Top U.S. diplomat testifies at Senate hearing on India-U.S. security partnership, human rights, and China

Donald Lu discussed India’s relationship not just with the U.S., but also Russia, China and its Indo-Pacific neighbourhood

March 03, 2022 09:17 am | Updated 09:17 am IST

Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia Donald Lu. File

Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia Donald Lu. File | Photo Credit: Mohammed Yousuf

The new Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia (the top position in the bureau), Donald Lu, testified before the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday, on a wide range of aspects of the India-U.S. relationship. In over an hour, Mr. Lu discussed India’s relationship not just with the U.S., but also Russia, China and its Indo-Pacific neighbourhood. He said there was “growing convergence” in the relationship, while also expressing concerns over human rights in India.

Mr. Lu, who was the Deputy Chief of Mission in New Delhi between 2010 and 2013, said the relationship was one of the defining partnerships that would determine the security of Asia, the U.S. and the world.

“As the world’s largest democracy, India has a vibrant civil society, a free media and independent judicial system. However, we are concerned about human rights challenges, including the lack of State Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir and reports of ongoing human rights abuses,” Mr. Lu said.

‘Discrimination against Muslims’

“Similarly, across the country, we are closely monitoring reports of discrimination against Muslim communities and other religious minority groups as well as limits on free speech and NGOs. It is critical that India’s partners speak up when we witness troubling events, but we also support India’s democratic institutions which are the country’s key defence against the erosion of human rights,” he said during his opening remarks, adding that there was “growing strategic convergence” between the two countries.

On the security partnership, Mr. Lu pushed back against the notion that the security aspect of the Quad had been diluted relative to Trump administration days. His characterisations of the security aspect of both the bilateral partnership and the Quad had a clear “countering China” element to them, even if only because he was asked specific questions on whether and how China was being adequately countered.

Ted Cruz, a Senate Republican , asked Mr. Lu why “countering Communist China” had been de-prioritised in the Quad context (while issues like climate change had been amped up). Mr Lu said that in every Quad session in Melbourne last month there was discussion on “countering China”.

“We were talking about countering China with security and defence activities. We were also talking about countering China with COVID vaccines, as we know that this is part of China’s reach into the Indo-Pacific,” he said.

In the context of a question on India-Taiwan ties, Mr. Lu talked about economic ties and semiconductor manufacturing but also India’s maritime activity in the area.

“We have seen the Indian Navy sail into the Taiwan Straits. I think that’s symbolically very important at the time when we all are looking to provide reassurance to Taiwan about their security,” he said.

Mr. Lu was asked how India could be helpful deterring adverse Chinese action on Taiwan. He said firstly the U.S. was helping India with its own border issue with China and was following the border talks. He said the U.S. did not believe China was being serious about resolving the situation.

“We are looking very closely at the talks that the Chinese and the Indians are having along that border. Our policy is to support direct dialogue,” he said.

“But what we’re seeing is that the PRC has shown no sign of any sincere efforts at de-escalating the situation,” he said. In terms of security for Taiwan , he made references to Quad countries providing security together in the region.

“And the Malabar exercises have not only the United States [and] India, it now has Japan and Australia, participating annually in a major naval exercise that must have the Chinese going crazy and I believe we’re going to see more of that going forward, particularly with what’s happening with Ukraine,” he said.

Elections in Kashmir

On Kashmir, Mr. Lu said there was “troubling remaining work” and Assembly elections had not been held and prominent journalists were detained.

“We have not seen the holding of Legislative Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir. We have not seen free movement of journalists. We’ve seen the detention in fact of some prominent journalists in the Kashmir valley, “ he said.

“We believe all Kashmiris deserve the right to live in dignity. Enjoy the protections afforded to them by the Indian Constitution. We look forward to continuing to encourage India to fulfil those commitments.

Top News Today

Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.