Top US Senators today expressed concern over the pace of economic reforms, human rights situation and religious freedom in India, with one of them accusing the Obama administration of not being “brutally honest” in its conversation with the country.
“We are not brutally honest in our discussions with India,” Congressman Bob Corker, Chairman of the powerful Senater Foreign Relations Committee, bluntly said during a hearing convened by him on India-US ties ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit here next month.
Senator Corker, who is being speculated as one of the potential short-listed vice presidential candidate for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, also expressed deep concern over the pace of economic reforms being carried out by the Modi government.
“Rhetoric has far outpaced economic reforms,” he said.
Referring to the feedback he receives from the American business community, the top Republican Senator referred to the continuation of high tariffs and “unparalled” bureaucratic red tape and expressed concerns over the intellectual property regime in India.
Corker, who has put a hold in the Senate on the sale of eight F-16s to Pakistan with US tax payers money unless it takes actions against the Haqqani network, said that there is a “widening expectations gap” between the US and India.
Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Nisha Desai Biswal took exception to Corker’s characterisation of not being “brutally honest” arguing that the Obama Administration has a “very robust and transparent discourse” with the Indian Government and that its concerns have been communicated to New Delhi in very effective manner.
But Corker was joined by several other Senators on pace of India’s economic reforms, IP regime, human rights situation and religious freedom.
While Senate Corker and Ben Cardin, the ranking member, pressed Biswal on existence of slavery in India even in this age, Senator Tim Kaine Virginia appeared to be upset with the Indian government decision not to give visas to members of the US Commission for International Religious Freedom and desecration of Sikh holy book in Punjab.
Senator Robert Menendez from New Jersey joined Corker in expressing concerns on the pace of economic reforms in India.
Some of the Senators, including Senator Christopher Coons, raised concerns on the recent visit of the Prime Minister Modi to Iran and the increasing India-Iran ties.
Responding to questions, Biswal said the US has expressed its view on Iran to India.
At the same time she noted that India’s relationship with Iran is driven by its energy needs and effort to reach out to the Central Asian countries and Afghanistan.