Applauding Narendra Modi’s commitment to tackle climate change, US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday said the Indian Prime Minister has upheld the values of Gandhi by taking on the challenge that poses an existential threat to the planet.
Referring to the “commitment” shown by Modi in ensuring that the agreement on climate change was finalized, Pelosi said: “It was not easy. But it was done”. When Modi came to Washington DC to address a joint session of the Congress, the Congressional leadership met him before the speech, she said.
“I mentioned about climate crisis and thanked him for his leadership, he talked about Mahatma Gandhi and the environment,” she said at an event at the historic Library of Congress organized by the Indian Embassy to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Gandhi. “He (Modi) told us whether it was water conservation or whatever it is, Gandhi understood the worth and the respect we had to have for nature,” Pelosi said, adding that if Gandhi was alive today, he would have led the movement to take on the challenge threatening God’s creation: planet earth.
“We are called to fight this fight, which is the existential threat of our time: really jeopardizing the health, security, and future of our children and our grandchildren,” Pelosi said in her key note address. In his remarks, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar described Pelosi as a political figure who embodies the strength of convictions that is so relevant even today. “Last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked at an event at the United Nations what it would have been like had Mahatma Gandhi been like born in a free country. We could perhaps take that even further and ask ourselves what he would advocate today if he was amongst us,” he said. “The answer obviously is not a simple one because Gandhi ji’s outlook and thoughts spanned a very broad spectrum of human activity. But to the extent we can define it within sharper boundaries, they probably are best captured by the 17 sustainable development goals that the world’s seeks to achieve today,” he said.
Jaishankar said the very idea of an Indian prime minister talking of girls’ toilets in an international address was seen as bizarre. The elite forgot a famous saying of Gandhi that cleanliness is next only to godliness or that human rights were best delivered in the most practical form, access to sanitation, housing, health, education and livelihood, he said.
“Clearly the people of India had a different appreciation and conveyed that emphatically when the time came. if there is one challenge that Gandhi ji would like us to focus on, that is that of combating climate change,” he said. Through a mix of policy and advocacy there has been a fundamental shift in the way in which India approaches this issue, Jaishankar said, adding that at Paris, it was India’s mediation that brought together different constituencies and interests.
Stating that the House Speaker has shown commendable leadership on a similar set of priorities in the US, Jaishankar said, “Your commitment towards clean governance and green development is widely recognized.” “Your presence here today underlines the impact that the life and message of Mahatma Gandhi has had on your own endeavours from your early youth,” he added. While Gandhi could never travel to US, his work was closely followed there, said the Indian ambassador to the US, Harsh Vardhan Shringla.
On the occasion of 150th birth anniversary of Gandhi, Shringla said both the US Senate and House of Representatives have introduced resolutions recalling Gandhi’s contribution to mankind, emphasising the shared influence of his teachings on human rights, on civil rights leaders around the world, including Dr Martin Luther King, and highlighting the shared values of the people of India and the US.
Shringla thanked Senators Bob Menendez, Ted Cruz, Mark Warner, John Cornyn and Representatives George Holding, Brad Sherman, Joe Wilson, Peter King, Ami Bera, Ro Khanna, Frank Pallone and Pete Olson among others their valuable co-sponsorship of these resolutions. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney has also introduced a resolution for the award of a Congressional Gold Medal to honour Mahatma Gandhi, he said. Jaishankar, on the occasion, presented a bust of Mahatma Gandhi to Pelosi.
“I will display it with great pride in the Speaker’s office of the capital of the United States so that anyone who visits there will see that respect and admiration that we have (for Gandhi),” Pelosi said.