New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government is planning to defend India’s human rights record during US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken’s visit next week, and apprise him of the country’s “proud achievements” on upholding democratic values.
Blinken arrives in India on 27 July and is scheduled to meet his counterpart S. Jaishankar and Prime Minister Modi on 28 July. During his two-day trip, he is expected to raise with the government the Joe Biden administration’s “concerns” about India’s track record on human and democratic rights.
According to sources in the Ministry of External Affairs, issues such as human rights and democracy are “universal and extend beyond a particular national or cultural perspective and India is proud of its achievements in both domains and is always glad to share experiences”.
As a “long-standing pluralistic society, India is open to engaging those who now recognise the value of diversity”, said a source.
Last month, the Biden dispensation had expressed its “sadness” over the death of 84-year-old tribal rights activist and Jesuit priest Stan Swamy, who was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in the Bhima Koregaon case in 2020. Swamy died in hospital after contracting Covid in jail.
In its statement, the US urged India to “respect the vital role of human rights activists in healthy democracies”.
Earlier this year, in its 2020 country reports on human rights practices, the US State Department said India had several significant human rights issues, “including unlawful and arbitrary killings, restrictions on freedom of expression and the press, corruption and tolerance of violations of religious freedom”.
On Friday, the US State Department said it will discuss the issues of human and democratic rights with India because both the countries share “more values in common” in this respect than they don’t.
“With respect to the human rights and democracy question… we will raise it, and we will continue that conversation, because we firmly believe that we have more values in common on those fronts than we don’t,” said Acting Assistant Secretary Dean Thompson.
“And we believe India is going to be a really important part of continuing those conversations and building strong efforts on those fronts in partnership as we go forward.”
He added: “We’re looking forward to this opportunity for the secretary to talk with Prime Minister Modi, with EAM Jaishankar, and continue to pursue the myriad areas of common interest that we have.”
This will be Blinken’s first official visit to India since US President Biden came to power in January 2021. However, he has met Jaishankar several times since then. In May, both had wide-ranging conversations when Jaishankar visited the US.
‘Pressure’ on Pakistan
India also plans to discuss with Blinken the impact of the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan by 31 August.
Sources said New Delhi plans to understand the US’ position on Pakistan and will stress on the “need for sustained pressure on Pakistan on terror financing and terror havens” as part of its counter-terrorism measures.
India, the sources added, is also concerned with how the modalities will be shaping under the newly announced Quad arrangement among the US, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan, which was announced on 16 July.
Blinken visit to give shape to 2+2 talks
During the visit, both sides will also firm up the agenda for the 2+2 ministerial dialogue that is expected to take place later this year.
This will be the first 2+2 dialogue between New Delhi and Washington under the Biden dispensation.
According to sources, this year, the talks between the two countries’ foreign and defence ministers will cover policy exchanges, exercises, and defence transfers and technologies.
Among other things, Blinken’s trip is expected to pave the way for Prime Minister Modi’s planned visit to the US later this year.
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)
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