Biden Should Put His Money Where His Big Mouth is on India

AP Photo/John Minchillo

A RedState editorial by Tina Ramirez

Joe Biden pledged during the campaign that he will “make it clear to our adversaries the days of cozying up to dictators are over.” Was he sincere or did he just mean “Trump’s dictators” will get the cold shoulder?

Biden’s tough rhetoric does not match his track record – and on India, he will face his greatest test as President.

Human rights watchers are convinced Biden will turn a blind eye to one of the world’s largest abusers – India. According to one Indian observer, India’s government won’t suffer for aiding and abetting religious and ethnic persecution, violence, and discrimination “unless New Delhi works overtime to lower India’s rights standards to the level of North Korea”.[1]

While Modi’s India is not a maniacal and totalitarian hermit kingdom – its human rights record is atrocious – as in filled with atrocities. India’s ruling BJP party led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been an accomplice to numerous attacks on religious minorities. BJP’s leaders have stirred up hateful mobs and its militants have killed numerous Christians and Muslims.[2]

Under Modi’s watch as Gujarat’s chief minister in 2002, Hindu extremist mobs killed thousands of Muslims.[3] Modi even ordered police to stand down as the crowds lit children on fire, skewered victims alive – while burning homes, shops, and Mosques.

In 2005, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), a government watchdog where I later worked, penalized Modi for his acts by blocking him from visiting the US for a decade.[4]

In February 2020, anti-Muslim riots killed dozens in India’s capital, Delhi. Evidence points to the police harassing and attacking Muslims with the mob.[5]

Modi is already lurching toward sectarian oppression. When an Indian judge who sought an investigation into Prime Minister Modi’s BJP party’s role in instigating the February mob violence, the judge was taken off the case and unceremoniously transferred to another region.

At the same time, attacks – including murders and violent rapes – targeting Indian Christians for their faith have risen 41% in the first half of 2020.[6] Christian nonprofits and even Members of Congress have been expelled or denied visas for investigating these crimes.[7]

The reason is simple. According to the bipartisan USCIRF, Modi’s policies have “created a culture of impunity for nationwide campaigns of harassment and violence against religious minorities.”[8] The USCIRF found lynch mobs routinely murder Indians for slaughtering cows, an animal sacred to Hindus, and attack and kill converts to other faiths, especially Christians.[9]

Last year, the Commission recommended that the State Department designate India as a “country of particular concern” for egregious violations of religious freedom – warning India to shape up or face consequences.  In December, the Trump Administration gave India a pass.

On this front, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris must do better. During his campaign, Biden, who has expressed sympathy for Modi on multiple occasions in the past, sidelined a staffer who espoused extremist BJP views.[10] Both Biden and Harris have stepped out recently and criticized India’s record especially over the revocation of special autonomous status for Muslim-majority Kashmir and the new anti-Muslim citizenship law.[11] Those are baby steps while the persecuted need the 100-year dash to get their freedom back.

And US policymakers have leverage because India needs both a permanent and favorable trade deal with the US to ensure a market for its goods and services and America to aid its military build-up and territorial ambitions.

That trade agreement has proved elusive, despite Trump’s lavish praise for Modi.[12]  Meanwhile, India’s military increasingly relies on US defense equipment[13] and Modi needs American backing for its foreign policy. To secure that trade deal and keep the American aid flowing, India needs Uncle Joe (Biden) to turn a blind eye to its abuses.[14]

Human rights campaigners certainly think he will.

But Biden should learn from the mistakes of Hillary Clinton. On her first visit to China,[15] then-Secretary of State Clinton declared that economic concerns came ahead of human rights boldly saying, it “might be better [for the US and China] to agree to disagree.”[16] A decade later, Beijing rules Hong Kong with an iron fist, imprisons one million Uighurs in “re-education” camps,[17] and routinely harvests organs from living dissidents.[18]

In economic terms, Clinton failed as well – with millions of jobs moving to China, hundreds of billions in industrial theft against American companies, and Beijing controlling whole industries like PPE.

Hillary’s devil’s bargain – sacrificing human rights for economic gain – achieved neither. Only the authoritarian regime won by us laying down our diplomatic arms. So too with India. America’s power is vested in our principles as much as our pocketbooks and the Pentagon.

And Biden wants to stand-by as Modi’s would-be authoritarian regime tramples the rights of innocent Christians, Muslims, and countless others? They are praying Biden’s promises aren’t just another gaffe.

Biden should put his money where his (big) mouth is and step up for freedom on the subcontinent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tina Ramirez is an international religious freedom expert, former staff director of the Congressional International Religious Freedom Caucus, and President of Hardwired, an international human rights nonprofit. 

[1] https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/comment/india-low-on-bidens-watch-list-180861

[2] https://www.france24.com/en/20200226-hindu-nationalist-bjp-modi-delhi-riots

[3] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-south-asia-13170914

[4] https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702303380004579520041301275638

[5] https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/12/world/asia/india-police-muslims.html

[6] https://www.vaticannews.va/en/church/news/2020-07/india-christian-persecution-on-rise-in-2020.html

[7] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-india-usa/india-denies-visas-to-u-s-panel-on-religious-freedom-says-it-has-no-standing-idUSKBN23I0SO; https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/07/world/asia/compassion-international-christian-charity-closing-india.html

[8] https://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/USCIRF%202020%20Annual%20Report_Final_42920.pdf

[9] https://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/USCIRF%202020%20Annual%20Report_Final_42920.pdf

[10] https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/biden-sidelines-pro-modi-indian-american-as-muslim-outreach-coordinator-after-liberal-firestorm/articleshow/74582191.cms

[11] https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/09/03/biden-harris-kashmir-policy-india-modi/

[12] https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/03/05/us-india-trade-deal-fell-through-what-happens-now/

[13] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-india-usa-defence-exclusive/exclusive-india-readying-2-6-billion-u-s-naval-helicopter-deal-ahead-of-trump-trip-idUSKBN2041PQ

[14] https://www.forbes.com/sites/sebastienroblin/2020/12/31/deepening-alliance-between-united-states-and-india-faces-headwinds-in-2020s/#4dcaa81d17f2

[15] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/4735087/Hillary-Clinton-Chinese-human-rights-secondary-to-economic-survival.html

[16] https://www.hrw.org/news/2009/02/20/us-clinton-remarks-undermine-rights-reform-china

[17] https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/a-spreadsheet-of-those-in-hell-how-china-corralled-uighurs-into-concentration-camps/2020/02/28/4daeca4a-58c8-11ea-ab68-101ecfec2532_story.html

[18] https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/china-forcefully-harvests-organs-detainees-tribunal-concludes-n1018646