WASHINGTON: In an otherwise congenial diplomatic engagement between top US and Indian officials, the Biden administration on Monday struck a mildly disapproving and discordant note by unilaterally raising what it said is a rise in human rights abuses in India.
“We are monitoring some recent concerning developments in India, including a rise in human rights abuses by some government, police, and prison officials,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the media following the 2+2 dialogue with the foreign and defense principals of India, prefacing the remark by noting both sides share a commitment to democratic values such as protecting human rights and regularly engage on these shared values.
The Indian side ignored the comment, choosing not to lecture a country whose Democratic administrations acknowledge its own problems with racism, human rights, and the world’s largest incarcerated population.
Although Democrats in the US open to criticism and agrees America is hardly perfect in this regard, Indian interlocutors find the US posturing tedious given its own domestic problems and the wide berth it offers to many other offending countries. While some privately acknowledge imperfections in India, they also argue that India remains an open society with many self-correcting redressal mechanisms.
In part, the human rights issues are mainly a Democratic Party concern arising from pressure from its so-called progressive lawmakers. Ahead of the 2+2 dialogue, US lawmaker Ilhan Omar, who recently described herself as hijab-wearing Muslim Congresswoman, urged President Biden to act on anti-Muslim discrimination in India, asking, “How much does the Modi administration have to criminalize the act of being Muslim in India for us to say something?”
India’s external affairs minister S.Jaishankar meanwhile zeroed in on the “human element” in the bilateral ties — including students who come to universities, the flow of talent that defines our knowledge partnership, or indeed the technology and business relationships which promote innovation — calling it the bedrock of our relationship.