Indo-US ties to strengthen with give attention to human rights

Sandeep Dikshit

Among Joe Biden’s picks are nominees to two crucial posts — Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan – who are old subcontinental hands and, like the US President-elect, have pushed for closer ties with India, especially in the Indo-Pacific, and against China.

India useful partner to deal with China

  • Both Blinken and Sullivan are clear that India will be a useful partner to deal with China’s across-the-board assertiveness.
  • The former has criticised the PLA’s aggressiveness on the LAC and its deployment of economic might to “coerce others and reap unfair advantage”. Jake Sullivan has served in the Obama administration.

However, the evidence of their stints in the Obama administration and their recent observations on India show that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is unlikely to get a free pass on the CAA and the NRC. He may also be nudged from his hard-line position of not talking to Pakistan and asserting that all that remains to be discussed on Kashmir is handing over the occupied part to India.

Already, Democratic Party supporters have urged Blinken to include India in the State Department’s list of “countries of particular concern”.

“A strong US-India strategic partnership should be anchored in an understanding that the geopolitical interests of both countries are best served by advancing democracy, human rights and religious freedom,” reasoned the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) in a statement.

It appealed to Blinken, the “stepson of a Holocaust survivor’’, to ensure that the US introduces specific reference to pluralism and freedom in all future pacts with India in trade and defence cooperation. It also wanted Blinken, whom it briefed in April this year on the CAA and the NRC, to pursue modifications in both laws to end the “inherent anti-Muslim bias”. Both Sullivan and Blinken are clear that the US’ strategic future in the subcontinent lies with India. At the same time, they are mindful of the need to preserve geopolitical stability in South Asia.

It may be a coincidence but Blinken was in India in 2015 and shortly thereafter, then Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj travelled to Islamabad followed by PM Modi’s surprise touchdown in Pakistan to meet its then PM Nawaz Sharif.

Blinken, as a matter of policy approach, is in favour of “engaging with a partner about areas where you have difference even as you are working to build a greater cooperation and strengthen the relationship going forward”.

But India can breathe easy on the Iran front as Sullivan has been clear about negotiating on the Iran nuclear deal. It can also look forward to a structured discussion on trade issues.

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