- Evan Barrett
As Sec. Austin visits India, Congress should join Sen. Menendez in speaking out
This week, as Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin travels to India as part of his first international trip, Americans for Kashmir urges members of Congress to stand up for basic human and democratic rights. As Americans, we must be clear: conversations about deepening our military ties with India must not progress without holding Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government accountable for its continued assault on journalists, political leaders, protestors, and laborers in Kashmir and across the region.
Americans for Kashmir commends Chairman Menendez and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for echoing these sentiments in his statement yesterday on Secretary Austin’s trip and detailing India’s worrisome trend of democratic backsliding. Chairman Menendez understands that as the Biden administration develops partnerships with ally nations, it is Congress’ role to remind the administration about the values that must also guide American foreign policy. As the Chairman put it:
The Indian government’s ongoing crackdown on farmers peacefully protesting new farming laws and corresponding intimidation of journalists and government critics only underscores the deteriorating situation of democracy in India. Moveover, in recent years, rising anti-Muslim sentiment and related government actions like the Citizenship Amendment Act, the suppression of political dialogue and arrest of political opponents following the abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir, and the use of sedition laws to persecute political opponents have resulted in the U.S. human rights group Freedom House stripping India of its ‘Free’ status in its yearly global survey.
We encourage other members, especially those serving on Armed Services and Foreign Relations/Affairs committees, to speak up around this critical inflection point on the future of our military relationship with India and to urge Secretary Austin to be direct and unequivocal. If we do not hold our democratic allies accountable now, as the new Biden administration attempts to turn the page on US relations in the region, we will set a dangerous precedent enabling anti-democratic actions for years to come.
We also urge communities to contact their representatives and let them know that now is the time to speak up and hold India accountable.