick among other props to remind millennials to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

Within days, the video had been viewed more than 50 million times.

The list also includes reality star Kim Kardashian, singer Justin Beiber, actress Gwyneth Paltrow, Chinese actress Yao Chen, singer Shakira, photographer behind the hugely popular blog Humans of New York Brandon Stanton and TV personality Jimmy Fallon.

PTI

PM Modi’s pinstriped suit sold to diamond company for Rs 4.31 cr

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Muslim clerics term Obama’s religion remarks as ‘eye opener’ for Modi, BJP

Lucknow: Terming US president Barack Obama’s statement over religious tolerance as an “eye opener” for
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP, Muslim clerics and scholars today said he should control elements who with their hate speeches were hurting his development agenda.

Secretary General of All India Muslim Personal Law Board Maulana Nizamuddin told PTI, Obama has not said anything new, “but it is an eye opener for Modi government”

Barack Obama in a file photo. AFP

He asked Modi to pay attention to the prevailing situation in the country in the wake of Obama’s statement.

“The PM should take into consideration the fact that senior leaders of his party were speaking in a language which was creating hatred in the society and hurting his government’s slogan ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas,” he said.

“Scholars say that a society makes progress only in a just and peaceful environment, and it can be achieved only when efforts are not made to flare up communal passions. No person should have the freedom to speak against a particular section,” Nizamuddin said.

“Obama has left with a message, instead of being impressed with all your welcome the US President has highlighted your shortcomings and faults. He has given his reply in just one line,” he added.

Professor Ishtiyaq Ahmad Zilli, Director Professor of prominent Islamic Research Institute ‘Darul Musannefeen Shibli Academy’, said the remarks were an example of how due to the statements of some BJP leaders and associated Hindu organisations, the country was earning disrepute.

“It is a fact that the country progresses only when there is intention to take everyone along. The biggest problem with Modi is that he doesn’t say a word against these statements. He should have reacted strongly,” Zilli said.

On 5 February, US President Barack Obama had said the “acts of intolerance” experienced by religious faiths of all types in India in the past few years would have shocked Mahatma Gandhi.

The comments by Obama came a day after the White House refuted suggestions that the US President’s public speech in New Delhi in which he touched upon religious tolerance was a “parting shot” aimed at the ruling BJP.

“Michelle and I returned from India – an incredible, beautiful country, full of magnificent diversity – but a place where, in past years, religious faiths of all types have, on occasion, been targeted by other peoples of faith, simply due to their heritage and their beliefs – acts of intolerance that would have shocked Gandhiji, the person who helped to liberate that nation,” Obama said in his remarks at the high-profile National Prayer Breakfast.

Spokesman of All India Shia Personal Law Board Maulana Yassod Abbas also said that Modi should control the people making inflammatory statements related to religion.

“A series has started wherein so called Hindu organisations give statement on ‘ghar vapasi’ and ‘love
jihad’. This is disturbing communal harmony,” he said.

PTI

Dear Indians, calm down: Obama didn’t single out India for his intolerance remark

Oh my god! Obama talked about religious intolerance! And he name checked India. Whaaaat? Bring on the totally cooked up media-fueled controversy.

“Religious intolerance in India would have shocked Gandhi: Obama,” blares the Indian Express on its front page. The Express frames the remarks in “context”, noting, “The comments came a day after the White House refuted suggestions that the US President’s public speech in New Delhi, in which he touched on religious tolerance, was a ‘parting shot’ aimed at the ruling BJP.”

How have we made a two line reference to India all about us? Reuters

Times of India and Hindustan Times have almost the exact same headline. NDTV, however, ‏one ups them all by tweeting out its story with the plug, “Barack Obama invokes India’s example to condemn religious intolerance.”

And that’s all we need these days for a Twitter storm.

In this corner are the offended, like Bharti Jain at the TOI who complains, “How about Obama teaching a thing or two to Pak and Taliban about religious tolerance?” A sentiment affirmed and retweeted by Headlines Today anchor Rahul Kanwal. Even Sri Sri waded into the fray with: “Isolated incidents doesn’t mean India is intolerant. Obama should have met religious leaders while in India for better understanding.”

In the other corner are the celebrants who can’t help but relish the prospect of a Modi dissed. Joy Das titters, “Broke Protocol to receive him, Broke Protocol at R-Day Parade to sit next to him, wore 10 Lakh Suit to impress him. Why u no care, Barack?”

Everyone is having such a good time seeing exactly what they want, be it hypocritical United States or a weak Modi, that no one seems to care what Obama actually said, and in what context. I do hate to rain on the parade, but let’s take a look at exactly when India is named and blamed.

Obama talks about the great value of religion and then notes its downside: “But we also see faith being twisted and distorted, used as a wedge — or, worse, sometimes used as a weapon. From a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris, we have seen violence and terror perpetrated by those who profess to stand up for faith, their faith, professed to stand up for Islam, but, in fact, are betraying it.”

also see

India has history of religious tolerance and aberrations can’t alter that: Jaitley tells Obama

Aberrations don’t change India’s history of tolerance: Govt on Obama’s remark

White House voices concern over access to US press during Obama’s India visit

Cue references to ISIL and then “sectarian war in Syria, the murder of Muslims and Christians in Nigeria, religious war in the Central African Republic, a rising tide of anti-Semitism and hate crimes in Europe.”

Obama then notes that people of faith continually grapple with the good and the bad of religion, which is where India enters the picture… right after America herself.

Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history. And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ. Michelle and I returned from India — an incredible, beautiful country, full of magnificent diversity — but a place where, in past years, religious faiths of all types have, on occasion, been targeted by other peoples of faith, simply due to their heritage and their beliefs — acts of intolerance that would have shocked Gandhiji, the person who helped to liberate that nation.

So this is not unique to one group or one religion. There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency that can pervert and distort our faith. 

That’s it. The two lines that have stirred the pot of vitriol, outrage and malice.

Here’s what puzzles me. Are we so entitled that we think in a speech that calls out pretty much every nation in the world, we deserve a special exemption. Hey, you can talk about Holocaust, but don’t you dare mention a single riot in our backyard. Or do we, like spoilt sixteen year olds, make everything about us? Or worse, are we so over-excited that an American President should mention India that we can’t help but over-read his every word?

Sure, the remarks he made about religious intolerance in India, on a state visit, deserve great scrutiny and analysis. But let’s not get all worked up about a passing reference in a by-the-numbers speech about religious tolerance that is at best amusing for its studiously liberal effort to dutifully point its finger at every body. The only religion that gets a pass is Buddhism, but I guess no one told Barack about Sri Lanka. How come no one is complaining about that?

Obama spoke or reality, pro-active action, says Christian community

New Delhi: The Christian community, which has been critical of the BJP government following “attacks” on
churches, on Friday welcomed US President Barack Obama’s comments on religious intolerance in India, saying he spoke about the reality and pro-active action was required to ensure social harmony.

Director and Spokesperson of Delhi Catholic Archdiocese Father Dominic said the US President remark on religious intolerance was a major issue and asked the government to take the challenge seriously.

Barack Obama. AFP

“Mahatma Gandhi is the father of the nation and it is good for us to be reminded by anybody in the world what Mahatma Gandhi said,” he said, adding government must take steps to ensure that people from all faiths live in harmony.

Yesterday, the US President had said in Washington that the “acts of intolerance” experienced by religious faiths of all types in India in the past few years would have shocked Gandhi.

Angry over a spate of “attacks” on churches, members of the Christian community yesterday had staged a major protest in the city. They have been accusing the BJP government of inaction in ensuring security to the churches and the community in the city.

“The high handedness brutal force the police used was the most shocking thing and we are wondering whether we are in a democracy or in a dictatorial system of government,” Dominic said about police crackdown on protesters yesterday.

Another leader from the Christian community Jenis Francis said it was “unfortunate” that Obama had to react to an internal issue.

“That Obama had to react to our internal issue is unfortunate. But having said that, it also shows the
lackadaisical approach of the government in addressing the serious issue,” he said.

The community is outraged over “attacks” on various churches in the city since November last year. The community alleged that it is part of a “hate campaign”.

PTI

Aberrations don’t change India’s history of tolerance: Govt on Obama’s remark

New Delhi: Reacting cautiously to US President Barack Obama’s concern about religious “intolerance” in India, government on Friday said any “aberrations” do not alter India’s history of tolerance.

Government responded on US President Barack Obama’s remark on India. AP

Two senior Union ministers, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Home Minister Rajnath Singh, underlined that India was a multi-religious and multi-cultural country where communities including Muslim, Jewish, Parsis and Christians were present.

They were reacting to Obama’s comment in Washington yesterday that the “acts of intolerance” experienced by religious faiths of all types in India in the past few years would have shocked Mahatma Gandhi. Earlier also, Obama, at the end of his three-day visit in New Delhi last week, had made a strong pitch for religious tolerance, cautioning that India will succeed so long as it was not “splintered along the lines of religious faith”.

Addressing the reporters in New Delhi, Jaitley said, “That any society must be a tolerant society is a fact that each of us has to accept. It’s good to be tolerant. India has a huge cultural history of tolerance. Any aberration doesn’t alter the history.”

He also noted that the best example of tolerance was sitting next to President Obama, that is His Holiness the Dalai Lama, when the statement was made. “It’s a part of India’s tolerance that even he found it comfortable and India found it comfortable to absorb him in the society,” he added.

also see

Obama’s remark came after meeting people sent by the Church: VHP

Obama concerned over communal and divisive policy of NDA: Mayawati

Obama’s speech revealed the true colours of Modi, says Lalu Prasad Yadav

Reacting to Obama’s comments, Singh said in Uttarakhand, “as far as religious tolerance is concerned, it is embedded in our Indian tradition. India is the only country in the world where all the communities including various divisions of Muslims and all sects of Christians are present…In India, Parsis and Jewish are also there.”

“The biggest speciality of the Indian culture has been that there has never been discrimination on the basis of caste, community, religion or sect,” the Home Minister added.

PTI

Modi’s enemies from within? ‘I can make or break the govt,’ says ‘powerful’ Sakshi Maharaj

Rishikesh: In an ashram near the Ganges river in the Himalayan foothills, priest-turned-politician Sakshi Maharaj mimes rowing a boat to illustrate what will happen if Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s government ignores Hindu nationalist demands.

“Modi will have to be a boatman: one oar must focus on the economy and the other must concentrate on the Hindu agenda,” says Maharaj, clad in saffron robes and sitting cross-legged on a bed.

He twirls his bejewelled fingers in the air, explaining that otherwise the boat will spin in circles.

BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj. IBNLive

The Hindu priest, who has been charged with rioting and inciting communal violence, is the embodiment of hardline religious elements in Modi’s party whose strident behaviour is dragging on the government’s economic reform agenda.

In recent months, Maharaj has created uproar by describing Mahatma Gandhi’s Hindu nationalist assassin as a patriot, saying Hindu women should give birth to four children to ensure the religion survives and by calling for Hindus who convert to Islam and Christianity to be given the death penalty.

For the first time since the election last year, some lawmakers in Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are rebelling against his focus on mending the economy and governance at the expense of promoting Hinduism.

This is testing the authority of a leader who captured power to a degree not seen since Indira Gandhi ruled India more than three decades ago.

Hardline Hindu politicians impatient with Modi’s refusal to champion their cause are beginning to advance their own agendas.

Maharaj, for example, wants to make it illegal for Hindus to change religions and seeks the death penalty for slaughtering cows, an animal revered by Hindus.

Protests erupted at the most recent parliamentary session over a campaign by hardliners to convert Muslims and Christians to Hinduism, torpedoing key foreign investment legislation that the opposition had earlier agreed to pass.

Modi had to use executive orders to drive policy, but they are seen as a stopgap measure that cannot replace reforms needed to address India’s slowing economic growth.

“Modi has a major problem with these extremist elements,” said S Chandrasekharan, director of the South Asia Analysis Group in New Delhi. “If he can’t bring them under control they are going to … sap the energy needed to carry out reforms.”

In a sign the world is watching, US President Barack Obama warned on a recent visit that India’s success depended on it not splintering along religious lines.

‘I AM A POWERFUL MAN’

At the spiritual retreat, or ashram, elderly disciples with long grey beards bend to kiss the feet of Maharaj, who wears light brown socks with sandals, an orange turban, gold-framed Dolce and Gabbana glasses and a chunky gold-coloured watch.

With a self-proclaimed following of 10 million people, Maharaj, a four-time member of parliament, draws support through a network of dozens of ashrams and colleges.

“I am aware that I am a powerful man,” Maharaj says. “I can make or break the government.”

Maharaj is charged by police with rioting and inciting a mob after helping tear down a 16th-century mosque in Ayodhya in 1992, an event sparking riots in which around 2,000 people died.

He admits being present at the demolition but says he could not stop the crowds. In India, trials can take decades because of a shortage of judges.

Modi will have a clearer idea of whether radicals elements are alienating voters when the BJP fights elections in New Delhi. Also this month, the government must present the budget and try to enact three emergency decrees in parliament.

In December, Modi told lawmakers their behaviour was hurting the party and warned them not to cross the Lakshman Rekha, a forbidden line in Hindu mythology, according to party officials briefed on the meeting.”The message is loud and clear: there is no room for any diversion from the economy,” said GVL Narasimha Rao, a spokesman for the BJP.

‘GAME OF CHESS’

The battle for the government’s direction is particularly acute for Modi, because he and his party are ideologically rooted in Hindutva, or Hinduness, a concept sometimes defined in strident opposition to Muslims and Christians.

Modi himself has consistently denied accusations that, as chief minister of Gujarat, he did not do enough to prevent riots in which more than 1,000 people died, most of them Muslims. A Supreme Court inquiry found no evidence to prosecute him.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the powerful ideological wing of the BJP, supports lawmakers like Maharaj who are working to make India a Hindu nation, said a senior RSS official who asked not to be named.

“We will support them because it is all for a Hindu cause,” he said. There was no evidence to suggest that the RSS was actively involved in pushing the hardliners’ agenda, however.

Modi’s ties with radical Hindus “can be best described as a game of chess,” said Ramchandra Guha, one of India’s leading historians. “Both sides are on board when it comes to establishing the Hindu supremacist agenda, but they want to follow a different strategy to achieve it.”

Maharaj says most Indians, including Modi, privately share his views, and he will continue promoting Hindu supremacy.

“The only difference is he is refined and maybe we are crass,” Maharaj says of Modi. “We may have to fine-tune the message but the message will remain the same.”

Reuters

US-India nuclear ‘breakthrough’ could be finalised within a year

A “breakthrough understanding” to open India’s nuclear power sector to US firms reached during President Barack Obama’s visit to New Delhi last month could be finalised this year, Indian officials say.

Representational image. AFP

The 25 January announcement by Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi followed six weeks of intensive talks, but few details were released beyond a framework based on India’s acceptance of the principle that plant operators should bear primary liability in the event of a nuclear disaster.

Significant work remains on the fine print of a deal aimed at unlocking projects worth tens of billions of dollars that have been stuck the drawing board for years. India wants to nearly treble its installed nuclear capacity, which would make it the world’s second biggest market after China.

US officials say details of an insurance scheme to protect suppliers from crippling lawsuits need to be thrashed out and India still has to ratify a U.N. nuclear convention. Indian officials do not rule out completing the process this year.

“We are committed to moving ahead on all implementation issues at an early date,” said Syed Akbaruddin, chief spokesman at India’s Ministry of External Affairs. “There are no policy hurdles left.”

General Electric and Westinghouse, a unit of Japan’s Toshiba, were fully briefed on the meetings of a nuclear “contact group” that hammered out the nuclear compromise in London, say sources with direct knowledge of the talks.

Bringing them into the mix was crucial because the prospect of huge lawsuits, like those against Union Carbide over the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster, has until now kept US and other foreign firms on the sidelines.

India and the United States signed a landmark agreement to cooperate on nuclear power back in 2008. Yet an expected bonanza never materialised because India later passed a law that would expose reactor makers to liability if there was an accident.

The liability issue has became a metaphor for the unrealised potential of the bilateral business relationship and a question mark against Modi’s “Make in India” mantra.

NOT INCOMPATIBLE

As the days counted down to Obama’s visit, Indian officials persuaded their US counterparts that their law was “not incompatible” with international standards that place the burden of liability on the operator, said one senior US official.

New Delhi also proposed setting up an insurance pool with a liability cap of 15 billion rupees ($244 million). The state-run Nuclear Power Corporation of India would pay premiums to cover its liability. Suppliers would take out separate insurance against their secondary liability – which could not exceed that of the operator – at a “fraction” of the cost.

India must still ratify the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage (CSC), which requires signatories to channel liability to the operator and offers access to relief funds.

“We would be looking at how quickly we can ratify the CSC – this is part of our assurance to the suppliers, along with the insurance pool,” said an Indian member of the contact group, set up by Obama and Modi at a Washington summit last year.

The US official said Washington expects the Indians to ratify with the IAEA in the near future, along with documentation “stating what their law intends” on the issue of liability, which should offer further reassurance to US firms.

QUESTION OF DETAIL

The US industry would have preferred the issue to be settled by amending the liability law, something considered politically impossible for Modi to achieve at the moment.

“We want to see all the detail before we say: ‘Yes, it works for us’,” Westinghouse President and CEO Daniel Roderick, who joined Obama’s delegation, told Reuters.

That note of caution, however, masks the extent to which negotiators engaged with the industry to address fears that it could end up on the hook in a disaster on the scale of the 2011 reactor blasts at Tepco’s plant in Fukushima, Japan.

“For the first time, we had a comprehensive inventory of concerns,” said the Indian negotiator.

Westinghouse has been granted land in Modi’s home state of Gujarat to build six reactors, while GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy is eyeing a similar project in Andhra Pradesh. The liability roadblock has prevented commercial talks from starting on the projects, with a combined capacity of 10,000 megawatts.

India has 21 nuclear reactors with an installed capacity of 21,300 MW. It plans to launch construction of 40,000 MW of capacity in the next decade.

Reuters

Listen: Full episode of ‘Mann Ki Baat’ with PM Modi and Obama

“The world will be more secure if United States and India share values,” US President Barack Obama said during his address on All India Radio’s Mann Ki Baat show, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the nation every month.

Sharing their personal experiences, both Obama and Modi spoke of how if one is determined enough, they can achieve their goals irrespective of their family backgrounds.

President Barack Obama and PM Narendra Modi recording ‘Mann Ki Baat’ show in New Delhi. PTI

Full text of Mann ki Baat: Modi and Obama discuss social issues

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday addressed the nation with US President Barack Obama via his monthly radio address titled ‘Mann ki Baat’. This was Modi’s fourth radio address to the nation. However, this month’s episode was special as it had Obama sharing his thoughts on a host of issues.

(Hon’ble Shri Narendra Modi):

Today, Shri Barack Obama, President of the United States, joins us in a special programme of Mann Ki Baat. For the last few months, I have been sharing my “Mann Ki Baat” with you. But today, people from various parts of the country have asked questions.

But most of the questions are connected to politics, foreign policy, economic policy. However, some questions touch the heart. And I believe if we touch those questions today, we shall be able to reach out to the common man in different parts of the country. And therefore, the questions asked in press conferences, or discussed in meetings – instead of those – if we discuss what comes from the heart, and repeat it, hum it, we get a new energy. And therefore, in my opinion, those questions are more important. Some people wonder, what does “Barack” mean? I was searching for the meaning of Barack. In Swahili language, which is spoken in parts of Africa, Barack means, one who is blessed. I believe, along with a name, his family gave him a big gift.

Good friends. PTI

African countries have lived by the ancient idea of ‘Ubuntu’, which alludes to the ‘oneness in humanity’. They say – “I am, because we are”. Despite the gap in centuries and borders, there is the same spirit of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, which speak of in India. This is the great shared heritage of humanity. This unites us. When we discuss Mahatma Gandhi, we remember Henry Thoreau, from whom Mahatma Gandhi learnt disobedience. When we talk about Martin Luther King or Obama, we hear from their lips, respect for Mahatma Gandhi. These are the things that unite the world.

Today, Barack Obama is with us. I will first request him to share his thoughts. Then, I and Barack will both answer the questions that have been addressed to us.

I request President Barack Obama to say a few words.

(Hon’ble Shri Barack Obama):

Namaste! Thank you Prime Minister Modi for your kind words and for the incredible hospitality you have shown me and my wife Michelle on this visit and let me say to the people of India how honoured I am to be the first American President to join you for Republic Day; and I’m told that this is also the first ever Radio address by an Indian Prime Minister and an American President together, so we’re making a lot of history in a short time. Now to the people of India listening all across this great nation. It’s wonderful to be able to speak you directly. We just come from discussions in which we affirmed that India and the United States are natural partners, because we have so much in common. We are two great democracies, two innovative economies, two diverse societies dedicated to empowering individuals. We are linked together by millions of proud Indian Americans who still have family and carry on traditions from India. And I want to say to the Prime Minister how much I appreciate your strong personal commitment to strengthening the relationship between these two countries.

People are very excited in the United States about the energy that Prime Minister Modi is bringing to efforts in this country to reduce extreme poverty and lift people up, to empower women, to provide access to electricity, and clean energy and invest in infrastructure, and the education system. And on all these issues, we want to be partners. Because many of the efforts that I am promoting inside the United States to make sure that the young people get the best education possible, to make sure that the ordinary people are properly compensated for their labour, and paid fair wages, and have job security and health care. These are the same kinds of issues that Prime Minister Modi, I know cares so deeply about here. And I think there’s a common theme in these issues. It gives us a chance to reaffirm what Gandhi ji reminded us, should be a central aim of our lives. And that is, we should endeavour to seek God through service of humanity because God is in everyone. So these shared values, these convictions, are a large part of why I am so committed to this relationship. I believe that if the United States and India join together on the world stage around these values, then not only will our peoples be better off, but I think the world will be more prosperous and more peaceful and more secure for the future. So thank you so much Mr. Prime Minister, for giving me this opportunity to be with you here today.

(Hon’ble Shri Narendra Modi):

Barack the first question comes from Raj from Mumbai

His question is, the whole world knows about your love for your daughters. How will you tell your daughters about youre experience of India? Do you plan to do some shopping for them?

(Hon’ble Shri Barack Obama):

Well first of all they very much wanted to come. They are fascinated by India, Unfortunately each time that I have taken a trip here, they had school and they couldn’t leave school. And in fact, Malia, my older daughter, had exams just recently. They are fascinated by the culture, and the history of India, in part because of my influence I think, they are deeply moved by India’s movement to Independence, and the role that Gandhi played, in not only the non-violent strategies here in India, but how those ended up influencing the non-violent Civil Rights Movement in the United States. So when I go back I am going to tell them that India is as magnificent as they imagined. And I am quite sure that they are going to insist that I bring them back the next time I visit. It may not be during my Presidency, but afterwards they will definitely want to come and visit.

also see

Modi-Obama Mann Ki Baat address to be aired at 8 pm on Tuesday

Obama’s ‘mann ki baat’: What PM Modi wants to hear from the US President

Mann Ki Baat: It was PM Modi’s idea to invite Obama for joint radio address

And I will definitely do some shopping for them. Although I can’t go to the stores myself, so I have to have my team do the shopping for me. And I’ll get some advice from Michelle, because she probably has a better sense of what they would like.

(Hon’ble Shri Narendra Modi):

Barack said he will come with his daughters. I extend an invitation to you. Whether you come as President, or thereafter, India looks forward to welcoming you and your daughters.

Sanika Diwan from Pune, Maharashtra has asked me a question. She asks me, whether I have sought assistance from President Obama for the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao Mission

Sanika you have asked a good question. There is a lot of worry because of the sex ratio in India. For every 1000 boys, the number of girls is less. And the main reason for this is that, there is a defect in our attitudes towards boys and girls.

Whether or not I seek help from President Obama, his life is in itself an inspiration. The way he has brought up his two daughters, the way he is proud of his two daughters.

In our country too, I meet many families who have only daughters. And they bring up their daughters with such pride, give them such respect, that is the biggest inspiration. I believe that inspiration is our strength. And in response to your question, I would like to say, to save the girl child, to educate the girl child, this is our social duty, cultural duty, and humanitarian responsibility. We should honour it.

Barack, there is a question for you. The second question for President Obama comes through e-mail: Dr. Kamlesh Upadhyay, a Doctor based in Ahmedabad, Gujarat – Your wife is doing extensive work on tackling modern health challenges like obesity and diabetes. These are increasingly being faced in India as well. Would you and the First Lady like to return to India to work on these issues after your Presidency, just like Bill and Melinda Gates?

(Hon’ble Barack Obama):

Well, we very much look forward to partnering with organizations, and the government and non-governmental organizations here in India, around broader Public Health issues including the issue of obesity. I am very proud of the work that Michelle has done on this issue. We’re seeing a world-wide epidemic of obesity, in many cases starting at a very young age. And a part of it has to do with increase in processed foods, not naturally prepared. Part of it is a lack of activity for too many children. And once they are on this path, it can lead to a life time of health challenges. This is an issue that we would like to work on internationally, including here in India. And it is a part of a broader set of issues around global health that we need to address. The Prime Minister and I have discussed, for example, how we can do a better job in dealing with issues like pandemic. And making sure that we have good alert systems so that if a disease like Ebola, or a deadly flu virus, or Polio appears, it is detected quickly and then treated quickly so that it doesn’t spread. The public health infrastructure around the world needs to be improved. I think the Prime Minister is doing a great job in focusing on these issues here in India. And India has a lot to teach many other countries who may not be advancing as rapidly in improving this public health sector. But it has an impact on everything, because if children are sick they can’t concentrate in school and they fall behind. It has a huge economic impact on the countries involved and so we think that there is a lot of progress to be made here and I am very excited about the possibilities of considering this work even after I leave office.

(Hon’ble Shri Narendra Modi):

Mr. Arjun asks me a question. An interesting question. He says he has seen an old photo of me as a tourist outside the White House. He asks me what touched me when I went there last September.

It is true that when I first went to America, I was not lucky enough to visit the White House. There is an iron fence far from the White House. We stood outside the fence and took a photograph. White House is visible in the background. Now that I have become Prime Minister, that photo too has become popular. But at that time, I had never thought that sometime in my life, I would get a chance to visit the White House. But when I visited the White House, one thing touched my heart. I can never forget that. Barack gave me a book, a book that he had located after considerable effort. That book had become famous in 1894. Swami Vivekananda, the inspiration of my life, had gone to Chicago to participate in the World Religions Conference. And this book was a compilation of the speeches delivered at the World Religions Conference. That touched my heart. And not just this. He turned the pages of the book, and showed me what was written there. He had gone through the entire book! And he told me with pride, I come from the Chicago where Swami Vivekananda had come. These words touched my heart a lot. And I will treasure this throughout my life. So once, standing far from the White House and taking a photo, and then, to visit the White House, and to receive a book on someone whom I respect. You can imagine, how it would have touched my heart.

Barack there is a question for you. Himani from Ludhiana, Punjab. Question is for you ……:

(Hon’ble Shri Barack Obama):

Well the question is “Did you both imagine you would reach the positions that you’ve reached today?”

And it is interesting, Mr. Prime Minister, your talking about the first time you visited White House and being outside that iron fence. The same is true for me. When I first went to the White House, I stood outside that same fence, and looked in, and I certainly did not imagine that I would ever be visiting there, much less living there. You know, I think both of us have been blessed with an extraordinary opportunity, coming from relatively humble beginnings. And when I think about what’s best in America and what’s best in India, the notion that a tea seller or somebody who’s born to a single mother like me, could end up leading our countries, is an extraordinary example of the opportunities that exist within our countries. Now I think, a part of what motivates both you and I, is the belief that there are millions of children out there who have the same potential but may not have the same education, may not be getting exposed to opportunities in the same way, and so a part of our job, a part of government’s job is that young people who have talent, and who have drive and are willing to work for, are able to succeed. And that’s why we are emphasizing school, higher education. Making sure that children are healthy and making sure those opportunities are available to children of all backgrounds, girls and boys, people of all religious faiths and of all races in the United States is so important. Because you never know who might be the next Prime Minister of India, or who might be the next President of United States. They might not always look the part right off the bat. And they might just surprise you if you give them the chance.

(Hon’ble Shri Narendra Modi):

Thank you Barack.

Himani from Ludhiana has also asked me this question – did I ever imagine I would reach this high office?

No. I never imagined it. Because, as Barack said, I come from a very ordinary family. But for a long time, I have been telling everyone, never dream of becoming something. If you wish to dream, dream of doing something. When we do something, we get satisfaction, and also get inspiration to do something new. If we only dream of becoming something, and cannot fulfil the dream, then we only get disappointed. And therefore, I never dreamt of becoming something. Even today, I have no dream of becoming something. But I do dream of doing something. Serving Mother India, serving 125 crore Indians, there can be no greater dream than this. That is what I have to do. I am thankful to Himani.

There is a question for Barack from Omprakash. Omprakash is studying Sanskrit at JNU. He belongs to Jhunjunu, Rajasthan. Om Prakash is convener of special centre for Sanskrit Studies in JNU.

(Hon’ble Shri Barack Obama):

Well this is a very interesting question. His question is, the youth of the new generation is a global citizen. He is not limited by time or boundaries. In such a situation what should be the approach by our leadership, governments as well as societies at large.

I think this is a very important question. When I look at this generation that is coming up, they are exposed to the world in ways that you and I could hardly imagine. They have the world at their fingertips, literally. They can, using their mobile phone, get information and images from all around the world and that’s extraordinarily powerful. And what that means, I think is that, governments and leaders cannot simply try to govern, or rule, by a top-down strategy. But rather have to reach out to people in an inclusive way, and an open way, and a transparent way. And engage in a dialogue with citizens, about the direction of their country. And one of the great things about India and the United States is that we are both open societies. And we have confidence and faith that when citizens have information, and there is a vigorous debate, that over time even though sometimes democracy is frustrating, the best decisions and the most stable societies emerge and the most prosperous societies emerge. And new ideas are constantly being exchanged. And technology today I think facilitates that, not just within countries, but across countries. And so, I have much greater faith in India and the United States, countries that are open information societies, in being able to succeed and thrive in this New Information Age; than closed societies that try to control the information that citizens receive. Because ultimately that’s no longer possible. Information will flow inevitably, one way or the other, and we want to make sure we are fostering a healthy debate and a good conversation between all peoples.

(Hon’ble Shri Narendra Modi):

Omprakash wants me too, to answer the question that has been asked to Barack.

Barack has given a very good answer. It is inspiring. I will only say, that once upon a time, there were people inspired primarily by the Communist ideology. They gave a call: Workers of the world, Unite. This slogan lasted for several decades. I believe, looking at the strength and reach of today’s youth, I would say, Youth, Unite the world. I believe they have the strength and they can do it.

The next question is from CA Pikashoo Mutha from Mumbai, and he asks me, which American leader has inspired you

When I was young, I used to see Kennedy’s pictures in Indian newspapers. His personality was very impressive. But your question is, who has inspired me. I liked reading as a child. And I got an opportunity to read the biography of Benjamin Franklin. He lived in the eighteenth century. And he was not an American President. But his biography is so inspiring – how a person can intelligently try to change his life.

If we feel excessively sleepy, how can we reduce that?

If we feel like eating too much, how can we work towards eating less?

If people get upset with you that cannot meet them, because of the pressure of work, then how to solve this problem?

He has addressed such issues in his biography. And I tell everyone, we should read Benjamin Franklin’s biography. Even today, it inspires me. And Benjamin Franklin had a multi-dimensional personality. He was a politician, he was a political scientist, he was a social worker, he was a diplomat. And he came from an ordinary family. He could not even complete his education. But till today, his thoughts have an impact on American life. I find his life truly inspiring. And I tell you too, if you read his biography, you will find ways to transform your life too. And he has talked about simple things. So I feel you will be inspired as much as I have been.

There is a question for Barack, from Monika Bhatia.

(Hon’ble Shri Barack Obama):

Well the question is “As leaders of two major economies, what inspires you and makes you smile at the end of a bad day at work?”

And that is a very good question. I say sometimes, that the only problems that come to my desk are the ones that nobody else solves. If they were easy questions, then somebody else would have solved them before they reached me. So there are days when it’s tough and frustrating. And that’s true in Foreign Affairs. That is true in Domestic Affairs. But I tell you what inspires me, and I don’t know Mr. Prime Minister if you share this view – almost every day I meet somebody who tells me, “You made a difference in my life.”

So they’ll say, “The Health-Care law that you passed, saved my child who didn’t have health insurance.” And they were able to get an examination from a Physician, and they caught an early tumour, and now he is doing fine.

Or they will say “You helped me save my home during the economic crisis.”

Or they’ll say, “I couldn’t afford college, and the program you set up has allowed me to go to the university.”

And sometimes they are thanking you for things that you did four or five years ago. Sometimes they are thanking you for things you don’t even remember, or you’re not thinking about that day. But it is a reminder of what you said earlier, which is, if you focus on getting things done as opposed to just occupying an office or maintaining power, then the satisfaction that you get is unmatched. And the good thing about service is that anybody can do it. If you are helping somebody else, the satisfaction that you can get from that, I think, exceeds anything else that you can do. And that’s usually what makes me inspired to do more, and helps get through the challenges and difficulties that we all have. Because obviously we are not the only people with bad days at work. I think everybody knows what it is like to have a bad day at work. You just have to keep on working through it. Eventually you make a difference.

(Hon’ble Shri Narendra Modi):

Indeed Barack has spoken words from the heart (Mann Ki Baat). Whatever position we may hold, we are human too. Simple things can inspire us. I also wish to narrate an experience. For many years, I was like an ascetic. I got food at other people’s homes. Whoever invited me, used to feed me as well. Once a family invited me over for a meal, repeatedly. I would not go, because I felt they are too poor, and if I go to eat at their place, I will become a burden on them. But eventually, I had to bow to their request and love. And I went to eat a meal at their home. It was a small hut, where we sat down to eat. They offered me roti made of bajra (millet), and mik. Their young child was looking at the milk. I felt, the child has never even seen milk. So I gave that small bowl of milk to the child. And he drank it within seconds. His family members were angry with him. And I felt that perhaps that child has never had any milk, apart from his mother’s milk. And maybe, they had bought milk so that I could have a good meal. This incident inspired me a lot. A poor person living in a hut could think so much about my well-being. So I should devote my life to their service. So these are the things that serve as inspiration. And Barack has also spoken about what can touch the heart.

I am thankful to Barack, he has given so much time. And I am thankful to my countrymen for listening to Mann Ki Baat. I know radio reaches every home and every lane of India. And this Mann Ki Baat, this special Mann Ki Baat will echo forever.

I have an idea. I share it with you. There should be an e-book made of the talk between Barack and me today. I hope the organizers of Mann Ki Baat will release this e-book. And to you all, who have listened to Mann Ki Baat, I also say, do participate in this. And the best hundred thoughts that emerge out of this, will also be added to this e-book. And I want you to write to us on Twitter, on Facebook, or online, using the hashtag #YesWeCan.

• Eliminate Poverty – #YesWeCan
• Quality Healthcare to All – #YesWeCan
• Youth empowered with Education – #YesWeCan
• Jobs for All – #YesWeCan
• End to Terrorism – #YesWeCan
• Global Peace and Progress – #YesWeCan

I want you to send your thoughts, experiences and feelings after listening to Mann Ki Baat. From them, we will select the best hundred, and we will add them to the book containing the talk that Barack and I have had. And I believe, this will truly become, the Mann Ki Baat of us all.

Once again, a big thank you to Barack. And to all of you. Barack’s visit to India on this pious occasion of 26th January, is a matter of pride for me and for the country.

Thank you very much.

Full text: Special episode of Mann ki Baat participated by PM Modi, President Obama

(Hon’ble Shri Narendra Modi):

Today, Shri Barack Obama, President of the United States, joins us in a special programme of Mann Ki Baat. For the last few months, I have been sharing my “Mann Ki Baat” with you. But today, people from various parts of the country have asked questions.

But most of the questions are connected to politics, foreign policy, economic policy. However, some questions touch the heart. And I believe if we touch those questions today, we shall be able to reach out to the common man in different parts of the country. And therefore, the questions asked in press conferences, or discussed in meetings – instead of those – if we discuss what comes from the heart, and repeat it, hum it, we get a new energy. And therefore, in my opinion, those questions are more important. Some people wonder, what does “Barack” mean? I was searching for the meaning of Barack. In Swahili language, which is spoken in parts of Africa, Barack means, one who is blessed. I believe, along with a name, his family gave him a big gift.

Good friends. PTI

African countries have lived by the ancient idea of ‘Ubuntu’, which alludes to the ‘oneness in humanity’. They say – “I am, because we are”. Despite the gap in centuries and borders, there is the same spirit of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, which speak of in India. This is the great shared heritage of humanity. This unites us. When we discuss Mahatma Gandhi, we remember Henry Thoreau, from whom Mahatma Gandhi learnt disobedience. When we talk about Martin Luther King or Obama, we hear from their lips, respect for Mahatma Gandhi. These are the things that unite the world.

Today, Barack Obama is with us. I will first request him to share his thoughts. Then, I and Barack will both answer the questions that have been addressed to us.

I request President Barack Obama to say a few words.

(Hon’ble Shri Barack Obama):

Namaste! Thank you Prime Minister Modi for your kind words and for the incredible hospitality you have shown me and my wife Michelle on this visit and let me say to the people of India how honoured I am to be the first American President to join you for Republic Day; and I’m told that this is also the first ever Radio address by an Indian Prime Minister and an American President together, so we’re making a lot of history in a short time. Now to the people of India listening all across this great nation. It’s wonderful to be able to speak you directly. We just come from discussions in which we affirmed that India and the United States are natural partners, because we have so much in common. We are two great democracies, two innovative economies, two diverse societies dedicated to empowering individuals. We are linked together by millions of proud Indian Americans who still have family and carry on traditions from India. And I want to say to the Prime Minister how much I appreciate your strong personal commitment to strengthening the relationship between these two countries.

People are very excited in the United States about the energy that Prime Minister Modi is bringing to efforts in this country to reduce extreme poverty and lift people up, to empower women, to provide access to electricity, and clean energy and invest in infrastructure, and the education system. And on all these issues, we want to be partners. Because many of the efforts that I am promoting inside the United States to make sure that the young people get the best education possible, to make sure that the ordinary people are properly compensated for their labour, and paid fair wages, and have job security and health care. These are the same kinds of issues that Prime Minister Modi, I know cares so deeply about here. And I think there’s a common theme in these issues. It gives us a chance to reaffirm what Gandhi ji reminded us, should be a central aim of our lives. And that is, we should endeavour to seek God through service of humanity because God is in everyone. So these shared values, these convictions, are a large part of why I am so committed to this relationship. I believe that if the United States and India join together on the world stage around these values, then not only will our peoples be better off, but I think the world will be more prosperous and more peaceful and more secure for the future. So thank you so much Mr. Prime Minister, for giving me this opportunity to be with you here today.

(Hon’ble Shri Narendra Modi):

Barack the first question comes from Raj from Mumbai

His question is, the whole world knows about your love for your daughters. How will you tell your daughters about youre experience of India? Do you plan to do some shopping for them?

(Hon’ble Shri Barack Obama):

Well first of all they very much wanted to come. They are fascinated by India, Unfortunately each time that I have taken a trip here, they had school and they couldn’t leave school. And in fact, Malia, my older daughter, had exams just recently. They are fascinated by the culture, and the history of India, in part because of my influence I think, they are deeply moved by India’s movement to Independence, and the role that Gandhi played, in not only the non-violent strategies here in India, but how those ended up influencing the non-violent Civil Rights Movement in the United States. So when I go back I am going to tell them that India is as magnificent as they imagined. And I am quite sure that they are going to insist that I bring them back the next time I visit. It may not be during my Presidency, but afterwards they will definitely want to come and visit.

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And I will definitely do some shopping for them. Although I can’t go to the stores myself, so I have to have my team do the shopping for me. And I’ll get some advice from Michelle, because she probably has a better sense of what they would like.

(Hon’ble Shri Narendra Modi):

Barack said he will come with his daughters. I extend an invitation to you. Whether you come as President, or thereafter, India looks forward to welcoming you and your daughters.

Sanika Diwan from Pune, Maharashtra has asked me a question. She asks me, whether I have sought assistance from President Obama for the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao Mission

Sanika you have asked a good question. There is a lot of worry because of the sex ratio in India. For every 1000 boys, the number of girls is less. And the main reason for this is that, there is a defect in our attitudes towards boys and girls.

Whether or not I seek help from President Obama, his life is in itself an inspiration. The way he has brought up his two daughters, the way he is proud of his two daughters.

In our country too, I meet many families who have only daughters. And they bring up their daughters with such pride, give them such respect, that is the biggest inspiration. I believe that inspiration is our strength. And in response to your question, I would like to say, to save the girl child, to educate the girl child, this is our social duty, cultural duty, and humanitarian responsibility. We should honour it.

Barack, there is a question for you. The second question for President Obama comes through e-mail: Dr. Kamlesh Upadhyay, a Doctor based in Ahmedabad, Gujarat – Your wife is doing extensive work on tackling modern health challenges like obesity and diabetes. These are increasingly being faced in India as well. Would you and the First Lady like to return to India to work on these issues after your Presidency, just like Bill and Melinda Gates?

(Hon’ble Barack Obama):

Well, we very much look forward to partnering with organizations, and the government and non-governmental organizations here in India, around broader Public Health issues including the issue of obesity. I am very proud of the work that Michelle has done on this issue. We’re seeing a world-wide epidemic of obesity, in many cases starting at a very young age. And a part of it has to do with increase in processed foods, not naturally prepared. Part of it is a lack of activity for too many children. And once they are on this path, it can lead to a life time of health challenges. This is an issue that we would like to work on internationally, including here in India. And it is a part of a broader set of issues around global health that we need to address. The Prime Minister and I have discussed, for example, how we can do a better job in dealing with issues like pandemic. And making sure that we have good alert systems so that if a disease like Ebola, or a deadly flu virus, or Polio appears, it is detected quickly and then treated quickly so that it doesn’t spread. The public health infrastructure around the world needs to be improved. I think the Prime Minister is doing a great job in focusing on these issues here in India. And India has a lot to teach many other countries who may not be advancing as rapidly in improving this public health sector. But it has an impact on everything, because if children are sick they can’t concentrate in school and they fall behind. It has a huge economic impact on the countries involved and so we think that there is a lot of progress to be made here and I am very excited about the possibilities of considering this work even after I leave office.

(Hon’ble Shri Narendra Modi):

Mr. Arjun asks me a question. An interesting question. He says he has seen an old photo of me as a tourist outside the White House. He asks me what touched me when I went there last September.

It is true that when I first went to America, I was not lucky enough to visit the White House. There is an iron fence far from the White House. We stood outside the fence and took a photograph. White House is visible in the background. Now that I have become Prime Minister, that photo too has become popular. But at that time, I had never thought that sometime in my life, I would get a chance to visit the White House. But when I visited the White House, one thing touched my heart. I can never forget that. Barack gave me a book, a book that he had located after considerable effort. That book had become famous in 1894. Swami Vivekananda, the inspiration of my life, had gone to Chicago to participate in the World Religions Conference. And this book was a compilation of the speeches delivered at the World Religions Conference. That touched my heart. And not just this. He turned the pages of the book, and showed me what was written there. He had gone through the entire book! And he told me with pride, I come from the Chicago where Swami Vivekananda had come. These words touched my heart a lot. And I will treasure this throughout my life. So once, standing far from the White House and taking a photo, and then, to visit the White House, and to receive a book on someone whom I respect. You can imagine, how it would have touched my heart.

Barack there is a question for you. Himani from Ludhiana, Punjab. Question is for you ……:

(Hon’ble Shri Barack Obama):

Well the question is “Did you both imagine you would reach the positions that you’ve reached today?”

And it is interesting, Mr. Prime Minister, your talking about the first time you visited White House and being outside that iron fence. The same is true for me. When I first went to the White House, I stood outside that same fence, and looked in, and I certainly did not imagine that I would ever be visiting there, much less living there. You know, I think both of us have been blessed with an extraordinary opportunity, coming from relatively humble beginnings. And when I think about what’s best in America and what’s best in India, the notion that a tea seller or somebody who’s born to a single mother like me, could end up leading our countries, is an extraordinary example of the opportunities that exist within our countries. Now I think, a part of what motivates both you and I, is the belief that there are millions of children out there who have the same potential but may not have the same education, may not be getting exposed to opportunities in the same way, and so a part of our job, a part of government’s job is that young people who have talent, and who have drive and are willing to work for, are able to succeed. And that’s why we are emphasizing school, higher education. Making sure that children are healthy and making sure those opportunities are available to children of all backgrounds, girls and boys, people of all religious faiths and of all races in the United States is so important. Because you never know who might be the next Prime Minister of India, or who might be the next President of United States. They might not always look the part right off the bat. And they might just surprise you if you give them the chance.

(Hon’ble Shri Narendra Modi):

Thank you Barack.

Himani from Ludhiana has also asked me this question – did I ever imagine I would reach this high office?

No. I never imagined it. Because, as Barack said, I come from a very ordinary family. But for a long time, I have been telling everyone, never dream of becoming something. If you wish to dream, dream of doing something. When we do something, we get satisfaction, and also get inspiration to do something new. If we only dream of becoming something, and cannot fulfil the dream, then we only get disappointed. And therefore, I never dreamt of becoming something. Even today, I have no dream of becoming something. But I do dream of doing something. Serving Mother India, serving 125 crore Indians, there can be no greater dream than this. That is what I have to do. I am thankful to Himani.

There is a question for Barack from Omprakash. Omprakash is studying Sanskrit at JNU. He belongs to Jhunjunu, Rajasthan. Om Prakash is convener of special centre for Sanskrit Studies in JNU.

(Hon’ble Shri Barack Obama):

Well this is a very interesting question. His question is, the youth of the new generation is a global citizen. He is not limited by time or boundaries. In such a situation what should be the approach by our leadership, governments as well as societies at large.

I think this is a very important question. When I look at this generation that is coming up, they are exposed to the world in ways that you and I could hardly imagine. They have the world at their fingertips, literally. They can, using their mobile phone, get information and images from all around the world and that’s extraordinarily powerful. And what that means, I think is that, governments and leaders cannot simply try to govern, or rule, by a top-down strategy. But rather have to reach out to people in an inclusive way, and an open way, and a transparent way. And engage in a dialogue with citizens, about the direction of their country. And one of the great things about India and the United States is that we are both open societies. And we have confidence and faith that when citizens have information, and there is a vigorous debate, that over time even though sometimes democracy is frustrating, the best decisions and the most stable societies emerge and the most prosperous societies emerge. And new ideas are constantly being exchanged. And technology today I think facilitates that, not just within countries, but across countries. And so, I have much greater faith in India and the United States, countries that are open information societies, in being able to succeed and thrive in this New Information Age; than closed societies that try to control the information that citizens receive. Because ultimately that’s no longer possible. Information will flow inevitably, one way or the other, and we want to make sure we are fostering a healthy debate and a good conversation between all peoples.

(Hon’ble Shri Narendra Modi):

Omprakash wants me too, to answer the question that has been asked to Barack.

Barack has given a very good answer. It is inspiring. I will only say, that once upon a time, there were people inspired primarily by the Communist ideology. They gave a call: Workers of the world, Unite. This slogan lasted for several decades. I believe, looking at the strength and reach of today’s youth, I would say, Youth, Unite the world. I believe they have the strength and they can do it.

The next question is from CA Pikashoo Mutha from Mumbai, and he asks me, which American leader has inspired you

When I was young, I used to see Kennedy’s pictures in Indian newspapers. His personality was very impressive. But your question is, who has inspired me. I liked reading as a child. And I got an opportunity to read the biography of Benjamin Franklin. He lived in the eighteenth century. And he was not an American President. But his biography is so inspiring – how a person can intelligently try to change his life.

If we feel excessively sleepy, how can we reduce that?

If we feel like eating too much, how can we work towards eating less?

If people get upset with you that cannot meet them, because of the pressure of work, then how to solve this problem?

He has addressed such issues in his biography. And I tell everyone, we should read Benjamin Franklin’s biography. Even today, it inspires me. And Benjamin Franklin had a multi-dimensional personality. He was a politician, he was a political scientist, he was a social worker, he was a diplomat. And he came from an ordinary family. He could not even complete his education. But till today, his thoughts have an impact on American life. I find his life truly inspiring. And I tell you too, if you read his biography, you will find ways to transform your life too. And he has talked about simple things. So I feel you will be inspired as much as I have been.

There is a question for Barack, from Monika Bhatia.

(Hon’ble Shri Barack Obama):

Well the question is “As leaders of two major economies, what inspires you and makes you smile at the end of a bad day at work?”

And that is a very good question. I say sometimes, that the only problems that come to my desk are the ones that nobody else solves. If they were easy questions, then somebody else would have solved them before they reached me. So there are days when it’s tough and frustrating. And that’s true in Foreign Affairs. That is true in Domestic Affairs. But I tell you what inspires me, and I don’t know Mr. Prime Minister if you share this view – almost every day I meet somebody who tells me, “You made a difference in my life.”

So they’ll say, “The Health-Care law that you passed, saved my child who didn’t have health insurance.” And they were able to get an examination from a Physician, and they caught an early tumour, and now he is doing fine.

Or they will say “You helped me save my home during the economic crisis.”

Or they’ll say, “I couldn’t afford college, and the program you set up has allowed me to go to the university.”

And sometimes they are thanking you for things that you did four or five years ago. Sometimes they are thanking you for things you don’t even remember, or you’re not thinking about that day. But it is a reminder of what you said earlier, which is, if you focus on getting things done as opposed to just occupying an office or maintaining power, then the satisfaction that you get is unmatched. And the good thing about service is that anybody can do it. If you are helping somebody else, the satisfaction that you can get from that, I think, exceeds anything else that you can do. And that’s usually what makes me inspired to do more, and helps get through the challenges and difficulties that we all have. Because obviously we are not the only people with bad days at work. I think everybody knows what it is like to have a bad day at work. You just have to keep on working through it. Eventually you make a difference.

(Hon’ble Shri Narendra Modi):

Indeed Barack has spoken words from the heart (Mann Ki Baat). Whatever position we may hold, we are human too. Simple things can inspire us. I also wish to narrate an experience. For many years, I was like an ascetic. I got food at other people’s homes. Whoever invited me, used to feed me as well. Once a family invited me over for a meal, repeatedly. I would not go, because I felt they are too poor, and if I go to eat at their place, I will become a burden on them. But eventually, I had to bow to their request and love. And I went to eat a meal at their home. It was a small hut, where we sat down to eat. They offered me roti made of bajra (millet), and mik. Their young child was looking at the milk. I felt, the child has never even seen milk. So I gave that small bowl of milk to the child. And he drank it within seconds. His family members were angry with him. And I felt that perhaps that child has never had any milk, apart from his mother’s milk. And maybe, they had bought milk so that I could have a good meal. This incident inspired me a lot. A poor person living in a hut could think so much about my well-being. So I should devote my life to their service. So these are the things that serve as inspiration. And Barack has also spoken about what can touch the heart.

I am thankful to Barack, he has given so much time. And I am thankful to my countrymen for listening to Mann Ki Baat. I know radio reaches every home and every lane of India. And this Mann Ki Baat, this special Mann Ki Baat will echo forever.

I have an idea. I share it with you. There should be an e-book made of the talk between Barack and me today. I hope the organizers of Mann Ki Baat will release this e-book. And to you all, who have listened to Mann Ki Baat, I also say, do participate in this. And the best hundred thoughts that emerge out of this, will also be added to this e-book. And I want you to write to us on Twitter, on Facebook, or online, using the hashtag #YesWeCan.

• Eliminate Poverty – #YesWeCan
• Quality Healthcare to All – #YesWeCan
• Youth empowered with Education – #YesWeCan
• Jobs for All – #YesWeCan
• End to Terrorism – #YesWeCan
• Global Peace and Progress – #YesWeCan

I want you to send your thoughts, experiences and feelings after listening to Mann Ki Baat. From them, we will select the best hundred, and we will add them to the book containing the talk that Barack and I have had. And I believe, this will truly become, the Mann Ki Baat of us all.

Once again, a big thank you to Barack. And to all of you. Barack’s visit to India on this pious occasion of 26th January, is a matter of pride for me and for the country.

Thank you very much.

Obama bids farewell to India after historic bromance with Modi

New Delhi: US President Barack Obama left for Saudi Arabia, wrapping up his three-day visit in India during which both the countries broke a seven-year logjam to operationalise a landmark civil nuclear deal, besides enhancing defence and trade ties.

Obama, accompanied by his wife Michelle, folded his hands in a traditional “namaste” and waved before boarding Air Force One at the Palam airport where Union Minister Piyush Goyal and, Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh, were among those present.

AFP

Obama and the US First Lady had planned a visit to the Taj Mahal but cancelled their trip to the world heritage site and instead decided to visit Saudi Arabia to pay condolences to the Royal family following death of King Abdullah.

In his talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday, both leaders managed to remove the hurdles to operationalise the civil nuclear deal besides deciding to jointly produce military hardware and stepping up economic engagement.

In what Obama called a “breakthrough”, the two sides resolved key hurdles pertaining to the liability of suppliers of nuclear reactors in the event of an accident and the tracking of fuel supplied by the US.

Obama yesterday became the first US President to grace the Republic Day celebrations. He is also the first American President to visit India twice.

The American President today addressed a Town hall event at Siri Fort Auditorium here during which he spoke on a range of issues and made a strong pitch for religious tolerance.

PTI