Chairman of the United States’ Senate Foreign Relations Committee has shot off a letter to USA’s Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, who is on a two-day visit to India from March 19 – March 21. In his letter, the foreign affairs committee chair, Robert Menendez has sought to blackmail India, by trying to interfere in the internal affairs of the country. Interestingly, the letter which was shot to the Secretary of Defence who has chosen India as one of the destinations for his maiden foreign tour has only one point under his mandate – the purchase of Russian S-400 missile systems by India.
Apart from this issue, the others which have been laid down by Menendez simply do not fall under the ambit of the Pentagon, and as a consequence, of Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin. Lloyd Austin is scheduled to meet his counterpart Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, along with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, during his visit to New Delhi. Robert Menendez, however, does not seem to be liking the bonhomie between India and U.S., which is why he has taken to blackmailing New Delhi and unilaterally threatening it of sanctions.
Menendez said that if India chose to go forward with its plan to purchase the Russian S-400 missile system, it would clearly constitute a sanctionable transaction with the Russian defence sector under provisions of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act or CAATSA. “It will also limit India’s ability to work with the US on development and procurement of sensitive military technology. I expect you to make all of these challenges clear in conversations with your Indian counterparts,” he said.
Making his inclinations and anti-India bias clear, the Senate Foreign Relation Committee chair also wrote, “The Indian government’s ongoing crackdown on farmers peacefully protesting new farming laws and corresponding intimidation of journalists and government critics only underscores the deteriorating situation of democracy in India…Moreover, in recent years, rising anti-Muslim sentiment and related government actions like the Citizenship Amendment Act, the suppression of political dialogue and arrest of political opponents following the abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir, and the use of sedition laws to persecute political opponents have resulted in the US human rights group Freedom House stripping India of its ‘Free’ status in its yearly global survey.”
Although Menendez might be trying to carve an image for himself in the United States, for reasons best known to him; rest assured, his blackmailing of India will yield no results. Instead, it is highly likely that if the United States tries to meddle in the country’s internal affairs, it will be responded to in kind. Already, America has been thrashed by China humiliatingly in Alaska. It would definitely not want another scolding by India.
The United States under a Biden administration will be well advised to not try its luck around with India, as New Delhi could quite literally make life more miserable for the White House occupants than it already is. In the Indo Pacific and ASEAN region, India has emerged as a force to be reckoned with, and is the natural ally of any democracy-loving nation in the world envisaging the protection of a rules-based order in the region. As such, the U.S., at a time when it is rapidly losing allies, should not infuriate India with some chairman of some committee lecturing us about what we should and should not do.
Moreover, India has emerged a central player and the pivot of the Quad – a strategic alliance of Japan, Australia, U.S. and India to take on China. Being the leader of Quad, India would most certainly not welcome the United States’ legislators meddling in its affairs and passing unsubstantiated and superficial commentary against it. The U.S. must be careful to not push India to abandon it when it comes to the containment of China.
Finally, the said American legislator should simply get a history lesson. The Modi government has never bowed to fallacious international anti-India rhetoric, especially when it comes to foreign powers trying to meddle in our internal affairs. For its own interests, U.S. legislators like Menendez must not act by their inherent biases, but should instead look at the bigger picture. If people like him want India to abandon Russia, then that most certainly is not happening.