The Biden administration has sent high-profile officials to New Delhi in a sign of what it calls ‘deepening partnership’
FILE PHOTO: Uzra Zeya, Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, US Department of State, © Global Look Press / Rod Lamkey – CNP
Uzra Zeya, the US under secretary of state for democracy and human rights, has arrived in New Delhi to meet with senior government officials and civil society organizations.
In a statement announcing the visit, the State Department said Zeya will meet with senior government officials “to discuss the deepening and enduring US-India partnership, including advancing shared solutions to global challenges, democracy, regional stability, and cooperation on humanitarian relief.”
Namaste, New Delhi! Look forward to productive meetings with Government of India & civil society leaders building on momentum of @narendramodi’s historic State Visit. Together, we are working toward a that is more open, prosperous, secure, inclusive & resilient!
In Bangladesh, Zeya is set to meet with officials to discuss “shared humanitarian concerns”, including the Rohingya refugee crisis, labor issues, human rights, free and fair elections, and combatting human trafficking, the State Department press release said. Announcing the trip, she said he hopes to “advance shared solutions to global challenges, contribute to a more free, open, secure & prosperous Indo-Pacific.”
Zeya, who was appointed as special coordinator for Tibetan Issues in 2021, traveled to India in March last year and met with the Tibetan Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama, who celebrated his 88th birthday this week.
The US official’s visit to the spiritual leader’s residence in Dharamshala in the foothills of the Himalayas in northern India’s Himachal Pradesh, was criticized by China. Beijing sees the US officials’ visit as interference in its internal affairs and a violation of Washington’s commitment that Tibet is part of China.
The high-profile delegation’s arrival in India comes close on the heels of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first state visit to the US, which was overshadowed by calls for the administration of President Joe Biden to address human rights concerns with Modi.
A letter signed by more than 70 members of the US Senate and House of Representatives noted that “a series of independent, credible reports reflect troubling signs in India toward the shrinking of political space, the rise of religious intolerance, the targeting of civil society organizations and journalists, and growing restrictions on press freedoms.”
Aakar Patel, chair of the Board at Amnesty International India, said Biden and Modi must “hold each other to account for their human rights commitments, rather than sweep human rights issues in their respective countries under the rug.”
New Delhi recently pushed back at Washington on human rights concerns. “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,” External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said in April.
Zeya’s visit to India also comes just a few days after US Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti was criticized for commenting on India’s internal affairs after he suggested Washington was ready to assist India in tackling the raging violence in Manipur in northeastern India “if asked,” even though he accepted that it is “India’s internal matter.”