Wednesday, January 28, 2015 | UPDATED 02:32 IST

Obama’s parting shot: Religious tolerance key to India’s success

US Prez lays vision for future ties | Says America could be ‘best partner’28 Jan 2015 | 2:29 AM

NEW DELHI: Unveiling his sweeping vision for the future of the India-US relations, President Barack Obama today suggested his country could be the “best partner' while underscoring the importance of religious freedom and tolerance for India's success.

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K V Prasad

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 27

Unveiling his sweeping vision for the future of the India-US relations, President Barack Obama today suggested his country could be the “best partner' while underscoring the importance of religious freedom and tolerance for India's success.

Hours before leaving for Saudi Arabia at the end of his three-day sojourn, President Obama addressed a US-style Town Hall meeting attended by a 1500 select gathering at the Siri Fort Auditorium.

The 30-minute address touched upon human rights, dignity of individuals, education, women empowerment, religious tolerance and equal opportunities besides narrating his own and wife Michelle's humble background and experiences.

Greeting those present with a 'Namaste', Obama recalled his experience in the US. The US President said while he has had extraordinary opportunities, "there were moments in my life where I've been treated differently because of the colour of my skin. There have been times where my faith has at times been questioned by the people who don't know me, or they've said that I adhere to a different religion, as if that were somehow a bad thing."

Citing the Indian Constitution on the right to freedom of religion, he said: "Your Article 25 says all people are equally entitled to the freedom of conscience and have right to freely profess and practise and propagate religion. In both our countries, in all countries upholding freedom of religion is the utmost responsibility of the government but also the responsibility of every person... Every person has the right to practice his faith without any persecution, fear or discrimination. India will succeed so long it is not splintered on religious lines," Obama told the gathering. The importance of the message strikes when seen in the backdrop of the controversy over `Ghar wapsi' programme run by the RSS-Sangh Parivar as also complaints of attacks on a church in the city. Obama said, “Around the world we  have seen intolerance, violence and terror perpetrated by those who profess to be standing for upholding their faith stating that all have to guard against any efforts to divide people on sectarian lines or any other things”.

Referring to the attack on a gurdwara in Wisconsin three years ago that killed six Indian and Americans as a “terrible act of violence”, he said: "In that moment of shared grief, the two countries reaffirmed the basic truth that we must again today. Every person has a right to practice the faith that they choose and to practice no faith at all and to do so free of persecution, fear or discrimination," he said.

He said India for him long represented the intersection of two of his heroes – Martin Luther King Junior and Mahatma Gandhi, referred to Swami Vivekananda, peppered it with a few Hindi words, a dialogue from a Hindi film and picked Shahrukh Khan, Milkha Singh, Mary Kom and Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi as Indian heroes representing courage and humanitarian values of both countries.

"In both our countries, in India and America, our diversity is our strength... your Constitution begins with the pledge to uphold the dignity of the individual. Our Declaration of Independence proclaims that all men are created equal”, he said.

Characterising the qualities of countries being world leaders, he said, was not about the size of the economies or the number of weapons but the ability to show the way and how they work together.

On the Indo-US relations, Obama said, "India and the United States are not just natural partners -- I believe that America can be India's best partner....Of course, only Indians can decide India's role in the world."

“But I'm here because I am absolutely convinced that both our peoples will have more jobs and opportunity, our nations will be more secure, and the world will be a safer and more just place when our two democracies stand together", he added.

India, US natural partners

India and the United States are not just natural partners -- I believe that America can be India's best partner....Of course, only Indians can decide India’s role in the world." Barack Obama, US president

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PM's suit has his name on it

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With 'Senorita', Obama woos all

Obama charmed all by quoting Shah Rukh Khan's famous line “Senorita, bade bade deshon mein...” from “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge” at the Siri Fort auditorium on Tuesday.  Making light of the “rainy day yesterday”,  Modi tweeted: “As for the rainy day yesterday, as you yourself said @WhiteHouse today morning, Bade Bade Deshon Mein... :).” TNS
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Obama’s parting shot: Religious tolerance key to India’s successUS President Barack Obama at Siri Fort Auditorium in New Delhi. PTI
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