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Jayapal, Van Hollen Lead Bicameral Letter with Over 70 Members, Urging President Biden to Discuss Upholding Human Rights and Democratic Values During Upcoming Meeting with Indian PM Modi

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) and U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) led a bicameral letter with over 70 of their colleagues, urging President Biden to discuss the need to protect human rights and democratic values in India as he meets with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi this week. 

“As the world’s oldest democracy and the world’s largest democracy, the United States and India have forged a close relationship based on strategic interests and shared democratic values. India is an important member of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (the ‘Quad’) and a crucial partner for stability in the Indo-Pacific,” the Members begin.

As longtime supporters of a strong U.S.-India relationship, we also believe that friends can and should discuss their differences in an honest and forthright way. That is why we respectfully request that — in addition to the many areas of shared interests between India and the U.S. — you also raise directly with Prime Minister Modi areas of concern,” they continue.

“A series of independent, credible reports reflect troubling signs in India toward the shrinking of political space, the rise of religious intolerance, the targeting of civil society organizations and journalists, and growing restrictions on press freedoms and internet access. Specifically, the State Department’s 2022 Country Report on Human Rights Practices in India documents the tightening of political rights and expression. Similarly, the State Department’s 2022 Report on International Religious Freedom in India details the worrisome increase of religious intolerance toward minorities and religiously motived violence by both private and state actors. Further, the annual assessments compiled by Reporters Without Borders show that India, a country that has been known in the past for its vibrant and independent press, has fallen significantly in the rankings for press freedom.  And according to Access Now, India ranks first in terms of the most internet shutdowns for the fifth year in a row,” they note.

“We join you in welcoming Prime Minister Modi to the United States. We want a close and warm relationship between the people of the United States and the people of India. We want that friendship to be built not only on our many shared interests but also on shared values. We do not endorse any particular Indian leader or political party — that is the decision of the people of India — but we do stand in support of the important principles that should be a core part of American foreign policy. And we ask that, during your meeting with Prime Minister Modi, you discuss the full range of issues important to a successful, strong, and long-term relationship between our two great countries,” the Members write in closing.

Van Hollen and Jayapal were joined in sending the letter by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Carper (D-DE), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Peter Welch (D-VT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) as well as Representatives Jake Auchincloss (MA-04), Becca Balint (VT-At Large), Nanette Diaz Barragán (CA-44), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Tony Cárdenas (CA-29), André Carson (IN-07), Greg Casar (TX-35), Sean Casten (IL-06), Judy Chu (CA-28), Yvette D. Clarke (NY-09), Emanuel Cleaver (MO-05), Steve Cohen (TN-09), Jason Crow (CO-06), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-10), Lloyd Doggett (TX-37), Veronica Escobar (TX-16), Anna G. Eshoo (CA-16), Valerie Foushee (NC-04), Maxwell Frost (FL-10), Jesús G. “Chuy” García (IL-04), Robert Garcia (CA-42), Sylvia Garcia (TX-29), Dan Goldman (NY-10), Al Green (TX-09), Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-07), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr. (GA-04), Robin Kelly (IL-02), John B. Larson (CT-01), Barbara Lee (CA-12), Mike Levin (CA-49), Betty McCollum (MN-04), James P. McGovern (MA-02), Grace Meng (NY-06), Kweisi Mfume (MD-07), Seth Moulton (MA-06), Jerrold Nadler (NY-12), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Mike Quigley (IL-05), Delia Ramirez (IL-03), Jamie Raskin (MD-08), Linda Sánchez (CA-38), John Sarbanes (MD-03), Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-05), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Elissa Slotkin (MI-07), Mark Takano (CA-39), Mike Thompson (CA-04), Jill Tokuda (HI-02), David Trone (MD-06), Juan Vargas (CA-52), Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-07), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Susan Wild (PA-07), and Nikema Williams (GA-05).

The full text of the letter is available here.

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