New Delhi: Ahead of the start of the Summit for Democracy, the United States said on Tuesday that Washington was “watching” Indian opposition Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s case in the Indian courts and was engaged with the Indian government on “freedom of expression”.
The United States is holding a three-day virtual Summit for Democracy from Tuesday, which is likely to see participation from India. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also participated in the first Summit in 2021.
The proposal for a democracy summit was part of US President Joe Biden’s presidential election campaign, with the aim of promoting democracies as a better fit for society compared to autocracies.
During the State Department’s daily media briefing on Monday, a question was asked about the expulsion of Gandhi from Parliament and whether that was “consistent with democratic values”. Gandhi was expelled from the Lok Sabha a day after a Gujarat court agreed with the petition of a former state minister that the Congress leader had insulted the Modi community when he asked why several “thieves” had the Modi surname.
“So, respect for the rule of law and judicial independence is a cornerstone of any democracy, and we’re watching Mr Gandhi’s case in Indian courts, and we engage with the Government of India on our shared commitment to democratic values – including, of course, freedom of expression,” said State Department principal deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel.
He added that in engagement with “our Indian partners”, the United States highlighted the “importance of democratic principles and the protection of human rights, including freedom of expression, as a key to strengthening both our democracies”.
Regarding whether the US was also engaging with Gandhi as an opposition leader, Patel said that while he didn’t have a specific answer, it was “normal and standard” for US government officials to “engage with members of opposition parties in any country where we have bilateral relationships”.