India’s top U.S. diplomat said today that the U.S. government “will continue to denounce” Indian election campaign rhetoric that borders on communal hatred. “This is a conversation that we are constantly having with our Indian colleagues,” said Elizabeth Jones, the US chargé d’affaires.
“That’s one of the benefits of this consistent relationship, that we can discuss a wide variety of issues — easy issues, hard issues; issues we agree on, issues we disagree on,” she said.
On the common rhetoric, she went on to say, “We’ve been discussing this for a long time and will continue to do so.”
The campaign in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat has taken a turn towards communally charged statements from his BJP party. Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s statement on the 2002 riots that allegedly put pressure on Muslims stood out: “There was no room for development in Gujarat because of the chaos. In 2002, they tried to to communal violence… we taught them such a lesson, we put them in jail.”
Mr. Shah did not name any community, but in the context of BJP’s aggressive Hindutva politics, it was interpreted as referring to Muslims, who in fact made up the majority of those killed in the 2002 riots when Prime Minister Modi was prime minister.
Other BJP leaders, such as Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, have since built on this rhetoric as the BJP tries to continue its 27-year unbroken rule in Gujarat and also hopes to preserve Himachal Pradesh.
“Hindus normally don’t contribute to riots. Hindus don’t believe in ‘jihad’,” Sarma said in an interview with DailyExpertNews on Thursday.
The US interim envoy not only answered questions about this rhetoric – she did not specify any statements – but also spoke about the India-US military exercises in Uttarakhand’s Auli to which China has objected.
“I would like to refer you to what the Indian side has said: it is none of their (China’s) business,” Ms Jones said, firmly taking sides. India’s Foreign Ministry has said, “India is exercising with whoever it wants and we are not giving veto power to third countries on this issue.”
However, on trade and a possible priority deal for India, Ms. Jones said that as trade has doubled to $157 billion in the past seven years, “I don’t think anyone believes we need a trade deal at this point.”
She interacted with some journalists as part of a briefing. The Joe Biden administration has not appointed a permanent envoy to India since Kenneth Juster, a political appointee of the Donald Trump administration, left after the change of government. Ms. Jones, who held senior positions in Pakistan and worked in US policy in Afghanistan and Europe, has since become the sixth interim envoy to India, just about two months ago.
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