US Senators ask new envoy to India to focus on human rights

US ambassador-designate to India, Kenneth Juster, promised productive ways to engage New Delhi to improve the human rights


US Senators have asked America’s ambassador designate to India, Kenneth Juster, to focus on human rights, ‘rise of Hindu nationalism’ and trade issues, apart from promoting security ties, during his stint.

Juster was repeatedly asked about religious freedom, minority rights and human trafficking in India during a confirmation hearing at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Oct 3.

The committee is expected to confirm Juster, a top economic aide of President Donald Trump and one of the key architects of the Indo-US civil nuclear agreement, as ambassador to India.

Both Republicans and Democrats recognise Juster’s experience and understanding of India. However, during the Senate hearing, he faced a barrage of questions and a flood of advice on how to deal with New Delhi.

“The economic playing field is not even. There are roadblocks in the relationship,” said Senator Robert P Corker, who has been severely critical of the Modi government on human rights issues.

Senator Benjamin L Cardin, a Democrat, registered his “disappointment” on difficulties foreign NGOs faced in India. He had taken up the cause of Compassion International, a powerful religious NGO barred by the Centre from operating in India. Cardin alleged there were an estimated 18 million Indians in bonded labor. “This is unacceptable,” he said, and asked Juster to make the issue a priority.

Taking up issues on human rights and trade was unusual but reflected the current temperature of the US Congress. Voters often ask Senators to raise issues some of which are genuinely personal.

Calling the US-India partnership critical to US national security, Juster said that India had a vibrant civil society and a free press that raise human rights issues in public. “India has a great tradition of tolerance,” he said. He promised to find the most productive ways to engage New Delhi to improve the human rights situation and encourage India to further open its economy.

Source: Economic Times

Top Stories