More than 70 American Senators and Representatives have written to U.S. President Joe Biden on the eve of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s arrival in Washington DC for a state visit, asking Mr. Biden to raise concerns around democratic norms and human rights in India with Mr. Modi.
“A series of independent, credible reports reflect troubling signs in India toward the shrinking of political space, the rise of religious intolerance, the targeting of civil society organizations and journalists, and growing restrictions on press freedoms and internet access,” the lawmakers wrote, citing a number of reports and statistics such as rankings for press and religious freedoms.
The letter said India and U.S. “share a special bond through moral leaders who shaped our histories” and cited the esteem with which Mahatma Gandhi and U.S. civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. are held in India and the U.S. respectively.
The lawmakers emphasised their support for deepening cooperation between the U.S. and India in the fields of defence, supply chain resilience, pharmaceuticals and they support “robust” cultural engagement between the countries. They also made clear that they did not endorse any particular political party or leader for India.
“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,” the letter said as it welcomed Mr. Modi to the U.S.
The letter’s signatories asked Mr. Biden to “discuss the full range of issues important to a successful, strong, and long-term relationship between our two great countries” saying they want the U.S.-India relationship to not only be build on shared interests but also on shared values.
Indian-origin Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (Democrat, Washington) and Senator Chris van Hollen (Democrat, Maryland) were the lead authors of the letter.
A number of protests have been planned for Mr. Modi’s time in Washington as well as a screening, by Human Rights Watch and Amensty International USA, of a BBC documentary critical of Mr Modi’s actions and policies towards India’s minorities.