New Delhi: India needs to cherish and nurture its Muslim population that is integrated and considers itself Indian, former US president Barack Obama said here on Friday.
It is an idea that needs to be reinforced, the former president said at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit.
Obama said he had emphasized the need for religious tolerance and the right to practice one's own faith during closed door talks with prime minister Narendra Modi during his last trip to India in 2015.
The 44th US president, who held office between 2009 and 2017, had made similar comments during a public interaction on the last day of his visit, which had come against the backdrop of controversy over religious conversions.
"There's a counter narrative taking place, at all times, but it's particularly pronounced now... in Europe, US and sometimes in India where those old tribal impulses reassert themselves under leaders who try to push back and under leaders who try to exploit them," Obama said.
Responding to an India-specific question, Obama referred to India's "enormous Muslim population", which is successful, integrated and thinks of itself as Indian.
That is unfortunately not always the case in some other countries, Obama added.
Referring to India, he said, "And that is something that needs to be cherished and nurtured, cultivated. It's important to continue reinforcing it."
No evidence that Pak govt was aware of Laden's presence
Answering a question on terrorism emanating from Pakistan, Obama said, "We had no evidence that Pakistan was aware of Osama bin Laden's presence there but that is something obviously we looked at."
When terror struck Mumbai in November 2008, "the US was as obsessed as India" to dismantle the terror network and the US intelligence personnel were deployed to help the Indian government, he said at the HT Leadership Summit here.
On asked about terror emanating from Pakistan, Obama said, "What is true, and an understandable source of frustration is the view, that sometimes there are connections between explicit terrorist organizations based in Pakistan and elements that are connected to various more official entities inside Pakistan."
Answering a question whether the Pakistani government was aware of Osama hiding in Abbottabad, Obama said, "We had no evidence that Pakistani government was aware of Osama bin Laden's presence there but that is something obviously we looked at. I will leave it you to characterize beyond what I just said."
Laden was killed by US Navy Seal forces in May 2011 in a surprise raid at Abbottabad, where he was found to be living discreetly with his family and close aides.
On whether he was disappointed over the little progress that has taken place between India and US nuclear power giants GE and Westinghouse Co to build atomic reactors in India, Obama said his role was to to give an opportunity for the American companies.
"My job was not to guarantee that the deal goes through. The goal from my perspective was to India, which had a significant nuclear infrastructure, remarkable scientists, and need for energy... we recognized the reality and put the nuclear issue on a stable footing so that it was not an impediment to the strong bilateral relations," he said.