India may start “pulling apart” if the government does not protect the rights of its ethnic minorities, former United States President Barack Obama said on Friday.
Obama was speaking to CNN at a time when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in the United States for a three-day state visit.
If a US president meets with Modi, the “protection of the Muslim minority in a majority-Hindu India” is worth mentioning, said Obama.
“If I had a conversation with Mr Modi – who I know well – part of my argument would be that if you do not protect the rights of ethnic minorities in India, then there is a strong possibility India at some point starts pulling apart. And we’ve seen what happens when you start getting those kinds of large internal conflicts,” he said.
Over the past week, political leaders, Muslim groups and human rights organisations in the US have been urging Biden to raise concerns about raising Islamophobia and democratic backsliding in India with Modi.
Several lawmakers, including Bernie Sanders, Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have also decided to boycott Modi’s address to the US Congress later on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the White House has said that Biden will not lecture Modi on concerns about India’s democratic backsliding. “Ultimately, the question of where politics and the question of democratic institutions go in India is going to be determined within India by Indians,” a senior White House official said on Wednesday.