DNA of openness and tolerance that India, US were known for has disappeared: Rahul Gandhi
New Delhi: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Friday said the DNA of openness and tolerance that India and the US were known for has “disappeared”, and those creating divisions and weakening their country are now claiming to be nationalists.
He also attacked the current dispensation saying an “atmosphere of fear” is prevailing in India with a “unilateral, episodic” leadership at the helm, which is proving to be “destructive”.
The former Congress chief was in conversation with former US diplomat and now Harvard professor Nicholas Burns, as part of a series of dialogues initiated by him to address the challenges the world is facing in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gandhi said the Indo-US partnership works because the two countries have tolerant systems, but that level of tolerance, which was seen before, is not being seen now in both the countries.
“Our DNA is supposed to be tolerant. We’re supposed to accept new ideas. We’re supposed to be open, but the surprising thing is that DNA, that open DNA, is sort of disappeared. I mean, I say this with sadness that I don’t see that level of tolerance that I used to see. I don’t see it in the United States and I don’t see it in India,” Gandhi observed.
His comments come in the wake of countrywide protests in the US over the death of African-American George Floyd in police custody.
Gandhi has also been critical of the Narendra Modi government and has often accused the prime minister of being “dictatorial” and one who does not hear the views of the opposition.
Gandhi noted that the most important battle from India’s perspective as well as that of the US, “is to actually bring back our countries to where they used to be. Which is sort of where we embrace our cultures, where we embrace our past, where we embrace our people. And, where we sort of give a healing touch as opposed to this sort of aggressive politics that we are stuck in.”
Talking about the “atmosphere of fear” prevailing in India, Gandhi said, “You take unilateral decisions, you do the biggest lockdown in the world, most rigorous lockdown in the world and then you have millions of manual labourers walking thousands of kilometers back home.”
“So it is this unilateral, episodic type of leadership, where you just come in and do something and go away. It’s very destructive. But it’s the flavour of the time, that’s the unfortunate thing. It’s everywhere. And we are fighting it,” he said.
The Indo-US relationship, which used to be a partnership earlier, now seems to have become “very transactional” and “episodic”, the former Congress chief said, adding that it is focussed on defence ties now.
“A relationship that used to be very broad — education, defence, healthcare, multiple fronts — has sort of focused down mainly on defence,” Gandhi said.
During the conversation, Gandhi also hit out at the divisions prevailing in both the countries, saying they weaken the nations.
“When you divide African Americans, Mexicans and other people in the United States, so you divide Hindus and Muslims and Sikhs in India, you’re weakening the structure of the country. But then the same people who weaken the structure of the country say they are the nationalists,” he said.
On Burns asking about his views on the ongoing “battle of ideas” with China, Gandhi said, “I see cooperative competition without ever going into violence. And yes, they have a different world view. Yes, they have an authoritarian world view. Yes, we have a democratic world view and I’m pretty confident that the democratic world view will do well.”
“But in order to achieve that, that has to start from inside our countries. We can’t have an authoritarian perspective internally and then make that argument. That argument has to be made from the foundation of democracy, within the country itself, within our countries. And that’s where I see the problem,” he noted.
On being asked about the challenge being faced by political parties the world over, Gandhi said he is hopeful of coming out of it as he understands the DNA of the country, which cannot be changed.
“Yes, we are going through a bad patch. Covid is a horrible time, but I do see new ideas emerging after Covid, new ways. I can already see people cooperating much more than they were before. Now they realise that actually there are advantages to being unified. There are advantages to helping each other,” he said.