Rights And Money Vie For Top Slot In America's India Policy

(MENAFN- NewsIn) By K/The Citizen

Colombo, June 21: Recent trends indicate that America has a two-pronged policy towards India. The White House and the State Department are keen on helping India face the Chinese military threat and also challenge China on the issue of Tibet. US businesses want more opportunities in India. But at the same time, the American Establishment may be wanting to keep India on the leash by allowing Congressmen, the law enforcement agencies and the media to come down hard on India on human rights violations.

White House Line


The US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan visited New Delhi earlier this week and met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Minister for External Affairs S. Jaishankar, and his counterpart National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. Sullivan reviewed preparations for the upcoming official state visit of the Indian Prime Minister to the US, and discussed a range of strategic, regional, and bilateral issues including steps to advance the strategic technology and defence partnership between the US and India.

A White House readout on the visit said that the two National Security Advisors unveiled a roadmap for cooperation at a stakeholder event on the Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies (ICET).

Earlier in a telephone conversation with Modi, US President Biden had congratulated the Indian PM on his victory in India's general election. A White House readout said that the two leaders emphasised their commitment to deepening the US-India Comprehensive and Global Strategic Partnership and to advancing their shared vision of a free, open and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.

“When I reflect back on my first meeting with PM Modi, I recall being struck right away with his humble yet courageous spirit and also his bold vision for India. His Digital India initiative is one of the best I have ever seen, and recent major partnerships in defence, technology and more are a clear indicator of the country's growth trajectory,” Biden said of Modi.

Business Interests

Reflecting the wish of US businesses to grow business ties with emerging India, the Chairman Emeritus of Cisco, John Chambers, expressed high hopes in a LinkedIn post.

“I trust PM Modi with my life and I believe India will become the #1 GDP in the world, in large part because of his efforts. I look forward to collaborating further to make the US-India partnership the strongest in the world as the Chairman of the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum. Keep an eye on India – I, for one, will continue to be the biggest bull on the country under his leadership,” he gushed.

China Angle

The US interest in exploiting the India-China conflict over Tibet and the Dalai Lama, was evident when a bipartisan US Congressional delegation met with the Dalai Lama recently at his residence in Dharamshala. The seven-member high-level Congressional delegation, was led by Rep. Michael McCaul, R-exas, and included Democratic former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

Beijing considers Tibet a part of China and sees the Dalai Lama as a separatist. But the Dalai Lama denies being a separatist and says he only advocates substantial autonomy and protection of Tibet's native Buddhist culture. The US is keen on propping up Tibet's case for self-determination, which India also supports, though obliquely.

The US lawmakers told the Tibetans that a key focus of their visit was to underscore the Resolve Tibet Act, passed by the US Congress last week, which aims to encourage dialogue between the Dalai Lama and Chinese officials with the hopes of finding a peaceful resolution between Tibet and Beijing. The bill will be sent to the White House for President Joe Biden to sign into law.

McCaul said the bill reaffirmed American support for the Tibetan right to self-determination. Reacting to this sharply,
Lin Jian, a spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry, warned Washington that China will take“resolute measures”.

Human Rights Lobby

However, in the midst of all this, the US human rights lobby expressed its concerns over US officialdom's apparent bid to brush India's human rights violations under the carpet.

Senator Benjamin Cardin said:“As political leaders begin to form a new government (in India), I reaffirm my support for the people of India in their continued efforts to strengthen justice and the rule of law, to enhance transparent governance, and to safeguard human rights.”

A group of prominent Democratic senators are pressuring the Biden administration to take a“strong diplomatic response” to allegations that the Indian government was involved in a foiled plot to assassinate a Sikh separatist leader, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, on US soil.

In a two page letter to the Secretary of State Antony Blinken, senators, led by Jeff Merkley from Oregon and including Ron Wyden (Oregon), Tim Kaine (Virginia), Bernie Sanders (Vermont), and Chris Van Hollen (Maryland), said:“We urge a strong diplomatic response to ensure that all of those who were involved are held accountable, and request a briefing on the status of the administration's engagement with the Indian government on this matter.”

The senators emphasised the importance of holding those responsible accountable and urged India to uphold its human rights commitments.

“Now that India's 2024 general election has concluded, with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi returning to power, the United States has an opportunity to include this issue as a core agenda item with the Indian government. The US must be firm and resolute in opposing transnational repression, no matter the perpetrator,” the letter said.

They stressed that the US-India relationship must be“grounded in a shared commitment to democratic principles and the rule of law”.

The letter referenced Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu's statement to the House Foreign Affairs Committee in March, where he confirmed the Biden administration raised the plot“at the highest levels with India”.

Rights And Money Vie For Top Slot In America

Jake Sullivan with Narendra Modi

Pannun Case

Pannun, who holds dual American and Canadian citizenship, is the founder-leader of Sikhs For Justice (SFJ), a US-based pro-Khalistan (Sikh separatist) outfit. In July 2020, he was designated by India as an 'individual terrorist' under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

An Indian national, Nikhil Gupta (52), was accused of hiring a person for US$ 15, 000 (in advance payment) to kill Pannun. Gupta who was arrested in the Czech Republic in June 2023 was extradited to the US. On June 14, Gupta pleaded not guilty in a New York Federal court.

US federal prosecutors allege that Gupta acted on the instructions of an unnamed Indian government official. But India has denied involvement in the plot to murder Pannun and said that it had launched a high-level investigation to find out the truth.

US Attorney General's Statement

The extradition of Indian national Nikhil Gupta, shows that the United States will not tolerate attempts to 'harm' its citizens, Attorney General Merrick Garland has said.

“This extradition makes it clear that the Justice Department will not tolerate attempts to silence or harm American citizens,” Garland stated.

“Gupta will now face justice in an American courtroom for his involvement in an alleged plot, directed by an employee of the Indian government, to target and assassinate a US national for his support of the Sikh separatist movement in India,” the Attorney General added.

Deputy Attorney General, Lisa Monaco, called the alleged murder-for-hire plot a“brazen attempt to silence a political activist for exercising his freedom of speech. The extradition of the defendant is a vital step towards justice,” Monaco noted.

Christopher Wray, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), asserted that the agency“will not tolerate attempts by foreign nationals or anyone else to repress constitutionally-protected freedoms in the United States.”

In April 2024, The Washington Post reported that Vikram Yadav, an officer with India's Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), was implicated as the official behind the plot. The report also mentioned that then R&AW chief Samant Goel approved the operation.

India's Ministry of External Affairs, however, dismissed the report, saying it makes“unwarranted and unsubstantiated imputations” to claim that Indian agents were involved in the plot to kill Pannun.

It is unclear whether the alleged assassination attempt was discussed during recent talks between US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval.




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