Former US President Barack Obama, in an exclusive interview with CNN's Chief International Anchor Christiane Amanpour, said that if the current US President Joe Biden meets Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the protection of the Muslim minority in India is a concern worth mentioning. The interview took place in Greece on Thursday, June 22, and coincided with PM Modi’s official state visit to the White House.
Discussing the complexities of meeting with several world leaders as part of the American presidency, Obama acknowledged in the interview that during his time in office, he had to engage with leaders he sometimes didn't agree with. When asked about PM Modi being accused by human rights groups of a drift toward authoritarianism, Obrama said that as president, there are various interests and priorities to consider. While some allies may not govern or run their political parties in an ideal, democratic manner, he acknowledged the need to engage with them. "If the President [Joe Biden] meets with PM Modi, then the protection of the Muslim minority in a majority Hindu India is something worth mentioning...if you do not protect the rights of ethnic minorities, there’s a strong possibility India starts pulling apart," he said.
For the US, Modi, as the leader of the world's most populous democracy, is seen as an important counterbalance to China's influence, and Obama emphasised the multifaceted nature of the presidency stating that its “complicated." While acknowledging his collaboration with Modi on climate change and other areas, Obama cited the need to address concerns about Indian democracy in diplomatic conversations. He highlighted the potential consequences of not protecting the rights of ethnic minorities in India, emphasising the risk of internal conflicts.
Obama also cited his collaboration with Chinese President Xi Jinping on climate change as an example of finding common ground with leaders who have poor human rights records. This week, President Biden referred to Xi as a “dictator” in remarks made to donors in California. Obama explained that working with such leaders is sometimes necessary due to national security concerns and economic interests. However, he stressed the importance of upholding democratic principles and challenging troubling trends, whether privately or publicly.