INDIA: US President Joe Biden has said that he has discussed human rights concerns in India and emphasised the significance of a free press with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi.
Biden was in the capital of India for the G20 meeting. He and Modi also had a bilateral meeting. The US president departed from India on Sunday, leaving for Vietnam before the summit’s conclusion.
Activists and advocacy groups have questioned India’s declining human rights record under Prime Minister Modi.
The government has rejected accusations that incidents targeting minority groups, particularly Muslims, have increased since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) assumed power in 2014.
In a press conference held in Hanoi, President Biden stated that he engaged in “significant conversations” with Modi regarding further enhancing the relationship between India and the United States.
“And, as I always do, I raised the important [subject] of respecting human rights and the vital role that civil society and a free press have in building a strong and prosperous country with Modi,” he stated.
As per the latest World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in May, India’s ranking has fallen by 11 positions compared to the previous year, now standing at 161 out of 180 countries.
Advocates have frequently urged Western leaders, including Biden, to address these concerns with Modi. However, analysts suggest that the US will approach this matter cautiously, given that India is viewed as a vital partner in efforts to stem China’s rise.
In May, the US warmly welcomed Modi during his state visit. Prior to the visit, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan stated that while the US would make its “view known” when it observes threats to freedoms, “we do so in a way where we don’t seek to lecture or assert that we don’t have challenges ourselves.”
In Hanoi, Biden also addressed the India-Middle East-Europe economic corridor deal announced at the summit, referring to it as a “ground-breaking partnership”.
Analysts view the corridor as a counter to China’s Belt and Road initiative because it intends to connect Middle Eastern countries to India via port and by train.
On Friday, President Biden journeyed to India to attend the G20 summit. Following his arrival, he had bilateral conversations with Prime Minister Modi after arriving, and they then had dinner at Modi’s official residence.
The statement released by India following the meeting emphasised the leaders’ commitment to collaborating on various matters but did not reference any discussion regarding human rights.