We too take up human rights issues in US when they arise: Jaishankar | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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We too take up human rights issues in US when they arise: Jaishankar

By, Washington
Apr 14, 2022 06:52 AM IST

Jaishankar also mentioned a case on Tuesday, when two Indian-American Sikh men were assaulted in an alleged hate crime in New York.

In the wake of Secretary of State Antony J Blinken saying the US is monitoring cases of increased human rights abuses by Indian government, police and prison officials, external affairs minister S Jaishankar said on Wednesday that human rights issues were not discussed in the bilateral dialogue, hinted that “interests, lobbies and vote banks” driving the US position, pointed to India monitoring human rights violations in the US itself, and said that the country would not be reticent about the issue.

FILE PHOTO: Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar speaks during the annual Munich Security Conference, in Munich, Germany February 19, 2022. REUTERS/Andreas Gebert (REUTERS)
FILE PHOTO: Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar speaks during the annual Munich Security Conference, in Munich, Germany February 19, 2022. REUTERS/Andreas Gebert (REUTERS)

Jaishankar also mentioned a case on Tuesday, when two Indian-American Sikh men were assaulted in an alleged hate crime in New York.

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Saying that the issue of human rights had come up in the past – including during Blinken’s visit to India last year – Jaishankar said, “We did not discuss human rights in this meeting. This meeting was focused on pol-mil (political-military) issues.” He added, “People are entitled to their views about us. But we are equally entitled to have views about their views and about the interests and lobbies and vote banks that drive that. Whenever there is a discussion, we will not be reticent about speaking out.”

The minister said India also had views about the human rights situation in other countries, including in the US. “We take up human rights issues when they arise in this country, especially when it pertains to our community. We had a case yesterday. That’s really where we stand on that matter.”

India, it is understood, believes that Blinken’s comment – which was one sentence in a fairly expansive set of positive remarks about the relationship – was driven by the Democratic administration’s need to cater to its “domestic constituency”. These include a set of progressive lawmakers, Muslim groups and human rights organisations.

While the issue of human rights has historically been an irritant in the relationship, it got a renewed lease after in the wake of Parliament’s decision to effectively abrogate Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, the subsequent curtailment of political activity and communication in the new union territories, the National Register of Citizens exercise in Assam and the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. In 2019-2020, Democratic lawmakers increasingly took a critical position against India, while Delhi claimed that all these decisions pertained to its internal affairs, the measures were not discriminatory or unconstitutional, and pushed back against criticism.

The dip in India’s rankings on a range of freedom and democracy listings and reports of discrimination and hate speech against Muslims have led to a fresh set of criticism, especially on the Hill. But the US administration, while raising the issue sporadically, has kept its eyes firmly focused on the larger strategic and economic relationship with India. This has been reflected in bilateral engagements, the intensification of Quad, cooperation across a range of new domains, as well as, most recently, the effort to manage differences over Ukraine in a constructive manner.

This, in turn, has led to pressure on the administration from Democratic supporters and allied groups to speak up more vocally. An annual State Department country report on human rights practices in India in 2020, released on Tuesday, criticised New Delhi’s human rights record, including on issues such as civil liberties. It was in this context that Blinken spoke, and Jaishankar responded.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Prashant Jha is the Washington DC-based US correspondent of Hindustan Times. He is also the editor of HT Premium. Jha has earlier served as editor-views and national political editor/bureau chief of the paper. He is the author of How the BJP Wins: Inside India's Greatest Election Machine and Battles of the New Republic: A Contemporary History of Nepal.

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