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Mutual Concern

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will be in New Delhi on 27 July reportedly to
‘discuss ways to deepen ties’ with India. Also on Blinken’s agenda will be ‘Indo-Pacific engagement, shared regional security interests, shared democratic values, and addressing the climate crisis, as well as the response to the coronavirus pandemic’, according to the US State Department. He is also likely to discuss plans for an in-person summit of the Quad, the grouping of India, Japan, Australia and the United States seen as a counter to China’s rising influence.

At the same time, however, it is has been stated that Blinken will also raise India’s human rights record in the light, particularly, of the Modi Government’s approach towards minorities. Concern will also be expressed for the ‘snoopgate’ implications for journalists, opposition politicians, activists, et al. And this is where the narrative goes off the rails. It indicates, once again, that the Biden Administration remains caught in the colonial attitudes of the past. It is appropriating for itself the role of class monitor at a time when its global clout has been greatly reduced because of economic and military decline. Despite being fully aware of this, its domestic political compulsions, which under the Democratic Party have increasingly veered towards the extreme left, are forcing it to adopt a provocative approach to India’s internal affairs. This is exactly the kind of mistake made by the other Democrat President, Barack Obama, when he lectured Indians on ‘tolerance’ during his visit here. This superficial approach, merely to appease a particular lobby at home and in India, alienated the Indian establishment and people; enough to scuttle improvement in relations.

Perhaps a statement needs to be issued by some official regarding India’s concern about the ‘systemic racism’ in the US society and establishment. With such a large Diaspora there and the ‘intolerance and discrimination’ it suffers from the time a child enters kindergarten, India can offer to advise on how to manage a diverse society. The US could even emulate the ‘reservation’ system that provides education, jobs and political representation for sections of society that have been historically discriminated against. Some yoga and mindfulness gurus could also be sent to help overcome the inner rage and psychological disorientation which leads to the extreme gun violence that exacts a heavy toll in terms of human lives. Indian CAs could help in impartially calculating the reparations due to the former slaves, who are forced even today to live in extremely adverse conditions on the fringes of society. This friendly offer would, indeed, be in the spirit of ‘mutual concern’ that we have regarding each other’s shortcomings.