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Diplomacy

US Willing to Help India Deal With Violence in Manipur if Asked, Says Ambassador Eric Garcetti

"I don’t think it’s a strategic concern. I think it’s about human concern... You don’t have to be Indian to care when you see children and individuals die in the sort of violence that we see [in Manipur]," Garcetti said.

New Delhi: US Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti on Thursday (July 6) said that the violence and killings in Manipur are a matter of “human concern”, and the US is willing to help India deal with the situation “if asked”.

Garcetti made these remarks in Kolkata, where he was holding a press meet at the American Center. He was asked if the US government was worried about the situation in Manipur – and well as alleged democratic backsliding in India – and answered, “Let me speak about Manipur first. We pray for peace there. When you ask us about the concern of the United States, I don’t think it’s a strategic concern. I think it’s about human concern… You don’t have to be Indian to care when you see children and individuals die in the sort of violence that we see [in Manipur] and we know that peace is the precedent for so many other good things. There have been so many good things in the northeast and the east here and those can’t continue without peace.”

“We stand ready to assist in any ways if asked. We know it’s an Indian matter and we pray for peace and that it may come quickly. Because we can bring more collaboration, more projects, more investment if that peace is in place,” he continued. “One very clear message I want to send — the east of India and the northeast of India matters to the United States. Its people, its places, its potential and its future matter to us.”

Democracy is difficult, the US ambassador continues, adding that it combined concepts of majority rule and protecting minority rights. Democracy is not just about establishing democracy but also maintaining it, he said, “and that’s something we’ve struggled with in the United States, and I know that there are people who since the founding of the republic of India have been doing the same”.

“Building a sense of belonging for everyone should be the guiding principle,” Garcetti said, perhaps in a reference to the allegations that the Union government has fuelled divisions. “We know peace as a precedent for so many good things. There has been so much progress in the Northeast and the east…. Countries have done some remarkable things in recent years and those cannot continue without peace.”

According to The Telegraph, when Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi was asked about Garcetti’s comments, he said, “I haven’t seen those comments by the US ambassador. If he has made them, we will see…. I think we would also seek peace there and I think our agencies and our security forces are working, our local government is working on it. I am not sure foreign diplomats would usually comment on internal developments in India but I wouldn’t like to make a comment without seeing exactly what has been said.”

Congress MP Manish Tewari said that it was very rare for a US envoy to make a statement “of this nature about the internal affairs of India”.  “We faced Challenges in Punjab, J&K , North East over the decades and surmounted those with sagacity & wisdom. Even when Robin Raphel would be loquacious on J&K in the 1990’s the US Ambassador’s (sic) in India were circumspect,” he tweeted.

“As far as the US ambassador is concerned, the country faces several challenges but India has never appreciated any statement for its internal matters. There is gun violence in the US & several people are killed. We never told the US to learn from us as to how to rein that in. US faces riots over racism. We never told them that we will lecture them…Perhaps it is important for the new Ambassador to take cognisance of the history of India-US relations,” Tewari told ANI.