Understanding post-2013 US-India partnership: Human rights second to geopolitics

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 18 December 2019, 23:44 GMT]
“[W]hen I entered the Foreign Service, the Quad was the U.S., UK, France, and Germany. Today the Quad is something very different reflecting the new world realities that we confront,” said Alice G. Wells, the principal deputy assistant secretary at the US Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, delivering special remarks on 60-year diplomatic relations between the USA and India last week. “The formation of the Quad about 2.5 years ago, which consists of the U.S., India, Japan, and Australia and met for the first time at the Ministerial level on the margins of the UN General Assembly, is an important step forward in aligning like-minded powers behind the principle of a free and open Indo-Pacific, and just I think a few weeks ago India hosted a successful counter-terrorism tabletop exercise among Quad partners,” the US top-diplomat on South Asia observed.

“[O]ur increased consultations on regional issues will be a central component of the upcoming 2+2, where we envision in-depth discussions on a range of pressing issues, whether it’s Afghanistan, terrorism, regional connectivity and the Indo-Pacific, she observed while addressing the Atlantic Council in Washington DC, on 11 December.

The US Secretary of Defense (Defence Minister) Mark Esper and US Secretary of State (Foreign Minister) Mike Pompeo are meeting their respective Indian counterparts Rajnath Singh and S Jaishankar in the second 2+2 meeting in Washington DC on Wednesday this week.

When asked to comment on the human rights situation in India, about Kashmir and specifically on the new Citizenship Registration Bill, Ambassador Wells kept a low profile assigning the matter to institutions and mechanisms of the “democracies”.

“[A]s democracies I think we recognize that institutions have their role to play, and as I said in my testimony before Congress, a lot of the legislation or actions that are now attracting attention here in the United States and certainly are attracting the attention of members of Congress, you know, these are issues that are being debated hotly in India. These are issues that are being taken up at the political level. These are issues that are being taken up in the Indian judiciary. And we need to respect that and let those processes play out.”

“And just as we do with every other country in the world, we produce a human rights report,” she added.

“The strategy is economics, it’s governance, it’s strategic military to military, but you have to acknowledge today that the threat to the free and open nature of the Indo-Pacific and the broader threat to the post-World War II order has been China’s increasing assertiveness, both economically and certainly for India that shares a long border with China, militarily.

“So there is a geopolitical I think understanding that like-minded countries, most importantly India and the United States, need to be able to stand for the values of free and open, but it has to be more than rhetoric,” she observed while responding to a comment from the moderator.

Ms Alice G Wells heads the US Department of State bureau that deals with US foreign policy and US relations with the countries of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

“I think India from the very beginning recognized, for instance, the Belt and Road Strategy for what it was. A geopolitical play to advance China’s specific interests, not the development needs of the countries where it was operating. Increasingly we’ve seen in places, whether it’s Sri Lanka and Maldives in the near neighborhood, or Pakistan or Malaysia or others, what BRI has come to stand for,” she further observed.

India is yet to become a an ally of the USA, she further observed, with the remark: “it occupies its own significant and unique status and role in our partnerships.”

India is a Major Strategic Partner to the USA at the moment.

With Narendra Modi's government in power in New Delhi, the USA and India have been working together to overcome the challenges in ways that would have seemed otherwise impossible in the past, “and certainly in the year 2000 when I first served in India when Ashley Tellis was there,” she said.

The peace process between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the Government of Sri Lanka was launched at a time when the US and India were still aspiring to become strategic partners, but had a long way to go. Some of the diplomatic missions of the Western countries in Colombo were larger in their size than their missions in New Delhi. But, today, after 10-years of genocidal onslaught against the Eezham Tamils, the situation is completely different. The US and Indian interests have become institutionally synchronised as never before, especially after 2013 launch of China's Belt and Road Strategy.

New Delhi's wrongdoings against the Muslims and Eezham Tamils, as witnessed in the Citizenship Amendment Act protests these days, are silently tolerated by the US diplomats, who make their decisions purely based on the strategic and geopolitical interests, commented Tamil activists in Jaffna.

External Links:
New York Times: Why the State Dept. Has Largely Been Muted on India’s Moves Against Muslims
US Department of State : Commemorating the 60th Anniversary of President Eisenhower’s Historic Visit to India



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