Barack Obama, Narendra Modi may discuss human rights issues in summit talks

Written by Press Trust of India | Washington | Updated: Sep 30 2014, 16:29pm hrs
Human rights issues could come up for discussion between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Barack Obama during the maiden summit talks between them at his Oval Office today.

"The issue of basic universal human rights is something that is frequently discussed in the President's meetings with world leaders around the globe," said White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest.

"So I don't have anything specific to say about this particular meeting, but I wouldn't be surprised if this issue that we considered to be a priority in our relations with countries all around the world is raised in the context of the meetings over the next couple of days," Earnest said.

He was responding to questions about various human rights bodies urging the US President to take up the issues of freedom of religion and human rights in the meeting with Modi.

A group of nine American lawmakers, prominent among them being Keith Ellison and Joseph Pitts, in a letter to Obama urged him to raise the issues during talks with Modi.

"Your meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi next week provides an opportunity to discuss religious inclusion and the protection of religious minorities in India," the lawmakers wrote in the letter.

The letter dated September 27 was released to media by Coalition Against Genocide.

"I hope the issue of tolerance will be discussed during your meetings this week and in the future. Prime Minister Modi can play a constructive role by criticizing extremists and opening a dialogue in the country about violence aimed at religious minorities," it said.

Amnesty International also, in a statement, urged Modi and Obama to discuss the issue of human rights in both the countries.

"As the leaders of the oldest and largest democracies in the world, you have a great opportunity to bring human rights as an integral part of democratic exercise. We urge you not to miss this opportunity and seriously discuss human rights concerns in both countries," said the Amnesty International statement.

"There are reports that you both will discuss economic and security issues but so far we did not see any mention of human rights. We are urging them to discuss human rights issues and give equal and important weight that they give to economic and security issues.

"We strongly feel that economic, security and human rights are all interrelated and if properly coordinated, it will strengthen US India relations in a meaningful way," the statement said.