India ready to engage with Blinken on human rights: Officials

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During his two-day visit, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken plans to raise New Delhi’s human rights record.

India is proud of its pluralistic traditions and happy to discuss the issue with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken during his visit beginning on Tuesday, foreign ministry sources said after Washington said Blinken plans to raise New Delhi’s human rights record.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has faced allegations it has suppressed dissent, pursued divisive policies to appeal to its Hindu nationalist base and alienated Muslims, the country’s biggest minority.

Ahead of Blinken’s first trip as secretary of state, the Department of State says he will discuss India’s human rights record as well as a religion-based citizenship law enacted by the Modi government two years ago and seen as discriminatory by Muslims.

Indian foreign ministry sources said issues such as human rights and democracy were universal and extended beyond a particular country or culture.

One source said India was a longstanding pluralistic society and was open to engaging with “those who now recognise the value of diversity”.

The sources could not be identified under government policy.

India and the US are building close political and security ties to push back against China’s growing assertiveness in the region and both sides have said Blinken’s trip is aimed at further boosting cooperation.

But rights activists say there is a growing climate of intolerance in India and that the US must lean on the Modi government to uphold diversity and democratic values, especially if the two countries are drawing closer together to confront an authoritarian China.

Dean Thompson, the State Department’s acting assistant secretary for South and Central Asian affairs, told reporters that the US will continue to have conversations with the Indian side on human rights because these were common values for both countries.

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