A top official of the United States in a discussion with lawmakers said that India remains the world’s largest democracy with a strong rule of law but some of the actions of the Government of India (GoI), including restrictions on freedom of expression, are inconsistent with the country’s democratic values.
The comments were made by acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Dean Thompson during a Congressional hearing on Democracy in the Indo-Pacific on Wednesday at the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, Central Asia, and Nonproliferation.
Quoting Thompson, a report by news agency Press Trust of India, said: “India remains the world’s largest democracy with a strong rule of law and independent judiciary and enjoys a strong and growing strategic partnership with the United States.”
“However, some of the Indian government’s actions have raised concerns that are inconsistent with India’s democratic values, he added.
“This includes increasing restrictions on freedom of expression and the detention of human rights activists and journalists,” the official was quoted as saying.
Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan, who represents a Congressional district from Pennsylvania, raised the issue of Kashmir during the Congressional hearing, the report said.
“Although of course, they’re two great democracies, democracies including ours and India’s are not without their flaws and problems. I do have a pretty big (number of) Kashmiris in my community and there is, of course, concern about the treatment of the Kashmiri people,” she said.
“What is the dialogue that is ongoing between the administration and the Indian government on these human rights issues broadly, if you could share a little bit there?” she was quoted as saying.
Thompson said that the Biden administration routinely raises issues related to a vast array of rights and democratic issues with India.
“Kashmir is one area where we have urged them to return to normalcy as quickly as possible, including we’ve seen some steps taken: The release of prisoners, the restoration of 4G access, things of that nature. There are other electoral steps we’d like to see them take and that we have encouraged them to do and will continue to do so,” Thompson was quoted in the report as saying.