Be wary of Donald Trump, the columnist-author warns India; applauds Modi for pushing Aadhaar.
Thomas Friedman is not someone known to hold his punches. And the globally acclaimed columnist and author lived up to his reputation at ‘Off The Cuff’ in Mumbai on Friday where he was in conversation with ThePrint Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta. Excerpts of his comments specific to India at the packed event.
“Indian elections could be rigged next”
Friedman was critical of the pervasiveness of digitalisation and said just as the American people are finding out how the Russians rigged the US Presidential elections, he would not be surprised if it happened in India next.
“Think Before You Work With Trump”
Friedman was unsparing in his criticism of Trump. Asked if India should forge any agreements with the US under Trump considering Friedman had described the US president as a “brain eating disease”, the three-time Pulitzer Prize winner said: “Trump is an indecent man and India should think before they shake hands with him.”
“Political Parties are exploding in Europe & U.S., India could be next”
Friedman spoke of the change in how people view political parties and how parties are losing their support base, especially in Europe and the United States. Although he refused to respond when asked which Indian party was losing its connect with the people, Friedman said he foresees politics becoming more localised and voters losing interest in national issues.
“Have a Soft Spot for Modi Because of Aadhaar”
Friedman said that if he were a Martian looking down at Earth, India’s Aadhaar revolution – giving one billion people a unique ID – would perhaps appear to be one of the biggest achievements in the world. Although it was not Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s original idea, Friedman said he had a soft spot for Modi for backing Aadhaar and making it a reality across India.
“Islam in the Indian Context”
Asked about the existence of Islamophobia, Friedman recalled his experience of being the only Jew reporting the Israel-Palestine conflict from Beirut in the 1980s. The New York Times columnist underlined the urgent need for an internal and external debate on Islam where Muslims are the principal stakeholders. Friedman said he believed that those fighting in the name of Islam are getting their inspiration from Islam and that needs to be examined.
Making an argument for reform in Islam, he said that it is important to note the countries that have seen a high level of Islamist terrorism. Giving the example of the 9/11 terrorists, he said that not a single one of those terrorists was an Indian Muslim, indicating that societal context is equally important in this debate.