Nancy Pelosi applauds Modi's commitment to tackle climate change
Applauding Narendra Modi’s commitment to tackle climate change, US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday said the Indian Prime Minister had upheld the values of Mahatma 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 finalised, Pelosi said: “It was not easy. But it was done.”
When Modi was in Washington DC to address a joint session of the Congress, the congressional leadership met him before the speech, she said.
“I mentioned 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 the Mahatma.
“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 the Mahatma was alive today, he would have 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 are relevant today.
“Last week, Prime Minister Modi asked at an event at the United Nations what it would have been like had the Mahatma been born in a free country. We could perhaps take that even further and ask ourselves what he would advocate today if he was among us,” he said.
“The answer obviously is not a simple one because Gandhiji’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 the Mahatma 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. Today, if there is one challenge that Gandhiji would like us to focus on, it 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 recognised.”
“Your presence here today underlines the impact that the life and message of the Mahatma 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 the 150th birth anniversary of the Mahatma, Shringla said both the US Senate and House of Representatives had 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 and John Cornyn and Representatives George Holding, Brad Sherman, Joe Wilson, Peter King, Ami Bera, Ro Khanna, Frank Pallone and Pete Olson, among others, for co-sponsorship of these resolutions.
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney has also introduced a resolution for the award of a Congressional Gold Medal to honour the Mahatma, 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 US so that anyone who visits there will see that respect and admiration that we have (for Gandhi),” Pelosi said.