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 PM Modi in ensuring that the agreement on climate change was finalised, Pelosi said: “It was not easy. But it was done”.
When PM 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 the 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 organised by the Indian Embassy to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Gandhi.
“He 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 jeopardising the health, security, and future of our children and our grandchildren, Pelosi said in her keynote 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 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.
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 recognised.”
“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.