US stays clear of BBC controversy on PM Modi; leaves India-Pak talks to bilateral track

Updated on Jan 24, 2023 12:09 PM IST

US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said he was not aware of the BBC documentary on the 2002 Gujarat riots

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (PIB Photo)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (PIB Photo)

Despite a persistent line of questioning to get the US State Department to criticise Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the recent BBC documentary on Gujarat, the United States (US) has refused to wade into the controversy or comment on the matter, and instead chose to highlight the close relationship between the two countries, especially over shared values.

Separately, while expressing its desire to see regional peace and stability in South Asia, the State Department also said the “pace, scope and character” of talks between India and Pakistan have to be decided by the two countries themselves.

At the routine press briefing on Monday, when a journalist from a Pakistani publication cited the BBC documentary on the 2002 Gujarat riots and said he “regretted” that no US official had criticised Modi yet, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said he was not aware of the documentary.

“What I will say broadly is that there are a number of elements that undergird the global strategic partnership that we have with our Indian partners. There are close political ties, there are economic ties, there are exceptionally deep people-to-people ties between the United States and India. But one of those additional elements are the values that we share, the values that are common to American democracy and to Indian democracy,” he said.

Also Read:Govt blocks access to BBC documentary on Gujarat riots

Price stated that India is the world’s largest democracy, and also a vibrant one. “We look to everything that ties us together, and we look to reinforce all of those elements that tie us together.”

When the journalist persisted, asking how US officials who were posted in Gujarat in 2002 weren’t aware that violence allegedly happened under Modi’s (who was then the chief minister of the state), Price reiterated that he was not familiar with the documentary.

“I am very familiar with the shared values that connect the United States and India as two thriving, vibrant democracies. When we have concerns about actions that are taken in India, we have voiced those. We have had an occasion to do that. But we want first and foremost to reinforce those values that are at the heart of our relationship.”

Asked, somewhat unclearly, if “such foreign policy” affected President Joe Biden’s Indian voters, Price said they did not think about it on those terms. “I don’t think about domestic politics, and neither does anyone in this building.”

Must Read:‘Propaganda’: MEA rejects BBC documentary on Modi

Responding to a separate question on Pakistani prime minister Shehbaz Sharif’s comments on peace talks with India, Price said that the US had long called for “regional stability in South Asia”.

“That’s certainly what we want to see. We want to see it advanced. When it comes to our partnership – our partnerships with India and Pakistan – these are relationships that stand on their own. We do not see these relationships as zero-sum. They stand on their own.”

On the talks itself, Price said, “The pace, the scope, the character of any dialogue between India and Pakistan is a matter for those two countries, India and Pakistan.” This is in line with India’s stance that the New Delhi-Islamabad relationship, in all its dimensions, is a bilateral issue.

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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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