Human rights, diversity part of India-US talks: USAID chief

New Delhi: USAID chief Samantha Power said that issues such as human rights and diversity form part of the US administration’s dialogue with the Indian government, especially at a time of “headwinds in the face of freedoms” in many parts of the world.

Power, who was on a three-day visit to India to advance the bilateral strategic partnership and to discuss the global food crisis, was responding to a question at a news conference on the US not raising such issues with India in view of New Delhi’s importance in countering regional challenges such as China.

There are ‘headwinds in the face of freedoms in many, many parts of the world’, and India’s civil society, its free press, free speech, and free association are worthy of emulation by other countries, she said.

“So, it is incredibly important in this country and in the US for human rights to be respected, for diversity to be celebrated, and of course, that is part of the dialogue that we have with the Indian government. It is also something we are struggling with back in the US,” she said.

Power described India as an “absolutely critical actor” in the Indo-Pacific and all over the world, and said “India’s leadership beyond its borders” draws on the lessons and dynamism that it shows at home.

In a speech on the theme “The world is one family”, which was delivered before the news conference, Power said India has been positioned as a future development leader because of its values, and not just its assets.

“It has been its support for free expression over decades that has allowed injustices to come to light. It has been its tolerance for diversity and dissent that has allowed reforms to take hold, and institutions to progress. India’s trajectory has been so strong because – not in spite of – its democracy,” she said.

Power added, “Yet the headwinds against democratic rule are strong the world over. Within the US and India, there are forces who seek to sow division; who seek to pit ethnicities and religions against each other; who wish to bend laws, abuse institutions, and wield violence against those who stand in their way.

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