Lawmakers in US write to President Biden to raise concern related to democracy and human rights With PM ModiDuring PM Modi’s official visit to India, US President Joe Biden is being encouraged by 75 Democratic legislators to discuss “areas of concern” regarding democratic regress with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Tuesday marked the beginning of Modi’s three-day state visit to the United States, which will end in Washington. He arrived in New York. In the past nine years, he has visited the US five times, but this is the first time he has been given the full diplomatic treatment of a state visit.
“As longtime supporters of a strong US-India relationship, we also believe that friends can and should discuss their differences in an honest and forthright way. That is why we respectfully request that — in addition to the many areas of shared interests between India and the US — you also raise directly with Prime Minister Modi areas of concern,” said the letter, which was led by Senator Chris Van Hollen and Representative Pramila Jayapal.
Modi expressed his gratitude for “people from all walks of life including Members of Congress, thought leaders, and others who have been sharing their enthusiasm on my upcoming USA visit” in a tweet from the previous day. He provided a link to the Twitter page of the Indian embassy in the US, where there were videos of about five Congressmen and other state assembly members formally welcome Modi to the country.
In an interview, the Indian prime minister was questioned about worries regarding the harsh use of the legislation to target political opponents, minorities, and members of civil society. According to the newspaper, Modi declined to respond.
75 Democratic members of Congress, including 18 senators and 57 members of the House of Representatives, signed the letter, which was delivered to the White House on Tuesday. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, both of whom ran for president in the Democratic Party’s primaries, are among the signatories.
It noted that US President Biden had made “made respect for human rights, press freedom, religious freedom, and pluralism core tenets of American foreign policy”.
The letter stated that “we must apply them equally to friend and foe alike, just as we work to apply these same principles here in the United States, in order to advance these values with credibility on the global stage.”
It stated that there have been “independent, credible reports” that show “troubling signs in India towards the shrinking of political space, the rise of religious intolerance, the targeting of civil society organisations and journalists, and growing restrictions on press freedoms and internet access”.
It cited international lists that track press freedom and internet shutdowns, annual reports from the State Department on human rights and religious freedom, and more.
“We do not endorse any particular Indian leader or political party — that is the decision of the people of India — but we do stand in support of the important principles that should be a core part of American foreign policy. And we ask that, during your meeting with Prime Minister Modi, you discuss the full range of issues important to a successful, strong, and long-term relationship between our two great countries,” said the letter.
A Democratic congresswoman named Rashida Talib tweeted that she would not attend the joint address of the Indian prime minister to Congress on Thursday. “It’s shameful that Modi has been given a platform at our nation’s capital—his long history of human rights abuses, anti-democratic actions, targeting Muslims & religious minorities, and censoring journalists is unacceptable,” she said on social media.
Several rights organisations have organised protests throughout the visit, and Modi fans are also lining up to welcome him everywhere he goes.
Additionally, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), a bipartisan Congressional commission, requested Vice President Biden to bring up human rights concerns when Modi visited.
The Biden administration has a special chance to openly include religious freedom concerns into the bilateral relationship between the two countries with India’s impending state visit. In a press release, USCIRF commissioner David Curry said, “It is critical that the US government recognise the Indian government’s commission and toleration of particularly egregious abuses of religious freedom against its own population and urge the government to meet its human rights duties.
Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, had previously told reporters last month that the US president thinks “this is an important relationship that we need to continue and build on as it relates to human rights.”