US senator expresses concerns over scuffling of human rights & democratic values in India


WASHINGTON March 19 (Online): A top-ranking US senator has expressed concerns over the scuffling of human rights and democratic values in India, warning that New Delhi could face sanctions.
In a letter to US Defence Secretary Austin Lloyd, who is due in New Delhi to meet with his counterpart, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez urged the US official to raise democracy and human rights concerns with the Indian government.
“We must acknowledge that the partnership is strongest when based on shared democratic values and the Indian government has been trending away from those values,” the chairman of the committee wrote.
Menendez said he expects Lloyd to raise Washington’s opposition to India’s reportedly planned purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defence system. He added that the sale of the arms threatens future US-India defence cooperation and “puts India at risk of sanctions under Section 231 of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).”
“India’s planned purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defence system is also a matter of concern,” the letter further said, “I recognise that India is not a US treaty ally and has historical ties with the Soviet and Russian militaries.
However, if India chooses to go forward with its purchase of the S-400, that act will constitute a significant, and, therefore, sanctionable, transaction with the Russian defence sector under Section 231 of CAATSA.”
The letter warned that the action will also limit India’s ability to work with the US on the development and procurement of sensitive military technology.
The letter also pointed out the Indian government’s ongoing crackdown on farmers peacefully protesting new farming laws and corresponding intimidation of journalists and government critics that only underscores the deteriorating situation of democracy in India.
“Moreover, in recent years, rising anti-Muslim sentiments and related government actions like the Citizenship Amendment Act, the suppression of political dialogue and arrest of political opponents following the abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir, and the use of sedition laws to persecute political opponents have resulted in the US human rights group Freedom House stripping India of its ‘Free’ status in its yearly global survey,” the letter said.
The senator said that the Interim National Security Strategic Guidance of the US states that “democracy is essential to meeting the challenges of our time.”
The US lawmaker told the defence secretary that Washington should partner with New Delhi to tackle the challenges coming from China and climate change but warned that the country cannot do it by letting the democratic values fall.
The senator asked Llyod to raise the importance of democracy and human rights in his meetings with Indian officials to make clear that respect for democratic values is necessary for strong, sustainable US-India relations.