Does the White House think India is a Hindu nation?
The White House staffers charged with transcribing the every public utterance of U.S. President George W. Bush and his friends do not have an easy job. If they falter even for a moment in the constant war against tape hiss, mumbling and ill-timed coughs, they risk putting the wrong words in some of the most powerful mouths on the planet.
And so, as I read today’s official transcript of remarks made by Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the G8 Summit in Japan, I wondered if the transcriber forgot to take a cotton swab to their ear that morning:
PRIME MINISTER SINGH: Mr. President, it is a great opportunity for me to once again meet you and to review with you the state of Hindu-American relations. (Emphasis added.)
Singh is known to be a soft-spoken man, but he is very clear on at least one point: his Congress Party, which heads India’s coalition government, is intended to be a secular party, embracing equally the 230 million Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Zoroastrians, Jews, animists, agnostics and atheists that live alongside India’s 900 million Hindus. (Besides which, Singh himself is a Sikh.) A vote for Congress, so its leaders say, is a vote against what are darkly called “the forces of communalism” — a thinly veiled reference to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), India’s main opposition, which believes Indians of every creed should revere and live by the wisdom of the Vedas and other ancient Hindu texts.
For once, the BJP might be delighted to read over Singh’s remarks, but he actually said “Indo-American” relations, according to Sanjaya Baru, Singh’s spokesman. (“An amusing mistake,” Baru said with a chuckle, adding that they were seeking to get the transcript corrected.)
So have the “forces of communalism” reached even as far as the White House? Or is this just another example of the confusion some non-Indians have grasping the differences between “Hindu”, “Hindi” and “Indian”?