The Indian National Congress leader advocates strong US-India relations to counter China’s influence.
Indian National Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi concluded his three-city US trip with a call to action, urging Indians and Indian Americans to defend democracy and the Indian constitution.
Speaking at a public event organized by the Indian Overseas Congress at the Jacob Javits Center in New York Sunday afternoon, Gandhi stuck to the same themes he has been articulating at various events in the United States in the previous six days.
READ: When Rahul Gandhi came to Norton Manor (June 5, 2023)
The Congress party leader emphasized a number of key points at Sunday’s event — his last before returning to India. Firstly, he alleged that several important institutions, including the media, have been captured by the current government under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Secondly, he emphasized the shrinking space for minorities and underprivileged communities within the country.
He expressed confidence that his party, which recently achieved victory over the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in the key southern state of Karnataka, will dethrone the ruling party at the national level.
Gandhi, who recently concluded a 2,500-mile unity walk from the south to the north, Bharat Jodo Yatra, said that his ongoing battle against Prime Minister Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) symbolizes the continuation of a centuries-long struggle between two contrasting ideologies.
READ: Rahul Gandhi kicks off 3-city US trip in San Francisco (May 30, 2023)
According to him, one ideology finds its best representation in the principles advocated by Mahatma Gandhi, while the other is closely aligned with the Hindu nationalist forces. By framing the fight in this context, Gandhi highlighted the significance of the ideological clash and its profound implications for the future direction of the nation.
“Modern India cannot exist without our constitution and our democracy,” he said at the Javitz Center speech.
Gandhi leveled accusations against Prime Minister Modi and the BJP, asserting that they have contributed to the division of the country, and criticized them for purportedly neglecting crucial issues such as unemployment and education.
Gandhi arrived in the United States barely three weeks before the scheduled state visit of Modi, at the invitation of President Joe Biden. Therefore, the trip was closely watched by both his supporters and opponents in India.
In nearly all his engagements in the country, the Congress leader spoke in favor of strong US-India relations as a means to counterbalance China’s influence.
“One of the things we have to think about is the bridge between India and the United States,” he said Sunday. It is a point he made on multiple occasions during the trip.
“I think it’s also important that we broad-base the relationship,” he said at a Newsmaker event at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, on June 1. “It’s important to have a defense relationship, but I think we need to also consider other areas and we need to have a vision for other spaces other than defense.”
Gandhi said the two countries have such synergies that if they come together can be very powerful, especially in countering China.
“What we are facing is a particular vision of the world, [the] Chinese vision of the world, that offers productivity [and] prosperity but under a non-democratic framework,” he said. “That’s not acceptable to us because we simply cannot thrive under a non-democratic structure. So we have to think about production and prosperity in a democratic framework. And I think that’s where the bridge between India and the United States can play a very important role for us, for you, and I think also for the planet … to show the rest of the world that production, manufacturing, in a democratic environment, is possible and can actually be competitive with the Chinese model.”
Besides the Manhattan and the National Press Club events, Gandhi had at least three other public events. The first was in Santa Clara, CA, where he addressed the Indian American community, on May 30. The next day, he spoke at Stanford University’s Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law.
In the Washington area, he also attended a private dinner at the home of Indian American Democratic donor and philanthropist Frank F. Islam, a closed-door event at the Hudson Institute and a reception hosted by the Indian Overseas Congress DC chapter.
At the Javits Center, a moment of silence was observed to honor the memory of those who lost their lives in a devastating train accident in Odisha last week.
During his three-city trip, Gandhi was accompanied by IOC leaders Sam Pitroda and Mohinder Singh Gilzian. In New York, alongside the two Indian Americans, several leaders from India also joined the gathering. Among them were Mani Shankar Aiyer, Deepender Singh Hooda, Amrinder Singh Brar, and Alka Lamba.