US monitoring rise in India's 'human rights abuses': Antony Blinken
In an unusually direct criticism of India, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States was monitoring "a rise in human rights abuses" in India by some officials on Monday. The remarks were made during a press conference with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, and Defense Minister Rajnath Singh after 2+2 US-India talks.
Why does this story matter?
The relationship between India and the United States has recently become strained over the Russian invasion of Ukraine since India has not directly condemned Russian aggression and has only called for a ceasefire. The remarks come amid rising social unrest and communal violence in India, including violence during Ram Navami processions and recent public rape threats against Muslim women in Uttar Pradesh's Sitapur.
Statement of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken
"We regularly engage with our Indian partners on these shared values (of human rights) and to that end, we are monitoring some recent concerning developments in India, including a rise in human rights abuses by some government, police, prison officials," Blinken said on Monday. Blinken didn't go into details. Neither of the Indian ministers—Singh and Jaishankar, who spoke after Blinken—addressed the human rights issue.
US-India 2+2 ministerial dialogue
Jaishankar and Singh discussed a variety of issues with their counterparts, such as the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, the situation in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, Indo-Pacific challenges, and other bilateral issues. Jaishnakar stated that the Indo-Pacific challenges were a major focus of the discussions. "We appreciate the attention and energy devoted by the US to the Quad. Its elevation and intensification benefit the entire Indo-Pacific," he said.
Blinken's comments on India came after domestic criticism
Blinken's comments came a few days after US Representative Ilhan Omar highlighted the US government's alleged reluctance to critique Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government on human rights. "What does Modi need to do to India's Muslim population before we will stop considering them a partner in peace?" Omar, a member of President Joe Biden's Democratic Party, had said last week.
US on India-Russia relationship
Blinken also said on Monday that "India's relationship with Russia was developed over decades at a time when the United States was not able to be a partner to India." He added that now "times have changed" and the United States is "able and willing to be a partner of choice with India across virtually every realm: commerce, technology, education, and security."
Why is Indian government being criticized over human rights?
Several Indian state governments—predominantly in states ruled by Modi's BJP—have enacted or are assessing anti-conversion laws. Critics say this violates the constitutionally guaranteed right to religious freedom. Further, critics say that the 2019 Citizenship Amendment Act undermines India's secular constitution by using religion to define citizenship. The CAA seeks to grant Indian citizenship to six non-Muslim religious groups from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.
Other steps by Modi government drew international attention
Karnataka recently banned the hijab in classrooms, favoring a uniform dress code. In addition, India revoked Jammu and Kashmir's special status in 2019, which granted the Muslim-majority region greater autonomy, and split it into two federally-run union territories.