President Biden Tells PM Modi of India to Respect Democratic Values

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Photo: Joe Biden Campaign
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Photo: Joe Biden Campaign

In order to save humanity everywhere from cruel rulers, Biden should discontinue all trade and travel ties with the autocratic nations which operate under the false cover of democracy.

By Rakesh Raman

As India has almost lost its status of a democracy, the world leaders are accusing Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi for his autocratic actions against the people of India. With extreme corruption, human rights violations, and disrespect for the rule of law under the Modi regime, India has become a veritable dictatorship state like North Korea, Russia, or China.

While Modi is inspired by the despotic tendencies of the former U.S. President Donald Trump, it seems that the new U.S. administration has decided to tame Modi which is behaving as a Trump clone. In his call with Modi on February 8, President Joe Biden made it clear that he wants India to respect democratic values, which have vanished during the past 6 years of Modi’s rule in India.

According to a White House statement, President Biden told Modi his desire to defend democratic institutions and norms around the world and noted that a shared commitment to democratic values is the bedrock for the U.S.-India relationship.

Although this is a perfunctory statement, Biden cannot afford to ignore extreme social and political unrest in India particularly when the U.S. President has promised to restore America’s place in the world. He should start his democracy-restoration campaign from India which is facing extreme upheavals that are usually seen in authoritarian regimes. Biden must join top UN officials and world leaders who are constantly raising concerns about erosion of democracy in India. 

For example, over 200 top citizens from the United Kingdom (UK) recently condemned the “dictatorial and majoritarian agenda” being pursued by the Indian government headed by PM Modi. In an open letter signed by prominent figures from the field of arts, academia, journalism, law, and politics, the signatories have accused the Modi government of trumping up charges against students, human rights defenders, and civil society activists for peaceful and democratic protests.

A number of British MPs cutting across various political parties, including Labour Party’s Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell and Scottish National Party’s Philipa Whitford, are among the signatories who have lamented that “India’s image in the world has never been so tarnished.”

Global researchers also comment that India has continued on a path of steep decline, to the extent that it has almost lost its status as a democracy. The dive in press freedom, attacks on the opposition, and increasing repression of civil society associated with the current Hindu-nationalist regime of PM Modi are among the factors that India is on the verge of losing its status as a democracy. These are among the findings of a new research reportAutocratization Surges–Resistance Grows Democracy Report 2020” released by the V-Dem Institute in Sweden.

The report says that India is on the verge of losing its status as a democracy due to the severely shrinking of space for the media, civil society, and the opposition under Modi’s government. Now India is placed among the 10 autocratizing countries, including Brazil, Poland, Ukraine, the United States of America, and Turkey, amongst others. 

Modi and his government are being censured by leaders from across the world for their dictatorial actions. Last year, for example, four U.S. Senators had expressed their deep anguish over the continuing human rights violations in India.

In their letter written to the-then U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the Democratic as well as Republican Senators raised concerns about the continuing trouble in Indian-occupied Kashmir and the discriminatory Citizenship (Amendment) Act or CAA introduced by the Modi government.

Moreover, in October last year, the Chair of the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights, Maria Arena (S&D, BE), expressed deep concern over the deteriorating law and order situation in India under the Modi government.

“It is with great concern that I have been observing the rule of law deteriorate in India, which is the very cornerstone of our special relationship,” Ms Maria Arena said in an official statement.

She added that the marginalized communities, religious minorities, particularly Muslims, a vocal and vibrant civil society and critics of government policies have been under increasing pressure for a long time. Her statement as a member of the European Parliament listed a number of cases in which the Modi government is committing grave atrocities and human rights violations on the Indian citizens.

While the Modi government is being accused of human rights violations and crimes against humanity by the global human rights organizations, UN agencies, and the world leaders, there is no punitive action being taken against Modi and his accomplices in the government.

As an apex organization of Muslims across the world, the Contact Group of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) held an exclusive meeting against the backdrop of the troubled situation in J&K. The Contact Group of OIC – which is the 2nd largest intergovernmental organization after the UN with 57 member states – called on India to halt security operations against the J&K people immediately.

In an official statement, the Group also advised India to respect basic human rights, refrain from changing the demographic structure of the disputed Kashmir  territory, and settle the conflict under the relevant United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions.

In 2019, children’s rights activist and Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai also urged the UN General Assembly to bring peace to Kashmir, which is currently under the occupation of Indian security forces.

Malala said she is deeply concerned about reports of 4,000 people, including children, arbitrarily arrested and jailed, about students who haven’t been able to attend school, and about girls who are afraid to leave their homes.

However, the hollow condemnation statements from the domestic leaders as well as the world community against the excesses of the Modi government are falling on deaf ears. In the absence of any penal action against Modi and his party colleagues, the human rights violations and crimes against humanity being committed by the Modi government will continue. 

President Biden must realize that statements without consequences have no effect. Therefore, instead of releasing ambiguous statements about Modi and India, Biden must take decisive actions to get democracy restored in India. The Biden Administration must follow the path shown by Martin Luther King Jr., when he wrote in his letter from the Birmingham Jail, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

While the U.S. has seen India only as a potential buyer mainly of expensive U.S. defence equipment, the U.S.-India relations have been largely buyer-seller relations. But Biden must put people before profits and save Indians from the cruelty of the Modi government.

In order to save humanity everywhere from cruel rulers, Biden should discontinue all trade and travel ties with the autocratic nations, such as India, which operate under the false cover of democracy. Only then President Biden will be able to restore America’s place in the world, as he has promised.

By Rakesh Raman, who is a national award-winning journalist and social activist. He is the founder of a humanitarian organization RMN Foundation which is working in diverse areas to help the disadvantaged and distressed people in the society.

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