The “open DNA” and tolerance that India and the US were known for has disappeared, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said in a conversation with former US diplomat Nicholas Burns on the coronavirus crisis reshaping the world order.
The Congress leader also noted that the India-US relationship, which “used to be very broad”, is now “episodic” and focused mainly on defence.
“I think why our (India and US) partnership works is because we are tolerant systems. You mentioned you are an immigrant nation. We are a very tolerant nation. Our DNA is supposed to be tolerant,” Rahul Gandhi said in the video chat shared by the Congress on Friday morning.
“We are supposed to accept new ideas. We are supposed to be open. But the surprising thing is, that open DNA has sort of disappeared. 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 US and I don’t see it in India,” he said to the former American diplomat against the backdrop of fierce protests in the US over the death of African-American George Floyd at the hands of the police.
“Those who divide African-Americans in US, Hindus-Muslims-Sikhs in India weaken their countries, but call themselves nationalists,” added the former Congress president.
He also remarked that the India-US relationship “used to be a partnership earlier”, but now seems to have become “very transactional” and “episodic”.
“A relationship that used to be very broad – education, defence, healthcare and multiple fronts – has sort of focused mainly on defence,” Mr Gandhi said, asking Mr Burns where he saw the relationship between India and the US going.
Mr Burns said India and US can work together not to fight an “authoritarian” China but to make it observe the rule of law.
The US and Indian governments should combine forces, he said, to promote human freedom, democracy and rule of people in the world. “I think that is a powerful idea that Indians and Americans can bring together to the rest of the world. Again, you know, we are not looking for a conflict with China, but we are waging, in a way, a battle of ideas with China,” Mr Burns said.
The former envoy is currently the Professor of Practice of Diplomacy and International Politics at Harvard’s John F Kennedy School of Government.
Mr Burns was US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs and chief negotiator of the India-US nuclear deal signed when the Congress government of Manmohan Singh was in power.
In his series of conversations with experts since the virus crisis began, Mr Gandhi has also spoken to Raghuram Rajan, Abhijit Banerjee, epidemiologist Johann Giesceke and industrialist Rajiv Bajaj.
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