WASHINGTON: Democratic presidential nominee and former US vice president Joe Biden wants India to take necessary steps to restore the rights of Kashmiris, and has expressed disappointment over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the implementation of the NRC in Assam.
According to a policy paper — ‘Joe Biden’s agenda for Muslim American community’ — posted recently on his campaign website, “these measures (the CAA and the National Register of Citizens) are inconsistent with the country’s long tradition of secularism and with sustaining a multi-ethnic and multi-religious democracy”.
A group of Hindu Americans has reached out to the Biden campaign expressing resentment to the language used against India and urged it to reconsider the views. The group has also sought a similar policy paper on Hindu Americans.
The Biden campaign did not respond to questions.
Observing that Biden understands the pain Muslim-Americans feel towards what is happening in Muslim-majority countries and countries with significant Muslim populations, the policy paper clubbed together Kashmir and Assam in India with the forced detention of over a million Uighur Muslims in western China, and discrimination and atrocities against Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim minority.
“In Kashmir, the Indian government should take all necessary steps to restore rights of all the people of Kashmir. Restrictions on dissent, such as preventing peaceful protests or shutting or slowing down the internet, weakens democracy.
“Joe Biden has been disappointed by the measures that the government of India has taken with the implementation and aftermath of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam and the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act into law,” the policy paper said.
India has defended its move, saying the special status provisions only gave rise to terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir. It has asserted that the abrogation of Article 370 is its “internal matter”.
The Indian government maintains that the CAA, which was passed by Parliament, is an internal matter of the country and stressed that the goal is to protect the oppressed minorities of neighbouring countries.
According to the CAA, members of the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan till December 31, 2014 following religious persecution there will get Indian citizenship.
India has said that the updation of the NRC in Assam is an “entirely internal” process carried out at the direction and under the supervision of the Supreme Court.
Reacting to the policy paper, Biden supporter Ajay Jain Bhutoria told PTI that Biden as the US Senator for decades and as the vice president under previous president Barack Obama for eight years has been known as one of the best friends of India and Indian-Americans.
He played a key role in the passage of the India-US civil nuclear deal and as vice president, he advocated increasing the bilateral trade to USD 500 billion per annum, he said, adding that Biden regularly hosted Diwali at his vice-presidential residence and is well-connected with the Indian-Americans.
“Biden understands the issues impacting India, issues of cross border terrorism, influx of terrorism across borders in Kashmir, issue of Hindu minorities sufferings in Kashmir, issues in the Indo Pacific region with China, and the rising role of India as stronger US ally in all areas including economic growth, counter-terrorism, fight for human rights, climate change and global security.
“There are groups within various elected officials groups in the US pushing language and agenda”s highlighting misinformation and damaging facts on how India handled its own internal matter on Kashmir, Ladakh or immigration reforms related to NRC,” said Bhutoria, who is also on the National Finance Committee for Biden.
He said that the US recently updated its immigration policy to block the H-1B and other visas for the rest of the year to safeguard its own workers, which is completely questionable and will hurt the economy.
“India too has a right to define its own immigration policy to support its population and economy. I grew up in Assam, Guwahati and I have seen the influx of people across the border and taking away important jobs, resources from local people in northeastern states.
“The immigration reforms and NRC are welcome steps. Execution of these reforms and strategies need to be improved and India needs to do better in change management and rolling out of reforms,” Bhutoria added.
Rishi Bhutada, board member, Hindu American Political Action Committee, said the “Biden campaign is missing the much needed context about Pakistan-sponsored cross border terrorism in regards to Kashmir”.
It is also missing how the CAA is a good-faith effort to remedy the status of approximately 30,000 persecuted religious minorities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who sought refuge in India, have no other path to citizenship, and no chance of returning to their home countries safely, Bhutada said.