Modi, set to leave for the US next week on his maiden official visit to that country, told CNN in an interview he was confident India-US relations would overcome sundry difficulties and friction to achieve a genuinely strategic alliance, as there were many similarities between the two societies. He said both Indians and Americans “have coexistence in their natural temperament”.
Modi told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria that the “mood” in both New Delhi and Washington was in “harmony” with the understanding to improve bilateral relations substantially.
Modi will attend a UN General Assembly session in New York. He will also have a meeting with US President Barack Obama at the White House, Washington.
The Indian prime minister, often criticised for his apparent refusal to tender an official apology for the anti-Muslim riots in 2002, when he was chief minister of Gujarat, has had a difficult past with the US. In 2005, the American government refused to grant him a visa because of his failure to check the riots.
In the interview, when Modi was asked about Al Qaida issuing a video earlier this month with an appeal to Muslims of the Indian subcontinent to join the Indian arm of the terror outfit, he said: “My understanding is they are doing injustice to the Muslims of our country. If anyone thinks Indian Muslims will dance to their tune, they are delusional.
“Indian Muslims will live for India, they will die for India — they will not want anything bad for India,” he said.
In the video, Al Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahiri had appealed to Muslims of South Asia to join the terror outfit to end their “oppression” in places such as Kashmir, as well as Modi’s home state of Gujarat.
The Indian prime minister, whose detractors have also questioned his refusal to wear a skull cap, was also asked about the phenomenon that of the 170 million Muslims in India, there seemed to be no or very few members of Al Qaida, though it was present in Afghanistan and Pakistan. “What is it that has made this community not as susceptible?” Zakaria asked.
Modi answered he was not the authority on doing a psychological and religious analysis on this. “But the question is whether or not humanity should be defended in the world; whether or not believers in humanity should unite. This is a crisis against humanity, not a crisis against one country or one race. So, we have to frame this as a fight between humanity and inhumanity, nothing else,” he said.
His comments on Muslims being patriots come in the wake of Bharatiya Janata Party leaders such as Yogi Adityanath, backed by the party’s ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, raising the issue of ‘love jihad’ consistently in the run-up to the recent by-polls in Uttar Pradesh. His statements are also in contrast to several Bharatiya Janata party leaders questioning the patriotism of Muslims, during the Lok Sabha elections.
On the possibility of India and the US developing a genuinely strategic alliance, Modi said: “I have a one-word answer, and with great confidence I say — yes. Let me explain: There are many similarities between the US and India. If you look at the last few centuries, two things come to light — America has absorbed people from around the world, and there is an Indian in every part of the world. This characterises both the societies. Indians and Americans have co-existence in their temperament.”
Modi said while “there have been ups and downs in our relationship in the last century…from the end of the 20th century to the first decade of the 21st century, we have witnessed a big change. Our ties have deepened. India and the US are bound together by history and culture. These ties will deepen further”.
Asked if he felt there was a genuine desire in Washington to try and improve the relationship with India, the prime minister said relations between India and the US should not be seen within the limits of just New Delhi and Washington.
“It is a much larger sphere. The good thing is the mood in both New Delhi and Washington is in harmony with this understanding. Both sides have played a role in this.”