NUT Desk- WASHINGTON: Deep concerns were expressed over the deteriorating situation of human rights, democracy and freedom of expression in India at a recent US Congressional hearing which discussed “Democratic Values in the Indo-Pacific in an Era of Strategic Competition.”
The hearing took place in a panel of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Foreign Affairs. Congressman Ami Bera, chairman of the Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, Central Asia, and Nonproliferation, presided.
In his testimony, Dean Thompson, acting Assistant Secretary at the State Department’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, reviewing the situation in the region, said that increasing restrictions on freedom of expression and the detention of human rights activists and journalists in India have raised concerns as that they were inconsistent with the democratic values.
The United States, he said, regularly engages with India on these issues, including the important work of the civil society.
Intervening in the discussion, Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan, a Democrat, expressed concern over the treatment of Kashmiri people at the hands of Indian authorities and asked about the dialogue with the Indian government in this regard.
In response, Thompson said that Kashmir was one area where the US had urged the Indian government to return the disputed state to normalcy as quickly as possible, while taking note of some steps that have been taken, including the release of prisoners and restoration of 4G access. There were other electoral steps — he did not specify — the US would like them to take.
He said that restrictions on journalists in India and elsewhere in the region were a matter of concern.