Roving Periscope: White House rejects RaGa’s rants about Indian democracy
New Delhi: Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first State Visit to the United States this month, and amid Rahul Gandhi’s claims that India has lost its democracy, a White House official said on Tuesday the South Asian nation is a vibrant democracy: “Go see for yourself.”
PM Modi is scheduled to pay his first State Visit to the US from June 21 to 24 during which he will also address a joint session of the US Congress. President Joe Biden will host him at a State Dinner on June 22.
Former Congress President Rahul Gandhi, who was stripped of his Lok Sabha membership recently after an indictment in a defamation case, is currently touring the US at the invitation of the Sam Pitroda-led Indian Overseas Congress.
In his familiar style, Gandhi, who has since 2014 been ranting against PM Modi, the BJP, and the RSS, did so in the US also, apparently to dig the pitch for PM Modi, mainly accusing him of following undemocratic policies.
To puncture Gandhi’s claims, the White House dismissed concerns about the health of democracy in the South Asian nation.
“India is a vibrant democracy. Anybody that, you know, happens to go to New Delhi can see that for themselves. And certainly, I would expect that strength and health of democratic institutions will be part of the discussion,” John Kirby, Coordinator for Strategic Communications at the National Security Council in the White House, told reporters at a news conference in Washington.
“Look, we never shy away. And you can do that with friends. You’re supposed to do that with friends. You never shy away from expressing concerns that we might have with anyone around the world. But this (State) visit is really about advancing what is now and what we hope will be a deeper, stronger partnership and friendship going forward,” he said.
Kirby said India is a strong partner with the United States on many levels.
“You saw that in Shangri-La Secretary (of Defense, Lloyd) Austin announced some additional defense cooperation now that we’re going to pursue with India. Of course, there’s an awful lot of economic trade between our two countries. India is a member of the Pacific Quad and a key friend and partner with respect to Indo-Pacific security,” he said.
“I could go on and on and on. There are innumerable reasons why India certainly matters, not just bilaterally between the two of our nations, but multilaterally on very many levels. And President Biden is looking forward very much to having Prime Minister Modi here to talk about all those issues and to advance and deepen that partnership and that friendship,” Kirby said.