Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman recently spoke at the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE), a discussion on the resilience and growth of the Indian economy. It is her comments on the state of Indian Muslim while responding to a question on the ‘negative Western perception’ of India that seemed to have raised eyebrows.
Speaking about perceptions affecting investments in the country, the FM urged investors to ‘come and look’”’ rather than listen to perceptions built by ‘“’people who have not even visited on the ground.’
‘I would think the answer for that lies with those investors who are coming to India, and they’ve been coming. And as somebody who’s interested in receiving investments, I would only say, come have a look at what’s happening in India, rather than listen to perceptions being built by people who have not even visited on the ground and who produce reports,’ she said, responding to a question by PIIE President Adam S Posen.
Mr Posen then questioned Ms Sitharaman on reports in the Western media about opposition MPs losing status and Muslim minorities being subjected to violence.
To this, she had a particular reply which for many seemed to equate population numbers with well-being.
‘India has the second-largest Muslim population in the world, and that population is only growing in numbers. If there is a perception, or if there’s in reality, their lives are difficult or made difficult with the support of the state, which is what is implied in most of these write-ups, I would ask, will this happen in India in the sense, will the Muslim population be growing than what it was in 1947?’ she questioned.
Muslims in India are doing better than those in Pakistan, she asserted, adding that the condition of minorities is worsening in Pakistan, adding that they were being charged and punished severely for minor allegations, leading to punishments like the death penalty.
‘Violence prevails against Muhajirs, Shia and every other group you can name which is not accepted by the mainstream. I don’t know, Sunnis probably. Whereas in India you would find every strand of Muslims doing their business, their children getting educated. Fellowships are being given by the government,’ she added emphatically.
On allegations of victimization, she replied ‘to say it’s all the blame of the Government of India, I would want to say then, tell me, between 2014 and today, has the population dwindled? Have the deaths been disproportionately high in any one particular community? So, I would rather invite these people, who write these reports to come to India. I host them. Let them come to India and prove their point.’
She observed that emerging markets like India carry the burden of being ’emerging.’
She said, ‘It’s the resilience of Indian people to take it upon themselves, to take the challenge and come out in their businesses despite tragedies at home, ‘ on India’s post-pandemic economic revival, which has seen it become one of the fastest growing economies in the world.
The Finance Minister also said the World Trade Organisation (WTO) should ‘listen to all countries’ and be more progressive and fair.
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