Ready to assist if asked but this is an Indian matter: US envoy on Manipur crisis
Speaking at a press meet at the American Center in Kolkata,US ambassador Eric Garcetti hastened to add that the situation in the northeastern state is an internal matter of India
The United States has “human concerns” about the violence in Manipur and is “ready, willing, able to assist in any way if asked” to do, US ambassador Eric Garcetti has said.
Speaking at a press meet at the American Center in Kolkata on Thursday, Garcetti hastened to add that the situation in the northeastern state is an internal matter of India.
He expressed the hope that peace will return to Manipur as this will pave the way for more progress and investments in the region.
Garcetti made the remarks while responding to a question from a reporter on whether the violence in Manipur over the past two months, including deaths and attacks on the state’s Christian minority, were a matter of concern for the US.
“Let me speak about Manipur first, which is that we pray for peace there. When you ask does it concern the United States, I don’t think it’s about strategic concerns, I think it’s about human concerns,” he said.
“You don’t have to be Indian to care when children or individuals die in the sort of violence that we see, and we know that peace is the precedent for so many other good things. There has been so much progress in the northeast and the east... The country has done some remarkable things in recent years and those can’t continue without peace,” Garcetti said.
He added, “We stand ready, willing, able to assist in any way if asked but we know this is an Indian matter. We pray for that peace, that it may come quickly because we can bring more collaboration, more projects, more investment if that peace is in place.”
Asked about Garcetti’s remarks at a regular media briefing on Thursday, external affairs ministry Arindam Bagchi said he wasn’t aware of the full details of the US envoy’s comment and added, “I think we would also [want to] see peace there and I think our agencies and our security forces are working and our local government are working on it.”
Bagchi further said, “I am not sure foreign diplomats would usually comment on internal developments in India.”
Manipur has been racked by violence following clashes since May 3 between the mostly Hindu Meitei majority and the Christian Kuki minority.
More than 120 deaths have been reported from the state and tens of thousands of people have been displaced by the continuing violence.
In his opening remarks at the press meet, Garcetti said the eastern and northeastern regions of India matter to the US, both in terms of their location and potential.
“In terms of peace, this region – eastern and northeastern India – is unique. It’s varied, it’s got rich cultures, it’s got strategic location with five international borders. It’s the gateway to so much possibility and potential,” he said.
Without referring to Manipur, he said, “I would echo the age-old Indian wisdom of unity in diversity and an even stronger word that I’ve used in my visit – try to make a sense of belonging for everybody.”
He noted that building a sense of belonging “through our diversity is critical to promote peace”, and that regional peace and security are a common goal of the US and India.
Garcetti also acknowledged that protecting minority rights is “not easy to do in the US” and that democracies are “both about majority rule and all voices being protected”.
He said the US talks about such values “in an unabashed way”.
He added, “We won’t avoid those conversations in the private context, but we will also not wag our finger. We’re here as friends, we’re here to have conversations that are important. We’re here to engage on the promotion of everyone’s rights, whether it’s making sure there’s not the trafficking of persons, the empowerment of women, the LGBTQ populations are respected.”
Senior Congress leader Manish Tewari was among those who reacted to the US envoy’s comments, saying in a tweet, “To the best of my recollection going back at least four decades in public life I have never heard an US Ambassador making a statement of this nature about the internal affairs of India.”
Tewari said India has faced challenges in Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir and the northeast “over the decades and surmounted those with sagacity & wisdom”.
He added, “Even when [former US assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs] Robin Raphel would be loquacious on J&K in the 1990’s the US Ambassador’s in India were circumspect. I doubt if the new @USAmbIndia @ericgarcetti is cognisant of the convoluted & torturous history of US-India relations & our sensitivity about interference perceived or real, well intentioned or mal intentioned into our internal affairs.”
Garcetti was on a visit to West Bengal for meetings with political leaders and business persons.