Tit for tat: India raises concerns about human rights in US in a riposte to Blinken’s comments

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Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, left, with India’s Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar in Washington, D.C. April 13, 2022, Photo: Twitter @SecBlinken

In a sharp and somewhat unprecedented rejoinder, Indian External Affairs S Jaishankar said “people” are entitled to have views about India’s policies but at the same time, New Delhi is “equally entitled” to have views about them. This came a day after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s publicly expressed charges on a “rise in human rights abuses” in India,

Jaishankar, in his first official reaction to the US statements on Wednesday, was apparently referring to the hate attack on two Sikh men in New York.

At a joint news conference after the 2+2 dialogue of top US and Indian ministers on Monday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had said the US is monitoring some recent “concerning developments” in India, including what he called a rise in “human rights abuses” by some government, police, and prison officials.

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Blinken was speaking with Jaishankar, Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin by his side. Jaishankar did not respond to the remarks at the press conference but did so on Wednesday.

“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,” Jaishankar said at a press briefing for Indian journalists with Indian Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu by his side, adding that the human rights issue was not a topic of discussion during the 2+2 ministerial meeting.

“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,” said Jaishankar somewhat tartly.

It was an apparent reference to two Sikh men assaulted on Tuesday in an alleged hate crime incident in the Richmond Hills area of New York The two, who were on an early morning walk, were attacked reportedly at the same location where a member of the community was attacked nearly 10 days ago.

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