At Davos, billionaire George Soros tears into Narendra Modi; says nationalism in India 'biggest and most frightening setback'

  • With nationalism making further headway around the world, Soros said that the 'biggest and most frightening setback' was in India.

  • His statements assume significance as it comes at a time when the Modi government has been facing backlash over the newly amended Citizenship Act.

  • Soros said humanity was at a turning point and the coming years would determine the fate of rulers like President Donald Trump and China's Xi Jinping as well as the world itself.

Hungarian-American financier and philanthropist George Soros criticised the Narendra Modi government at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, accusing the prime minister of "creating a Hindu nationalist state".

"Far from being reversed, it made further headway. The biggest and most frightening setback came in India, where a democratically elected Narendra Modi is creating a Hindu nationalist state," Soros said while speaking on nationalism.

His statements assume significance as it comes at a time when the Modi government has been facing backlash over the newly amended Citizenship Act. The contentious law was in Parliament on December, 2019, to provide citizenship to persecuted minorities belonging to six non-Muslim religions from three neighbouring countries of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

 At Davos, billionaire George Soros tears into Narendra Modi; says nationalism in India biggest and most frightening setback

File image of Hungarian-born US investor and philanthropist George Soros. AFP

The businessman also accused Modi of imposing "punitive measures on Kashmir, a semi-autonomous Muslim region". He also alleged that Modi was "threatening" to deprive millions of Muslims of their citizenship.

He expressed grief that the world's strongest powers — the United States, China and Russia under President Vladimir Putin — were "in the hands of would-be or actual dictators and the ranks of authoritarian rulers continued to grow", adding that, "most troublingly, Chinese President Xi Jinping was seeking to bring into existence "a new type of authoritarian system and a new type of human being who is willing to surrender his personal autonomy in order to stay out of trouble."

Soros said humanity was at a turning point and the coming years would determine the fate of rulers like President Donald Trump and China's Xi Jinping as well as the world itself.

"We live at a transformational moment in history. The survival of open societies is endangered and we face an even greater crisis: climate change," said the Hungarian-born billionaire.

He again slammed Trump, describing the US leader as a "conman and the ultimate narcissist" but said the current surge in economic strength for the United States may have come too soon for the US leader as he faces re-election later in 2020.

"Trump has managed to overheat an already buoyant economy. An overheated economy can't be kept at the boiling point for too long," warned Soros, credited with correctly predicting major market swings in his career as an investor.

"If all this happened close to the election it would have assured his election. His problem is that the election is still 10 months away and, in a revolutionary situation, that's a lifetime," he added.

On US-China relations, Soros commented: "Trump is willing to sacrifice the national interests for his personal interests and he will do practically anything to win re-election. By contrast, Xi Jinping is eager to exploit Trump's weaknesses and use artificial intelligence to achieve total control over his people."

On Thursday, he pledged one billion dollars for a new university network project to battle the erosion of civil society in a world increasingly ruled by "would-be and actual dictators" and beset by climate change.

He described the plan of the Open Society University Network (OSUN) as "the most important project of my life" that would be an international platform for teaching and research.

It would seek to reach out to "places in need of high-quality education and in serving neglected populations" such as refugees, prisoners, the Roma and other displaced peoples like the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar", he said.

"To demonstrate our commitment to OSUN, we are contributing one billion dollars to it," said Soros in his traditional annual Davos address.

Soros, whose Central European University (CEU) was forced to leave Hungary after pressure from the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, said the project was needed at a time when open society was at more risk than ever.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Jan 24, 2020 13:57:28 IST