WASHINGTON – U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) released the following statement regarding the state visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi:
“As the first South Asian American woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, I was invited to attend a number of events with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. I am proud of my family’s roots and heritage in India, a country where my parents still live and of which I was a citizen for three decades. The fact that I could come to the United States, become a U.S. citizen, and eventually a member of Congress is a testament to the American dream, and to the incredibly strong and close ties between the people of our two countries.
“It is the people-to-people ties and our two nations’ founding values that are the glue that bind our countries together. Given our shared colonial experiences, we know that the fundamental freedoms enshrined in our constitutions are sacrosanct and need to be carefully tended, protected and advanced. This includes ensuring all members of society—women, LGBTQIA+, religious and ethnic minorities, and the historically disenfranchised—are active, full and respected members of our democracies.
“We value democracy precisely because it is intended to empower every participant in that democracy with unfettered political and religious self-expression. When the rights of any one group is weakened, it threatens the rights of all of us and it is incumbent on every member of that democracy to speak out.
“For those of us fortunate enough to be elected political leaders within the governing bodies of our democracies, we have a further responsibility to speak out when our democracy fails to live up to our shared democratic ideals. This is not an easy task, especially when relationships between nations are fragile and other pragmatic political or diplomatic objectives are also important. No democracy is perfect, and indeed America herself is at one of the most challenging moments of preserving our fundamental institutions of democracy against insurrectionists, White supremacists and fascists.
“Anyone who has followed my career before Congress and in Congress knows of my decades-long work, both domestically and internationally, in fighting for human rights, social justice and equality for all, not just the privileged few. I have spoken out in America when I see our democracy weakened, even if it involves my own political party—precisely because it is an opportunity to work towards that more perfect union. While we may not achieve perfection, we can achieve greater accountability and a more democratic way to ensure the participation of those most vulnerable and burdened by our failures of governance. Simply papering over the deficits will help no one.
“It should come as no surprise to anyone that I am equally committed to seeing similar progress in the country of my birth, where my parents still live. That is why I have approached Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the United States as a critical moment for engagement. For someone that cares deeply about this bilateral relationship, it is my obligation to be present at the tables that I am invited to and to use my platform to speak out on behalf of others. This includes Indian journalists who have been targeted for their critiques of the government, Indian non-governmental organizations facing scrutiny and harassment, an LGBTQIA+ population that is yet to be given full rights, and religious minorities—including Muslims, Christians, Dalits, Sikhs, and Adivasis—who, as documented by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, are too often marginalized and who face discrimination.
“That is also why I led a bicameral letter with Senator Chris Van Hollen, and over 70 of our colleagues in the House and the Senate, to President Biden urging a public raising of the issues of concern when our President met with Prime Minister Modi. I also spoke directly with President Biden about my concerns, and was heartened to hear that the President raised some of these human rights concerns privately with Prime Minister Modi, along with mentioning a commitment to human rights in his own remarks. It is also why, in 2019, I introduced a bipartisan resolution on human rights in India, prompted by the situation in Kashmir. I am deeply committed to continuing this active engagement with the National Security Council, State Department and those within our Indian-American diaspora who have deep fears about the weakening of democracy in India. And I will always continue to keep open the lines of communication with the Indian government.
“Our two countries can lead the world in so many areas—in combatting climate change, in our defense and security cooperation, in advanced technologies, and in our cultural, people-to-people ties. The U.S.-India partnership on all fronts—economic, cultural and political—is so important precisely because our countries share so much as democracies that have prioritized “We the People” in our constitutions, non-violent resistance movements for progress through leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the understanding that democracy can only be sustained through institutions of free press, independent judiciary, democratic political processes, and freedom of religion.
“I am optimistic about our shared futures together. I am optimistic about the great people of our two countries. But the full promise relies on robust, inclusive and resilient democracies for all. That is the vision of bilateral ties that I will continue to fight for in the months and years ahead.”