Blinken’s visit: US, India avoid stumbling over issues of human rights

NEW DELHI: While the US and India avoided a stumble on human rights issues on Wednesday, visiting secretary of state Antony Blinken sent a strong message to China by meeting representative of the Dalai Lama and separately meeting an official in the Tibetan government in exile.
The signal came even as Blinken said diversity fuels US and India’s national strength and Indian democracy is powered by its free thinking citizens after a meeting with his counterpart S Jaishankar. At a roundtable with civil society, Blinken said both India and the US democracies were works in progress and that successful democracies include thriving civil societies. “That’s how citizens become more fully engaged in the life of their communities. It’s how we organise and provide the resources to respond to emergencies,” he said, adding that a vibrant civil society is needed to make democracies more open, more inclusive, more resilient and more equitable.
The round table was, however, also attended by a representative of the Dalai Lama. In what was seen as a clear message to China about continued US support to the Tibetan cause, Blinken also separately met Ngodup Dongchung, an official in the Tibetan government-in-exile and representative of the Dalai Lama.
The meeting with the Dalai Lama’s people would hardly have gone down well with China which has refused to soften its dislike for the widely respected leader who is held in reverence by Tibetans the world over.
Blinken said India-US shared values and democratic traditions were part of the conversation and added that Americans admire Indians’ commitment to rights, democracy and pluralism.
“The relationship is strong because it’s between two democracies. Indian democracy is powered by its freethinking citizens. I approach this with humility. US has challenges too. The search is for a more perfect union which means we are not perfect. Sometimes, the challenges can be painful, even ugly,” said Blinken, responding to a query on the alleged decline of democratic values in India.
Jaishankar responded by saying that the quest for a more perfect union applied to the US too and all other democracies, including 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,” said Jaishankar.
“The Indian people and the American people believe in human dignity, in equality of opportunity, the rule of law, fundamental freedoms, including freedom of religion and belief. We believe that all people deserve to have a voice in their government and be treated with respect no matter who they are. These are fundamental tenets of democracies like ours, and our purpose is to give real meaning to these words and constantly renew our commitment to these ideals,” he said.

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