WASHINGTON: US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan has said that the United States has found a way to communicate with India when it deviates from the basic principles of freedom and human rights.

Mr Sullivan made these remarks on Sunday while talking to a group of journalists accompanying President Joe Biden on his Asian tour. The visit aims to strengthen US alliances with countries in the Indo-Pacific region to curb China’s growing influence. President Biden is also seeking support for US efforts to counter Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

On Tuesday, President Biden will meet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Tokyo during a summit meeting of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, which is also known as the Quad.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Australia’s newly elected Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will also attend the meeting.

Both US and Indian officials have said that Mr Biden and Mr Modi will also hold a separate meeting, focusing on bilateral issues as well as the Russian invasion.

India enjoys friendly ties with both Russia and the United States and recently purchased oil and gas from Russia on discounted rates despite a US ban on such deals with Moscow.

During the briefing a journalist reminded the US National Security Adviser that the administration often framed its foreign policy strategy as “a global battle between democracies and autocracies.”

“I’m wondering how you balance trying to engage economically with someone like Prime Minister Modi, who himself has been accused, under the guise of democracy, of human rights abuses and maligning Muslim minorities?” the journalist asked.

Mr Sullivan recalled that President Biden had been clear from the beginning of his administration that “we’ll speak out when we see any form of departure from or deviation from basic principles, fundamental freedoms, human rights, the values of democratic institutions, and the rule of law.”

The Biden administration made no exception while applying this principle, he added. “That’s true for a range of countries. And, you know, we don’t single India out.”

The United States, he said, had found a way both to pursue practical cooperation with countries that were “democratic and non-democratic,” while at the same time “being clear and consistent of where our values lie.”

Asked what President Biden would say to Mr Modi about the Russian invasion, Mr Sullivan said that President Biden had already had an extended discussion with Prime Minister Modi on this issue when both attended a virtual Quad Summit in March.

The two leaders also talked about when they had a short video bilateral meeting at the top of the 2+2 dialogue with India when two Indian ministers came to Washington.

“So, it won’t be a new conversation. It will be a continuation of the conversation they’ve already had” on this issue, Mr Sullivan explained, adding that Tuesday’s meeting would also focus on food security threats caused by the Ukraine war.

“So, they’ll talk all of that through. And I will leave the specifics of it to what has been a set of private and constructive exchanges,” he added.

Published in Dawn,May 24th, 2022

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