US President Joe Biden and his administration were a great hope for Indian liberals. They believed that the Biden administration will rebuke Modi Sarkar and ‘hold India accountable’ on matters of ‘human rights’. However, things are clearly not going as planned.
US Secretary of Defence General Lloyd Austin is on an official visit to India. During a press conference on Saturday in Delhi, ‘journalists’ from news networks such as NDTV tried their best to elicit a statement that could be interpreted as a condemnation of the Modi Sarkar.
But General Austin appeared unwilling to play that game. When asked whether he had spoken with Prime Minister Modi about “violations of human rights especially against Muslim minorities in the northeast,” he said, “I did not have an opportunity to talk with him about that. I did have a conversation with other members of the cabinet on this issue.”
He went on to add, “We have to remember that India is oaur partner, a partner whose partnership we value. And I think partners need to be able to have those kinds of discussions. And certainly, we feel comfortable doing that. And you can have those discussions in a very meaningful way and make progress.”
One NDTV ‘journalist’ went so far as to ask General Austin whether he shared the concerns of Senator Robert Menendez, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, about “the deteriorating situation of democracy in India”.
General Austin responded, “You’ve heard President Biden say that human rights and rule of law are important to the United States of America. We always lead with our values. As a democracy that’s pretty important to us. India is a democratic country and you treasure your values as well. There are a number of things that we can and will work on together.”
Thus, quite clearly, despite their best efforts, Indian media could not elicit a negative comment about the Indian government from General Austin. Furthermore, he hailed India as an “important partner” under current geopolitical circumstances.
The Biden administration’s policy with respect to India appears consistent with the Trump administration. During Donald Trump’s official visit to India, the Delhi Riots had ensued and he was asked for a comment on the matter by the Indian media.
Donald Trump had replied that it was India’s internal matter and it was up to India to decide. He had said, “I want to leave that to India and hopefully they will make the right decision for their people.”
The relationship between India and the United States has been growing stronger and the US sees India as an important partner to counter China in the region. But liberals in India had convinced themselves that the USA would take it upon itself to carry forward the ‘human rights’ mantle.
One commentator, who is awarded space in the media to voice his columns despite being wrong almost every time, had gone to the extent of saying, “For four years, Trump ignored the steep decline of democracy and human rights in India. Joe Biden won’t repeat that mistake.”
During the farmer protests as well, the Biden administration in its statement on the matter had supported the laws passed by the Indian Parliament in no uncertain terms, at a time when there was a global campaign underway against India.
Thus, quite clearly, Joe Biden is unwilling to toe the liberal line when it comes to India and understands that antagonising an “important partner” it wishes to work with is not in their own interests.