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Key US Legislator Calls on Defense Secretary Austin to Raise Human Rights Issues with New Delhi | India News


WASHINGTON: Reflecting the priorities of the liberal Democratic base, a top US lawmaker dealing with foreign affairs asked Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, currently en route to New Delhi, to “specifically raise concerns about democracy and human rights” in his discussions. with the Indian government.
Lloyd was also instructed to reaffirm the Biden administration’s opposition to India’s purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defense system in a forceful letter from US Senator Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat who is chair of the Relations Committee. Senate Exteriors.
“If India chooses to go ahead with the S-400 purchase, that law will clearly constitute a significant, and therefore punishable, transaction with the Russian defense sector under Section 231 of CAATSA. It will also limit India’s capacity. to work with the On the Development and Acquisition of Sensitive Military Technology. I hope you will clear up all these challenges in discussions with your Indian counterparts, “Menéndez wrote.
The content and tone of the letter confirmed the apprehension in some quarters that a Democratic dispensation in Washington would take a harder line on the BJP government’s approach to issues such as human rights, civil liberties, minority issues, as well as taking a stricter approach to New Delhi politics. Permanent defense ties with Moscow even though it has reformed its approach to security and developed stronger relations with the United States.
Austin, who is America’s first black defense secretary, will arrive in New Delhi on Friday to promote these ties that have been progressively strengthened through the Democratic and Republican administrations over the past 25 years. But Menendez pushed him to reflect Congressional Democratic priorities that are guided by constituent pressure.
“I would like to see the partnership between the United States and India grow, but we must recognize that the partnership is stronger when it is based on shared democratic values ​​and the Indian government has been moving away from those values,” Menéndez wrote, adding that the Indian government “The ongoing crackdown on farmers peacefully protesting the new farm laws and the corresponding intimidation of journalists and government critics only underscores the deterioration of the state of democracy in India.”
In addition, in recent years, the growing anti-Muslim sentiment and related government actions, such as the Citizenship Amendment Act, the suppression of political dialogue and the arrest of political opponents following the repeal of Article 370 in Kashmir, and the use of laws of sedition to persecute political opponents. have resulted in the US human rights group Freedom House stripping India of its “Free” status in its annual global poll, Austin reminded him.
“As the Provisional National Security Strategic Guide says, ‘Democracy is essential to meet the challenges of our time.’ We should try to partner with India to address China’s challenges to climate change, but in doing so we cannot let our democratic values ​​crumble. I urge you to raise the importance of democracy and human rights in your meetings with Indian officials to make clear that respect for democratic values ​​is necessary for strong and sustainable relations between the United States and India, “Menéndez wrote.
Regarding India’s planned purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defense system, Menendez said that while he acknowledges that India is not an ally of the US treaty and has historical ties to the Soviet and Russian armies, it remains “a motive. of concern”.
If India chooses to go ahead with its purchase of the S-400, that law will clearly constitute a significant, and therefore punishable, transaction with the Russian defense sector under CAATSA Section 231 and will also limit India’s ability to work with the S-400. The US developing and acquiring sensitive military technology, he said, asking Austin to “clarify all of these challenges in discussions with his Indian counterparts.”

Times of India