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Obama's religious freedom message is for US too: Richard Verma

New Delhi, Jan 30 (IANS) US President Barack Obama’s stress during his speech in India on the right of freedom of individuals to profess, practice and propagate religion was a message for Americans too, US Ambassador Richard Verma said Friday.

“You should look into the speech carefully…this is consistent with what he said at the UN General Assembly, that we have to stand up for all people… He talked as much about the US and our challenges, as he talked about India,” Verma told Karan Thapar in an interview on Headlines Today channel.

“The words speak for themselves and they are powerful, as are the words he said before… that we seek out the best in people and that peace often starts within one’s heart,” he said.

“…we also have to look at what’s in hearts and minds of people, support their democratic aspirations, dreams, support for rights for equality and tolerance… he (Obama) was talking as much to American people and people around the world as he was to people of India,” Verma said.

Obama Tuesday, in his only public engagement during his three-day India visit, stressed on the right of freedom of individuals to profess, practice and propagate religion and said it was important for India with its multiplicity of faiths to uphold this fundamental right.

Addressing a town hall-style meeting at the Siri Fort Auditorium here, that had a large audience of young people, the US president spoke extensively on the rights enshrined for people in the Indian and American Constitutions.

He said nations were the strongest when they treats all their citizens as “god’s children, all equal and worthy”.

On the Indo-US nuclear deal, Ambassador Verma said the US is committed to seeing through the civil nuclear deal with India.

“…We are committed to seeing this (Indo-US nuclear deal) through, so 300 million people, who do not have electricity, can actually get a shot at it,” Verma said.

Verma, who is an American of Indian-origin, said the US will work with India on the idea of creating an insurance pool.

“Insurance pool is a novel idea. We are going to work with the Indian government in providing whatever technical consultation is required.”

“Insurance pool will be set up according to international standards,” he added.

Verma said the US will keep a watch in the coming years if India is able to generate electricity as planned through nuclear power.

On the defence agreements signed between India and the US, the ambassador said it was a “breakthrough” and “far reaching in many respects”.

“It (Defence Framework Agreement) charts the way for next 10 years. It was in 2005 when we first signed (defence) no one knew that we would and we agreed to concentrate on joint training, joint exercises, and combating weapons of mass destruction, and piracy and other common concerns, so I think it is a breakthrough,” he said.

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