Obama feels he has 'a personal' connection with India: Aide

Last Updated 03 May 2018, 04:24 IST

"There is a particular connection for the President as an African-American. As someone who comes from not a privileged background, the Indian story speaks to that in a sense that you have a country that inspired the world with its own story," Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communication, Ben Rhodes, said.

"Obviously India has its own civilisation and history, but in the 20th century its ability to move past colonialism in such an inspiring way ... reflects a model thriving, multi cultural diverse democracy that is very close to the core of the President's own story," Rhodes told Washington-based Indian  reporters at a special White House briefing on Obama's India trip scheduled for next week.

While planning for his maiden trip to India, Obama directed his White House staff to schedule events that would reflect the breadth of American ties with India. And therefore there are events that have economic, political and security components; besides the cultural component.

"It is also very important for the President that we have events where he is capable of speaking to younger people. One of the things that he admires about countries like India is just how vast the young population is, the number of people below 30 and the potential is there within that.

"So having a town hall event with young people is kind of a signature events that the President likes to do if he has an opportunity," said Rhodes, who played a key role in finalising Obama's trip to India and closely interacted with him on a regular basis.

Similarly, Obama would also go to a school where he will be able to speak to even younger group of Indians. "Because he always wants to take advantage of the opportunity to speak to young people," Rhodes said.

One of the things that he directed his White House staff in terms of the speech writing team is also to underscore how much the US welcomes India's rise, how much America sees it as a good thing for the United States, a good thing for the world, Rhodes said.

He said Obama's trip would also be reflective of the inspiration he seeks from Mahatma Gandhi, the apostle of peace and non-violence.

Besides laying a wreath at the Raj Ghat in New Delhi, Obama would be visiting the Gandhi Museum in Mumbai, he said.

"In the President's Noble Peace Prize address, he invokes Gandhi and (Martin Luther) King more than once in that speech and the power of non-violent protest to the social justice.

"There is direct line to what Gandhi did, how King was informed about what Gandhi did and to the role King played in the civil rights movement here to the inspiration that provided to the President. So he has some kind of a personal tie to the extraordinary history of India in the 20th century," Rhodes said.

(Published 28 October 2010, 13:09 IST)

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