Vice President Kamala Harris invoked her familial ties to India as she gently pressed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on human rights during a history-making meeting Thursday between America's first vice president of Indian descent and the leader of a country that has become an increasingly close ally, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Harris, during public remarks at her ceremonial office before the closed-door session, told Modi that as democracies around the world are under threat "it is imperative that we defend democratic principles and institutions within our respective countries."
"I know from personal experience and from my family of the commitment of the Indian people to democracy," she said, "and the work that needs to be done [so that] we can begin to imagine, and then actually achieve, our vision for democratic principles and institutions."
The remarks marked a subtle change from the Trump administration's unquestioned fidelity to the populist Modi, who has presided over an increase in religious polarization in his country, with more laws targeting religious minorities, including its large Muslim population, as well as attacks on non-Hindus, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The public discussion of about 15 minutes attracted more attention, including a large press contingent from India, than typical meetings between heads of state and vice presidents. Harris' mother was born in India, and Indian Americans are one of the fastest growing groups in the United States, with a population of more than 4 million.
Amnesty International Report
the Amnesty International has released a report slamming India for its
"punitive" lockdown in response to the Covid-19 outbreak, as well as its
handling of the anti-CAA protests, farmers' protests, Delhi riots and alleged
clampdown on civil liberties in Kashmir.
In the section on India, it said: "There was widespread impunity and lack of accountability for murders and attacks carried out by vigilante mobs and police officers against religious minorities. Dissent was repressed through unlawful restrictions on peaceful protests and by silencing critics. Human rights defenders were arbitrarily arrested."
Amnesty International India was forced to close its operations in September 2020 after Indian authorities froze its bank accounts. "This occurred shortly after Amnesty International India had published briefings demanding accountability for grave human rights violations carried out by the Delhi police and the government during the Delhi riots and in Jammu and Kashmir," the report said.
Citing Prashant Bhushan's conviction, the Amnesty International report, accused the Supreme Court of India of "routinely undermining its own impartiality and independence".
Despite the mild pressure, the two leaders shared warm words, including praise from Harris for India's role in producing COVID-19 vaccines for the world, the LA Times said, adding:
Harris stressed the importance of the Indo-Pacific at a time when the United States is trying to solidify its pivot toward Asia and strengthen ties with allies to take on China's growing military and financial influence in the region.
"The United States, like India, feels very strongly about the pride of being a member of the Indo-Pacific, but also the fragility and importance " of those relationships, including maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific," Harris told Modi during the meeting.
India has become a closer ally in recent years as American presidents from both parties have recognized the country's strategic importance in countering China's growing military and financial power.
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