Washington, Apr 9 (PTI) Continuing with her anti-India tirade and accusing it of pursuing an anti-Muslim policy, Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has asked why has been the Biden Administration so reluctant to criticize the Modi government on the issue of human rights.
Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, who testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee this week refuted the allegations and said the Biden Administration has been raising human rights issues with all the countries including India.
“I think it is important that we talk with countries with whom we have multiple interests about our human rights concerns. That we meet with civil society. That we deal with these issues. That we support NGOs who are pressing. That we support journalists and the freedom of journalists,” she said.
“We reinforce voices for human rights in countries even where we have many other agendas with the government of those countries. I think you will see that everywhere. When I went to India the last time as the Deputy Secretary of State, I met with the LGBTQI plus community. I have to tell you, five years ago, no such meeting would exist,” Sherman said.
Sherman was responding to a question from Congresswoman Omar who has been repeatedly alleging human rights violations in India.
“The Biden administration’s Indo-Pacific strategy says that the United States has, for a long time, seen Asia merely as an arena for geopolitical competition. I’m grateful to see that framing. I agree. One of the things I think was a profound, moral, and strategic mistake in the last Cold War was our support for brutal dictators in the name of having a common enemy,” Omar said.
“I would hope that most Americans look back at our long relationship with Pinochet in Chile, Suharto in Indonesia, … in Guatemala, and feel the same determination. I do not want to repeat those historical injustices. What worries me is that this time we seem willing to let Modi be our new Pinochet,” the Congresswoman said.
“Some in the foreign policy world seem eager to let Duterte or Marcos be our new Suharto. In the whole Indo-Pacific strategy, there are only two references to human rights. One of those is a reference to how China is undermining them. Nobody doubts that. China’s human rights record is atrocious and that is well known,” she said.
“But I ask, what about Modi in India? How are we promoting a free and open region by supporting Modi? So, I ask you, why has the Biden administration been so reluctant to criticize Modi’s government on human rights?” Omar asked.
Sherman said when he became president, Biden said that that human rights would be at the centre of his foreign policy.
“And I can assure you, in every interaction, I have had with any government, where we have concerns about their human rights record, it has been part of that dialogue. That is true for the Secretary of State,” she said.
Omar, however, did not appear to be satisfied with the answers.
“I really appreciate that sentiment and I push because when your predecessor was here, I asked the same question. What will it take? How much does the Modi administration have to criminalize the act of being Muslim in India for us to say something? And I ask you again, what will it take for us to outwardly criticize the actions that the Modi administration is taking against its Muslim minorities in India?” she asked.
“Because when we remain silent and the situation gets out of control in the way that it did with the Rohingyas, we, all of a sudden, show our interest in whatever genocide that’s taking place. But we have an opportunity now to lead and make sure that there is deterrence in the actions that they are taking as our partners,” Omar said.
“The importance that we stand up for every religion, every ethnicity, every race, every quality of diversity in this world, and certainly in our own country. We are not perfect either. I stand up for the rights of minorities and differences here in this country and we have to do so around the world,” Sherman responded. PTI LKJ RAX RAX
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