NEW DELHI: In what appears to be a softening of the US’ stand on human rights issues in India, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday said every democracy is a work in progress. “Both our democracies are works in progress... sometimes that process is painful. Sometimes it’s ugly. But, the strength of democracy is to embrace it. One of the elements Americans admire the most is fundamental freedom and human rights. That’s how we define India. India’s democracy is powered by free-thinking citizens,” Blinken said after his meeting with External Affairs Minister.
In his response, Jaishankar said the quest for a perfect democracy applies to the US as much as it does to India. “There is a moral obligation to right historical wrongs and our policies fall in that category. Don’t equate freedoms with non-governance or lack of governance,” he added.
A day before Blinken’s visit to India, a US State Department spokesperson had said the issue of human rights would be raised during his meetings with Jaishankar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, prompting a response from New Delhi.
“Issues such as human rights and democracy are universal and extend beyond a particular national or cultural perspective. India is proud of its achievements in both domains and is always glad to share experiences,” a government source had said.
Experts, too, believe the US can’t be too critical of India on human rights. “The US will sidestep being too harsh and critical on this as is evident from Blinken’s statement. He has called democracy a work in progress. US-India relations are no longer based on a narrow interpretation of issues and so-called irritants. It is a mature and broad- based relationship,” said Indo-US relations analyst Harinder Sekhon.
Sanjay Pulipaka, senior fellow, Delhi Policy Group, is of the opinion that the US is using a two-pronged strategy. “While they have been calling out India through legislative and civil society reports, at the executive level the conversations have only been private,” he said.