While pointedly offering to “share its experiences” on issues related to human rights, the government said such issues were universal and extended beyond “a particular national or cultural perspective”.
Giving out India’s own laundry list of issues that the government plans to raise with Blinken, official sources said this would include the implications of the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, need for sustained pressure on Pakistan to check terror-financing and resumption of international air travel.
“As a long-standing pluralistic society, India is open to engaging those who now recognise the value of diversity,” said a government source, while spelling out the agenda for talks with Blinken. The remarks indicate that India would have its own take on any “conversations “ the US may consider on the subject.
The Biden administration has been consistent in speaking out on issues related to human rights while not allowing it to come in the way of bilateral cooperation with India. Most recently, after the death in custody of Jesuit priest and tribal rights activist Stan Swamy, the state department called upon all governments to respect the “vital role of human rights activists in healthy democracies”.
After his visit to India in March this year, secretary of defence Lloyd Austin had said he had raised issues related to the rights of India’s minority communities in his meetings with foreign minister S Jaishankar and defence minister Rajnath Singh. However, while there was no official denial by India, senior government sources had said the same evening that there was no such discussion and that human rights and values were mentioned only as shared attributes.
Official sources said India attached “considerable importance” to Blinken’s first visit to the country since he assumed office.
“India will press for gradual resumption of international travel, while maintaining health protocols, especially easing mobility of students, professionals, business travellers, family reunions, humanitarian cases, etc. The need for resilient supply chains of critical medicines and healthcare equipment is likely to come up,” said a source, adding that the two countries will also focus on Covid containment and recovery.
On vaccines, India is likely to seek “open and consistent” supply chains for materials and items required for vaccine production. Discussions on deepening Quad engagement will also be a key focus area with plans for a foreign ministerial Quad meeting later this year. The US is also planning a Quad summit this year.
Officials said India will also take forward Quad vaccine initiative to enable supply of vaccines produced in India from early 2022 to countries in Indo-Pacific region.
“Two sides will also exchange assessments about the Indo-Pacific region, with focus on Covid assistance, economic slowdown and security scenario. Latest developments pertaining to West Asia and Central Asia area also likely to be covered,” said a source.
“India will also engage with the US on other global issues. Political and cultural rebalancing are important trends. India supports a truly multipolar, democratic and diverse world order and expects international conversations to reflect this evolution. We believe in equity and fairness, whether in development, climate change or global decision-making,” he added.