At the joint press conference, US President Joe Biden confirmed that he discussed human rights issues with PM Modi.
There is no space for discrimination in India and “democracy is in our spirit”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at a joint press conference with US President Joe Biden in Washington, when asked about the steps his government is willing to take to “improve the rights of Muslims and other minorities in your country and to uphold free speech”.
Hours after Modi’s remarks, a New York Times newsletter noted that the statement was “in line with what his government usually says when facing criticism. His government has hounded opponents in a way that has raised fears of an authoritarian turn in India. But it’s vanishingly rare for Modi himself to directly field live questions from the press…”
The headline to a CBS News report on the press conference read “Biden, Modi sidestep questions about humanitarian concerns in India”.
It was earlier decided by the Indian and US side that two reporters would be allowed to pose questions to Modi – one from each country. A senior White House official earlier called it a “big deal” and CNN reported that the Indian side was initially reluctant about a press conference and pushed the idea of a joint statement.
“India has long prided itself as the world’s largest democracy, but there are many human rights groups who say that your government has discriminated against religious minorities and sought to silence its critics,” a White House reporter from the Wall Street Journal told Modi, asking, “What steps are you and your government willing to take to improve the rights of Muslims and other minorities in your country and to uphold free speech?
“I am actually really surprised. India is indeed a democracy. And, as President Biden also mentioned, for both India and America, democracy is in our DNA, democracy is our spirit. Democracy runs in our veins. We live democracy. And, our ancestors have actually put words to this concept, and that is in the form of our constitution. Our government has taken the basic principles of democracy, and on that basis, our constitution is made, and the entire country runs on that,” Modi said.
“Our constitution and our government have always proved that democracy can deliver. And when I say deliver, it is regardless of caste, creed, religion and gender. There’s no...absolutely no space for discrimination. And, when you talk of democracy, if there are no human values, and there’s no humanity, there’s no human rights, then, it’s not a democracy. When we have accepted democracy, there’s absolutely no space for discrimination.
“That’s why India believes in moving ahead with everybody we trust, and everybody’s efforts. These are the foundational principles, which are the basis for how we operate and how we live our lives. In India, the benefits that are provided by the government are accessible to all, whoever deserves those, it is available to everyone. That’s why in India’s democratic values, there’s absolutely no discrimination; not on the basis of caste, creed, age or any kind of geographic location,” the prime minister said.
Meanwhile, the US President told the media that the issue of human rights was raised in his talks with Modi, but said that democracy is part of the “DNA” of both countries. He said that India and the US are natural partners when it comes to expanding “democratic institutions across the world”.
The second question was from news agency PTI about efforts to tackle climate change.
At the press conference, Modi and Biden spoke about expanding the India-US defence, space and strategic relationship, besides pointing to climate change concerns. While Biden mentioned the Russia-Ukraine war, Modi skipped the topic.
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