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Jaishankar says India can question US human rights record too

'Look, people are entitled to have views about us… we are equally entitled to have views about their… lobbies and the vote banks which drive' propaganda, India's external affairs minister said

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After endearing to Indians with his attack on the American hypocrisy in pressuring India not to buy oil from Russia while letting Europe import many times more the volume from the invader of Ukraine, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar fired another salvo at Washington on Wednesday, saying New Delhi had concerns about human rights in the US too, alluding to attacks on Indians in that country and perhaps Hindu Americans.

The foreign affairs minister’s statement follows US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s statement that America was monitoring “a rise in human rights abuses in India by some officials”. He said this at a joint news conference on 11 April, after the 2+2 was addressed by Blinken, Jaishankar, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and US defence secretary Lloyd Austin.

In an apparent reference to anti-India propaganda by American media houses, Jaishankar said, “Look, people are entitled to have views about us. But we are also equally entitled to have views about their views and about the interests, and the lobbies and the vote banks which drive that. So, whenever there is a discussion, I can tell you that we will not be reticent about speaking out.”

“I would tell you that we also take our views on other people’s human rights situation, including that of the United States. So, we take up human rights issues when they arise in this country, especially when they pertain to our community. And in fact, we had a case yesterday… that’s really where we stand on that,” Jaishankar said.

In 2020, there were 12 incidents of hate crime against Hindus in the US — according to the Federal Bureau of released its annual hate crime statistics for that year. A day ago, two Sikh men were attacked and robbed in Queens in New York City. Last week, an elderly Sikh man was assaulted in New York.

Jaishankar said that human rights were not a topic of discussion during the India US 2+2 ministerial meeting this week.

“On the human rights issue; no, we did not discuss human rights during this meeting. This meeting was primarily focused on political-military affairs,” Jaishankar told reporters as he concluded his trip here, which was primarily to attend the India-US 2+2 ministerial dialogue.

Responding to a question, Jaishankar said while the issue of human rights was not discussed during the current meeting, it has come up in the past.

“It is a subject which has come up in the past. It came up when secretary Blinken came to India. I think if you recall the press briefings after that I was very open about the fact that we had discussed it and said what I had to say,” the external affairs minister said.

“So let me put it to you this way so that there’s clarity about where we stand on this matter,” Jaishankar said.

In a separate development, the US state department released its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, the India section of which said:

“Despite government efforts to address abuses and corruption, a lack of accountability for official misconduct persisted at all levels of government, contributing to widespread impunity. Investigations and prosecutions of individual cases took place, but lax enforcement, a shortage of trained police officers, and an overburdened and underresourced court system contributed to a low number of convictions.”

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