US, India need to strengthen ‘our democratic institutions”, says Blinken before talking to Indian civil society groups

Apparently sending out a message to India that has faced criticism over growing use of anti-terrorism legislation and sedition laws to arrest campaigners, journalists and students, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday said the world’s two biggest democracies need to do more to strengthen democratic institutions

Jul 28, 2021
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Antony Blinken and S Jaishankar

Apparently sending out a message to India that has faced criticism over growing use of anti-terrorism legislation and sedition laws to arrest campaigners, journalists and students, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday said the world’s two biggest democracies need to do more to strengthen democratic institutions.

 "Shared values - freedom and equality - are key and none of us have done enough. We need to strengthen our democratic institutions. This is at the core of our relationship, beyond strategic and economic ties," Blinken said ahead of a meeting with civil society groups.

"At a time of rising global threats to democracy and international freedoms – we talk about a democratic recession – it's vital that we two world-leading democracies continue to stand together in support of these ideals," he added.

He said India and the US are “connected by shared values” like rule of law and freedom of religion.

"One of the elements Americans admire most is fundamental freedom and human rights. That's how we define India. India's democracy is powered by free-thinking citizens," Blinken said.

The meeting with the civil society groups was Blinken’s first engagement in India. He later met Indian Foreign Minister S Jaishankar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

"Both of our democracies are works in progress... As I said before, sometimes that process is painful. Sometimes it's ugly. But the strength of democracy is to embrace it," Blinken said.

Civil society groups have been criticizing the Modi government for using the sedition law to silence critics. The Supreme Court on July 15 described the British-era sedition law as "colonial", and questioned whether the law was "still necessary after 75 years of Independence".

In the talks with Blinken, Indian officials are expected to express alarm over Taliban gains in Afghanistan. India is worried that a possible takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban, which it sees as backed by Pakistan, will turn the country into a base for terrorists to attack India, according to NDTV.

India, a firm backer of the Afghan government with billions of dollars in development aid, recently evacuated some of its staff from its Kandahar consulate due to the worsening security situation.

(SAM)

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