President Joe Biden East once again in the face of criticism from human rights defenders, this time for hosting a leader overseeing a democracy in decline filled with religious violence And attacks on journalists.
On Thursday, Biden hosted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a official state visit which included unity ceremonies, an Oval Office meeting, a press conference and a lavish state dinner. The visit marked the third official state visit of Biden’s presidency – the other two were French President Emmanuel Macron and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol – and is the first such Modi in the United States
In a bicameral letter Written by Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D–Md.) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D–Wash.) and signed by more than 70 other members of Congress, lawmakers encouraged Biden to make human rights and democratic values a priority during the meeting. .
“A series of independent and credible reports reflect worrying signs in India towards shrinking political space, rising religious intolerance, targeting of civil society organizations and journalists, and growing restrictionson freedom of the press and access to the internet,” the letter reads. “We do not support any particular Indian leader or political party – that is the decision of the Indian people – but we do support the important principles that should be at the heart of American foreign policy. »
“It is deeply concerning that the Indian government continues to implement policies that negatively impact the Christian, Muslim, Sikh and Hindu Dalit communities,” Stephen Schneck of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom noted in A Press release. “During this state visit, we are calling on President Biden to raise religious freedom directly with Prime Minister Modi, including urging him to change or repeal policies that target and repress religious minorities.”
“Certainly, President Biden’s perspective, which emphasizes the importance of a values-based foreign policy, striving for and praising a leader with Modi’s rights record, is under -optimal”, explains Michael Kugelman, the director of South Asia. Wilson Center Institute. “But then again, even a values-based administration will eventually fall back on this adage of international relations: interests trump moral and values-based considerations.”
The visit provided the United States with an opportunity to strengthen its relationship with India by agreeing to increased military and economic cooperation, new agreements involving drones and semiconductors, and the abolition of tariffs on American products.
Due to his growing economy and its proximity to China, India is an important ally.
“India appreciates cooperation with Washington for the tangible benefits it brings, but does not believe that it, in turn, should materially support the United States in any crisis, even one involving a common threat like China. “says Ashley J. Tellis, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, in Foreign Affairs.
Prior to the meeting, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan claimed Biden would do so privately raise issues with India’s human rights abuses and democratic backsliding, but insisted it would be diplomatic. During an interview on Tuesday, Sullivan told reporters that Biden “try to indicate where we are without coming across as denigrating or lecturing another country that has a proud history of sovereignty.”
“During the visit, Biden could have refrained from deeply embracing Modi in public or emphasizing Indian democracy. He chose to do neither,” Kugelman says. “Rights activists and other critics will be disappointed, but ultimately, from the administration’s perspective, the strategic imperative of partnership rules out anything that might rock the boat. This explains the treatment of children’s gloves on rights.”
Until the Biden administration takes concrete steps to put human rights concerns at the forefront of its foreign policy, it cannot claim human rights as a priority.