Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday pushed back on criticism of his governments handling of religious minorities and dissent, saying “democracy is in our DNA, democracy is our spirit, democracy runs in our veins” and there is “no space” in India for any kind of discrimination.
Modi was responding to a question from a reporter at the White House along side President Joe Biden. They both took questions from one American and one Indian reporter.
For both India and the US, the Prime Minister said, “Democracy is in our DNA, democracy is our spirit, democracy runs in our veins.”
Modi was picking up from President Biden’s remarks earlier at the briefing about democracy being in the DNA of both the US and India.
He added: “We live in a democracy. And our ancestors have actually put words to this concept, and that is in the form of our Constitution. The entire country runs on that. We have always proved that democracy can deliver, and when I say deliver, this is regardless of caste, greed, religion, gender. There is absolutely no space for discrimination.”
Modi added, “When we live in democracy, there is absolutely no space for discrimination. And that is why India believes in moving ahead with everybody, with trust, and with everybody’s efforts. These are our foundations, principles, which are the basis of how we operate, how we live our lives in India.”
President Biden also found himself on the defensive when asked about criticism of his administration for ‘overlooking’ targeting of religious minorities and crackdown on dissent in India.
Biden said he and the Prime Minister “had a good discussion about democratic values”, “that’s the nature of our relationship. We’re straightforward with each other and we respect each other”.
Biden went on to say said the US-China relationship is “not in the same space” as the US-India relationship because “there is an overwhelming respect for each other as we are both democracies. It is in America’s DNA and I believe in India’s DNA”.
The two leaders had very productive talks, first in a smaller bilateral meeting and then in an extended one.
They were joined by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra, Indian Ambassador to US Taranjit Singh Sandhu, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin and US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, among others.
The two sides will detail the outcomes of the meetings in a joint statement, which is expected shortly.