The situation in Afghanistan is expected to be one of the main topics on the agenda for Blinken’s discussions with his Indian interlocutors. (REUTERS)
The situation in Afghanistan is expected to be one of the main topics on the agenda for Blinken’s discussions with his Indian interlocutors. (REUTERS)

Ahead of US secretary of state Blinken’s visit, India says ready to engage on human rights

US acting assistant secretary for South and Central Asian affairs said that both human rights and democracy would be raised during Blinken’s visit.
PUBLISHED ON JUL 25, 2021 05:24 PM IST

India has signalled that it is open to engaging on human rights and democracy with those who recognise the value of diversity against the backdrop of reports that US secretary of state Antony Blinken will raise these issues during his visit to New Delhi this week.

Ahead of Blinken’s visit, US acting assistant secretary for South and Central Asian affairs Dean Thompson said last week that both human rights and democracy would be raised during the secretary of state’s engagements in India.

“With respect to the human rights and democracy question, yes, you’re right; I will tell you that 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,” Thompson said in response to a question during a news briefing on July 23.

“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.

People familiar with planning for Blinken’s visit said on condition of anonymity on Sunday that India, as a long-standing pluralistic society, is open to engaging those who recognise the value of diversity.

“Issues such as human rights and democracy are universal and extend beyond a particular national or cultural perspective. India is proud of its achievements in both domains and is always glad to share experiences,” one of the people cited above said.

The Indian side will also raise global issues such as political and cultural rebalancing, especially New Delhi’s support for a multi-polar, democratic and diverse world order. The Indian side expects international conversations on these issues to reflect this evolution.

“We believe in equity and fairness, whether in development, climate change or global decision-making,” the person cited above said.

Discussions during Blinken’s visit will also cover working together at the UN, especially with India holding the presidency of the Security Council in August.

Despite the growing convergence between India and the US on security and strategic issues as well as the fight against Covid-19, human rights and freedom of expression have emerged as potential irritants between the two sides. Following the scrapping of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir in 2019, the US had called for the easing of restrictions on the region.

In February, during his first phone conversation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi after assuming office, US President Joe Biden had “underscored his desire to defend democratic institutions and norms around the world and noted that a shared commitment to democratic values is the bedrock for the US-India relationship”.

Also in February, the US had urged the Indian government to resume talks with protesting farmers who have gathered on the outskirts of New Delhi since late 2020. The American side has in the recent past also expressed concerns over India’s amended citizenship law.

The Indian side has usually rejected such criticism by foreign governments, including the US, and said the country’s institutions and Constitution provide adequate safeguards for human rights.

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