Does the White House think India is a Hindu nation?

July 9, 2008

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 What did you say?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.)

Surely some mistake? (UPDATE 5.25pm: The White House has now corrected the transcript on its website, but the original version can still be seen here and here.)

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”?

45 comments

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HIndu is a word carved out by westerners . HInduism itself has a bunch of philosophies and Jain and buddha dharma were not separately called as different religion as today. In hindi, India is called hindustan. i have seen lot of muslims call it as hindustan. now is that wrong Mr. Allen ?

Posted by vivek | Report as abusive

By the way it didn’t appear like white house has made the mistake. Looks like Singh’s transcript has said hindu american relations.

Posted by vivek | Report as abusive

This is interesting. “Indo-American” is a standard phrase in India and Dr Singh obviously used this and not Hindu-Christian or whatever the translators heard.

Well, in a nation gripped by Turban phobia, more Americans anyway mistake Dr Singh for a muslim than the ones that mistake him for a Hindu. I can bet not even 1% can correctly tell that he believes in the sikh faith. So you cannot blame the poor journalists alone. In general, Americans need to read up on Sikhs so at least they know that majority of Turban wearing people in America are actually sikhs and believe in the same values any red blooded american does and these turban wearing folks are not muslims (nothing against muslims by the way). At least that would save some problems for the All American Turban Wearing Kids who happen to be sikhs by faith in New York and elsewhere in the US.

Read –
http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/educ ation/2008/07/02/2008-07-02_action_neede d_to_protect_sikhs.html
http://www.ny1.com/ny1/content/index.jsp  ?stid=4&aid=83252

Regards
K

Posted by K Singh | Report as abusive

FYI – Response to an earlier comment – Hindustan is not an official name. Its a name that Pakistan uses to refer to India to push home the point that India is largely Hindu as pakistanis see the divide on religious lines (just like the Right-Wing Hindu Nationalist Party BJP in India). India or Bharat(in Hindi) are the official names of our country and both are secular names. Also no matter what the Hindu nationalists say, Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs, Christians, Muslims, etc cannot be called Hindus if they live in India. They are Indians. Simple. Remember, Nepal is the only official Hindu country in the world. India is not. No malice to anyone – thought I will correct the facts.

Posted by K Singh | Report as abusive

Just to clarify K.Singh, just as Hindustan was given by Muslims who invaded India around 1500 AD, India was framed by East India Company and the Britishers later on. It was accepted by the then Congress party just because Bharat will be a Hindu name. Though Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs, Chirstians and Muslims may not be called Hindus, they can be called Bharatiya atleast!! Lastly, equating Pakistanis and BJP (or for that matter RSS) is quite wrong and shows your ignorance. BJP is just another political party which speaks says that since Hindu is a word which shows the tradition of the land for centuries, people from the land, of whatever faith, shall be called Hindu (or Bharatiya) even when they follow their own faith, which in itself comes from the notion that Hinduism preaches a way of life and is thus not a religion. Anyway now a days equating Islamic fundamentalism to Hinutva has become very common. Read this article by Arun Shourie to know more:
http://www.indianexpress.com/story/25496 9.html

Posted by Vivek | Report as abusive

To ensure quality and service, I think the White House need to be thinking about outsourcing the job done by their interpreters.

Posted by nilay | Report as abusive

Hindutva is a cultural movement not a relgious one. Western leftist’s are too dumb to figure that out. They like to equate Hindu Nationalists with Christian and/or Muslim extremists. The founder of the Hindutva movement was an Atheist. The point raised by so called “Hindu Nationalists” is correct, until the Abrahamic religions there was no word for religion. Everybody respected and acknowledged other beliefs. The “Hindu” identity is only valid against Islam and Christianity, since those two religions like to categorize the world into believers and non-believers (Kafir/Infidel or Heathen respectively). Ofcourse the sects within Islam and Christianity fought and killed each other brutally for centuries also.
Most Hindus are comfortable attending a Buddhist or Daoist Temple or reading other philosophies (In Southeast Asia they even have joint Temples). Unthinkable among Abrahamic religions…

Posted by slow_snail | Report as abusive

So have the “forces of communalism” reached even as far as the White House? – Yeah they have reached, and have been provided accomodation in the East Room. Give me a break!!! India is secular because of the 900 million Hindu population. Imagine Hindus in the minority and their rights will be gobbled up in no time. Isn’t that what happened in Kashmir on the issue of Amarnath Yatra lands? I don’t hear anyone talking about how the muslim “majority” in Kashmir forced this situation. If you are not prepared to do something as a majority, don’t expect to receive when you are the minority. I dread to live in a non-hindu majority areas in India under the so called “secularist” governments.

As far as the text of the transcript goes, I don’t think it is significant at all. There is no need to read between the lines here.

Posted by Kautilya | Report as abusive

– Give me a break!!! India is secular because of the 900 million Hindu population. Imagine Hindus in the minority and their rights will be gobbled up in no time. –

I just wanted to say that I think the above statement is very true and so often overlooked.

Posted by George | Report as abusive

K singh,

I did not say that hindustan is official name. I just said it is a practice.

Posted by vivek | Report as abusive

India is not a Hindu nation but it is a reservation nation. SC, ST, OBC, Minority, General quota. Thank god Americans are not aware with our reservation politics.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandal_Comm ission

Posted by A.Y. | Report as abusive

What the big deal if they did say Hindu nation. India is secular by constitution but over whelming majority Hindu. Just as America is Secular by constitution but over whelming Christian. I dont know whats all the fuss about.

Do you really think US would have such close military and nuclear ties with India if it was secular and majority Muslim ! I highly doubt it. US and India are strategic partners due to the fact that we both have a common enemy. “Radical Islam” & “Red China”..

Posted by Raj | Report as abusive

Brilliant point Kautilya as quoted by George. If 900 million weren’t the majority I don’t think Dr. Singh would be the PM not India would be commanding respect to be with G8 leaders .

Posted by vivek | Report as abusive

I would also argue: Why do they officially say “WHITE HOUSE” in USA? Is it the legacy to show that usurping the land of original & innocent Red Indians, massacring millions of them, converting them to Christianity by the directions of the then Pope, and enslaving innocent Africans always calling them as Blacks ! All the idiot people who have audited the so-called using of words HINDU-American Relations -by Manmohansingh P.M. of Hindusthan, should protest vehemently on the grounds of Humanitarian grounds to cancel the name “WHITE HOUSE” and change it to just AMERICAN HOUSE because America does not only belong to the White race. Even Negroes and black, Africans, and more particularly the Original inhabitants have equal right over America. Fight against this unequality too if you have any wisdom. Ask Barkha Dutt or similar so called humanitarians if she dares to raise this point of using the word WHITE HOUSE preaching nothing than utter racism of White people.

Response to Mr. K Singh
>> FYI – Response to an earlier comment – Hindustan is not an official name. Its a name that Pakistan uses to refer to India to push home the point that India is largely Hindu as pakistanis see the divide on religious lines (just like the Right-Wing Hindu Nationalist Party BJP in India).

This is not accurate. If you hear/read any official pakistani media – India is referred to as India or in urdu Bharat.

Posted by Raj | Report as abusive

Actually India means Hindu and Hindu means India, they are just synonymous terms. For example when we say Indian culture or say festival, are we referring to Xmas, or Eid, or are we referring to Diwali and Navrathri. Obviously the latter.

So let us not fool ourselves. No matter how you slice and dice it … all that India means is Hindu or of Indian origin. Both Christian and Muslim are of alien origin and not Indian.

When the white house says, Hindu-American, they are saying something nearer to the truth. And something which most of us (except the marxists, mullah, missionaires and macaulates) know already.

Posted by venkat | Report as abusive

The forefathers of the current Muslims/Christians in India were Hindus. Even Pakistan’s 1st PM Mr. jinnah’s grand father was a Hindu.

Another name of India are – Hind, Hindustan etc.

So Indo-American means Hind-American or Hindu-American.

http://hindtoday.com/Blogs/ViewBlogsV2.a spx?HTAdvtId=689&HTAdvtPlaceCode=IND

For all his numb-tongued clangers, Bush has yet to outdo Reagan’s Vice President’s gaff about people in Latin America speaking Latin!

The disease of inventing a special language to speak about Indians is now spreading to Reuters. Until, the British came and reinvented India, the subcontinent was known as Hindustan and the people of Hindustan were known as Hindus,regardless of their faith. The Moghals styled themselves emperors of Hindustan Even Americans referred to everybody in India as Hindus.In fact the word India and the Chinese Yindu are both corruptions of Hindu. so why the big brouhaha. Hindus call their faith the Sanatana Dharma and do not refer to it as Hinduism.President Bush has got it right this time.

Yeah, from what I’ve learned about India, Hindus are special in their ability to allow and accept other religions, but since they’ve allowed Islam and Christianity people from both those religions have taken advantage of the hospitality.

Posted by Eric | Report as abusive

I am overwhelmed to see the responses. Except Mr K Singh, I think almost every one who posted comments here seem to realize that Hinduism is tolerant and thus Indian should in principle be eqivalent to Hindu. I think in the new age of information, it is but inevitable that the truth be embraced by every one. It is but a pity that in India, media still prescribes anti-Hindu as secularism. Time to change the notion, for, the people of the world and also India have started to realize the importance of Hindutva!!!

Posted by Vivek | Report as abusive

I am surprised at this blog and its reference to indian PM’s statement..

The american, which shivers just by the rumour that obama is a muslim, or by his name, is not advising indians on secularism..

The britishers who do not even have the heart to let Rajan Zed, to perform Hindu Prayer, are advising indians on secularism..

I dont know which country the author of this blog belongs to.. But, i have one strong request.. stop advising/commenting to other nations, especially india.. there are lot of dirt in your own backyard..

Minority religions have to realise that they are living in a country where hinduism originated and which has the majority population and respect it instead of competing with it.muslim/christians has already so many nations with majority population to carry their pride.

Posted by pradeep | Report as abusive

India is a Hindu majority nation but many right-wing, middle class Hindus (who including many who have commented in this blog spot), suffering from a huge inferiority complex, would love it to become a Hindu nation.

But India is basically a secular nation despite the attempts of the right wing middle class bigots. That is a testimony to the millions of Indians of all religions, who don’t write in blogs but work in the fields and in the factories and in dhabas and on the streets. jai Hind. Down with bigots. and God help us if Singh can’t get a sentence right!

Posted by Syed Mansoor | Report as abusive

Syed Mansoor,

India (and Asia) has always been kind to other beliefs that is why it has so many philosophies. Whereas in the west and middle east have not been exposed to this liberal attitude and when one fine morning it dawned on them, they invented secularism. What right wingers are trying to do is to get rid of moles and parasites in the nation and serve an ultimatum you either be an indian or stay out of our nation to those who claim as indias citizens. I don’t have a reason to believe they are suffering from an inferiority complex.

Posted by vivek | Report as abusive

“What right wingers are trying to do is to get rid of moles and parasites in the nation and serve an ultimatum you either be an indian or stay out of our nation to those who claim as indias citizens.”

Vivek,
What do you mean by the above quote? Do you mean that everyone except the Hindus should leave the country and are you referring them as moles and parasites? Remember one thing that the majority of the Indian Muslims and the Christians are of Indian origin and they are still Indians.

If you give this kind of explanation then I can very well say that the Aryans or the North Indians are just invaders of the land and ousted the indigenous people from their land. So does it mean that the South Indians or the Dravidians can simply claim India as their own and ask the Aryans just to leave India and go to Central Asia from where they came from? Or can the south Indians can go to Pakistan and claim the land of Indus Valley Civilisation? or can they ask for a different nation? And if your view is correct then the Dravidians can also ask all Hindus to leave India because the Dravidians were not religious before Hinduism was inflicted on them. May be reading Tamil literature might help you.

My point is everyone in India is an Indian regardless of the his/her belief and no one can ask anyone to leave India just because they follow different faiths.

“It is but inevitable that the truth be embraced by every one.”

Tell me Vivek, by your quote what is the truth you imply or mean? What you perceive is the truth for you and is not for everyone because the reality has been overshadowed by the dominating force of the Vedic period.

I am not against any religion I’m only for India’s integration and it’s secular nature. Why not everyone can live happily together? There is no point in talking about the past otherwise the blog will become nasty. In fact I am an atheist so do you want me to get out of India? May be I expressed my views in a rude manner but couldn’t help it.

Posted by Vijay | Report as abusive

India is a 85% Hindu nation. Every which way you look at India, it is filled with things Hindu – its culture is Hindu, its art is Hindu, its philosphy is Hindu, its architecture is Hindu. Yoga is Hindu, Krishna is Hindu, Transcendental Meditation is Hindu. Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism are daugther traditions, derivatives from the main Hindu consciousness – replete with all ideas Hindu such as Karma, Re-incarnation, Yoga etc.

It also happens that India has many other religions and ideologies that co-exist, along with Hinduism, such as Islam, Christianity, Jewish, Old Persian, and many other atheistic ideologies such as Communism, Marxism, Capitalism etc. Unfortunately, the co-extant ideologies are more politically vocal, in comparison to Hinduism which has been historically politically weak (The rise of the BJP) is a relatively recent phoneomenon i.e. in the last 25 years or so).

Hindu India had the mis-fortune of being conquered twice, first by Islam (with all its terrorist violence) for over 700 years, beginning around 1000 AD, and then by the English who colonized India in the last 200 years. India’s recovery from its conquerers is merely some 60 years old. The resurgence of a Hindu consciousness is a necessary historical corrective. This is represented by the BJP, VHP, the Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha and numerous other Hindu organizations.

Of course there is a very vocal anti-Hindu brigade in India which tries to portray this historic corrective, and the rise of Hinduism in India, as a terrible, fanatical, horrendous event. The truth is far from this. The rise of Hinduism is inevitable. As Hindus become more prosperous, and emerge from their crippling poverty of the past few centuries, their rise to take power in their own country is only a natural outcome. Further, Hinduism is more benign, more pluralistic, more accepting, and liberal than probably any religion or philosophical tradition in this world.

Therefore, when the White house called India – Hindu India, it may have been a slip of the tongue, but it is only in keeping with this historic rise of Hinduism, and therefore more than appropriate. The fact that cannot be disputed is that a Hindu India will afford equal space to all religions and traditions, simply because it is its nature. Plurality has been intrinsic to Hinduism unlike the mono-theistic traditions of the Western world.

White house may or may not have made the mistake in confusing Hindu with Indian, but western news agencies like Reuters, AP etc. and this blogger indulge in this ignornace and hypocricy all the time, when they routinely describe BJP as “Hindu nationalist” or right wingers etc. Just exactly how did you arrive at this conclusion? If BJP is Hindu nationalist right wing etc. then should you not also describe Republican Party as Christian nationalist, rightwinger etc. in your wires? Afterall Republicans also believe the same things about America that it is a judeo-christian nation and bible should guide the nation, so much so that a Muslim congressman would have hardtime taking oath on Quran.

Posted by midas | Report as abusive

Hindu is a short form of Hindustan. Hindustan was India’s one of the previous names. Indian Subcontinent was primarily divided into Hindustan and Pakistan. However, Hindustan was renamed as India.

Yes, if one looks at it with limited intellegence and narrow-mindedness, it appears to be discriminating the rest of religeous rascals.

The misconstrued remarks of the journo is forgiveable while he/she doesn’t know how many states or cities exist in his/her own country…

“Forgive him/her folks, for what he/she’s scribbled without knowing.”

Posted by Sasi KC | Report as abusive

I think Hindu-American relations is right word. After all India is also known as Hindustan. Jains, Bhuddist and Sikhs are basically Hindus only. I congratulate Dr Singh on speaking the correct word- too bold man!

Posted by Rahul Uttarakhandi | Report as abusive

Forget about the analysis as to whether it is a mistake or a fact. You guys, try to pick holes and look for sensationalising things. Please don’t cause trouble by placing suh news in an eyecatching position.

Posted by Gurumurthy | Report as abusive

Land beyond the Indus=Hind.

Hindi=One who lives in Hind.

e.g. Muhammad Iqbal’s line “hindi hain hum, hindi hain hum” in his poem Tarana-e-Hind, popularly known as “Sare Jahaan se Achchha”.

This is also the word used in Arabic, Turkish and a host of languages to the west of India.

Hindu=A modern spelling of the English Hindoo, meaning exactly what it means today, a follower of Sanatana Dharma.

Posted by Manesh Sharma | Report as abusive

May I remind everybody that it was not Mr Bush who used the phrase “Hindu-American,” although it is high sport in the USA to lampoon him for mis-speaking.

Rather it was Mr Singh who said it for whatever reason.

Posted by Big Mike | Report as abusive

In India, we citizens (all religions included) live in peace and harmony amidst diversities (Social, Political, Religion etc.). I’ve not heard of any other country which has so much diversity like India but still people live in harmony…

I have a responsibility as a citizen of a proud country to stop any statements that will provoke communal violence amongst us. I request you to stop discussing anything negative on this…

Posted by Indian | Report as abusive

May be it was ‘Indo-American’. Because the Premier is a Shikh himself.

USA is a secular country . If BJP is in power,– USA never accept for the nuclear deal . When BJP in power they approach USE for nuclear deal– in vain.
Communists are looking the party welfare but they never think about peoples or country. Even China think of the people and mobilized huge other country”s investment

The deal is not a “Hindu-American,” deal it is only a ‘INDO-AMERICAN’ deal

I want to BJP to rule the India…. Congress is too soft in dealing with terrorism, foriegn relations, etc…. look how chinese and the terrorists are toying with india these days…. they came to know that congress is a dareless government… not like NDA which is like the republican of USA…

To tell the truth It was only during the BJP led NDA government that the India-US strategic relationship started for your kind information….. BJP always supports strong friendly relations with USA & Israel…

Israel & India are the only two countries, who have been victims of islamic terrorism, since they became originated… Israel & india need to counter these extremists who wage war on innocent people in the name of religion….

Posted by sidarth | Report as abusive

To clarify – This article purports that BJP is for ‘forces of communalism’ albeit “Dark Forces’. Would like to bring to your attention that BJP’s policies pertain to ‘Nationalism’. Unfortunately it is observed that certain practices of a creed of people following a different faith meshed in Jihad principles, BJP members have been vocal in critizing the entire faith. However this is not without reason since the moderate voices never raise them and the voice that comes out of this faith is an extremist one with fanatical overtones that underly subjucating the entire population. It is to these that the BJP actually opposes and unfortunately in it’s zeal it has been characterised as a communalist one rather than ‘Nationalist’. I would suggest the author of this post to actually study the idealogues of the BJP & RSS manifesto in it’s original form and not as made during elections which we all know is a populist measure.

Posted by Grizzly Bear | Report as abusive

To Syed Mansoor,
Your are right in mentioning that India is a secular country and for all faiths. I do wish you would educate your compatriots of the same whose every action is to impose an islamic will on the entire populace by Jihad or ‘License to Kill’.

Posted by Grizzly Bear | Report as abusive

Guess they say like that in Texas. BUt Mr. Singh is known to be a soft spoken man. He must have spoken “Indo” softly, to be only heard as “Hindu”. Its a different issue that some MUllahs here in India may pick this up and say, “See, this proves once again this country is of HIndoos. And our community is in DANGER (pun intended!)….blah…blah…blah. BUt was Mr. Bush’s transcriber as ignorant as the mullahs? Perhaps he needs to get his ear-wax cleared up! As it is, Dubya’s english is unbearable!

The word ‘Hindu’ comes from ‘Sindhu’ or Indus.

The people living in today’s India and Iran had very similar cultures and religious beliefs in the ancient age. The two people had many mythological characters and stories in common, with the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ reversed sometimes.

As another example, ‘Asura’ is a very common term in Indian mythologies and the Zoarastrians (Iran) have ‘Ahura’.

It is from such a use that ‘Hindu’ arises and it definitely referred to people of a particular place – the Indian subcontinent. It is only in the last 100-150 years that the term Hindu has got its religious connotation.

Posted by TP | Report as abusive

Vijay,

don’t get too emotional and spin what I said. What I said was straight forward. Moles and parasites don’t mean any religion in particular. If you are paranoid then there is something wrong with you. Btw I don’t believe in Aryan Dravidian theory and I have read many tamil literatures. Detox your mind from EV Ramasamy’s spin about aryan dravidian theory.

Posted by vivek | Report as abusive

The actual term “Hindu” first occurs as an Old Persian geographical term (derived from the river sindhu), to identify the people who lived beyond the River Indus. However, the modern origin is derived from the Arabic texts – Al-Hind (the Hind) referring to ‘the land of the people of modern day India’ – which then got vernacularised as Hindu.In the world history “Hindu” was also used by all Mughal Empires and towards the end of the eighteenth century by the British to refer to the people of “Hindustan”, the area of northern and adjoining northwestern India. Eventually “Hindu” became equivalent to anybody of “Indian” origin who was not otherwise Sikh, Jain, or belonged to a religion of Abrahamic denomination, thereby encompassing a wide range of religious beliefs and practices.
One of the accepted views is that “ism” was added to “Hindu” around 1830 to denote the culture and religion of the high-caste Brahmans in contrast to other religions. The term was soon appropriated by Indians themselves as they tried to establish a national identity opposed to colonialism.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hindu

Posted by Ayaz | Report as abusive

Most Americans are clueless and this distinction will probably wash over them like every other cultural distinction does. Believe it or not, Americans cannnot distinguish between:

shia vs sunni
indian vs pakistani
pakistani vs arab
arab vs persian
arab vs muslim
sikh vs muslim
latino vs hispanic
spanish vs latino/hispanic

and god knows how many others…its safe to say the only distinction most Americans are loathe to forget is the white/non-white one:)

Posted by Shahid | Report as abusive

iqbal’s…

Interesting post. I came across this blog by accident, but it was a good accident. I have now bookmarked your blog for future use. Best wishes. Ragheb Alama Website Team….