US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will raise issues of human rights and democracy with the Indian leadership during his first visit to India next week. According to a senior US official, the two countries share more common values than others on these fronts.
Blinken will reach New Delhi on July 27. This will be Blinken’s first visit to India after taking over as US Secretary of State. During his visit, he will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar. The Ministry of External Affairs said that National Security Advisor Ajit Doval will also meet Blinken in New Delhi. During this, both sides will discuss a number of issues including the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and the situation in the Indo-Pacific region with Afghanistan.
It is reported that during this visit, Blinken will prepare the ground for the first face-to-face talks between the heads of state of the quad coalition of four countries (USA, India, Australia, Japan). Apart from this, there is also a 2+2 meeting between India and US at the end of this year, about which both countries will discuss.
Acting Deputy Minister of South and Central Asian Affairs Dean Thompson told reporters during a conference call before Blinken’s visit, “You are right to ask about the question of human rights and democracy, we will raise these issues and we will continue this dialogue because we firmly believe that our values on these fronts are more common than on any other front.”
“We believe that as we move forward, India is going to be an important part of continuing those conversations and making stronger efforts on those fronts in partnership,” Thompson said in response to a question. India has earlier rejected criticism over allegations by foreign governments and human rights groups of curtailing civil liberties in the country.
The US will also raise the issue of Pegasus espionage: He raised the issue of Pegasus snooping, saying, “The whole concept of using such technology in extrajudicial means against civilian organizations, or critics of power or journalists or any such person is always a matter of concern.” Asked about the use of Pegasus in India, Thompson said, “I don’t have any deep knowledge about India. I know this is a broad issue, but I would like to say that we have always said that companies should find ways to ensure that their technologies are not used in this manner. We will continue to raise those issues.”
Earlier in the day, the US has said it opposes the use of spy technologies against civilian organizations, critics of power and journalists in “extraordinary means”. However, the US clarified that it does not have any deep knowledge of the ongoing Pegasus dispute in India.