As Prime Minister Narendra Modi landed in Washington DC on Wednesday, 21 June, as part of a 3-day State visit to the United States, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders hit out at the visit and said, "PM Modi's government has cracked down on the press and civil society, jailed political opponents, and pushed an aggressive Hindu nationalism that leaves little space for India's religious minorities."
"President Biden should raise these facts in his meeting with Modi," Sanders added.
Previously, dozens of US lawmakers wrote to President Joe Biden and urged to raise human rights issues with Modi.
The letter, signed by Senator Chris Van Hollen, Representative Pramila Jayapal and signed by at least 60 other members of Congress, said:
"We do not endorse any particular Indian leader or political party — that is the decision of the people of India — but we do stand in support of the important principles that should be a core part of American foreign policy."
While many are calling PM Modi's visit to the US a turning point in bilateral relations between the two countries, the letter urged Biden that during his meeting with Modi, he "discuss the full range of issues important to a successful, strong, and long-term relationship between our two great countries."
Moreover, the letter said that its signatories join Biden in welcoming Modi to the United States, and want a "close and warm relationship" between the people of the two countries, adding that friendship should be based on shared values and "friends can and should discuss their differences in an honest and forthright way."
"As longtime supporters of a strong U.S.-India relationship, we also believe that friends can and should discuss their differences in an honest and forthright way. That is why we respectfully request that — in addition to the many areas of shared interests between India and the U.S. — you also raise directly with Prime Minister Modi areas of concern"Letter from 60+ Democratic Lawmakers, Addressed to President Biden, Regarding PM Modi's Visit.
Democratic Party sources, close to several signatory lawmakers, told The Quint, "The letter should be very concerning for the Modi government. While it is carefully worded, I would characterise it as a stern review, if not a harsh one.
The letter also brought up India's slipping press freedom ranking after annual assessments compiled by Reporters Without Borders, and said that according to Access Now, India ranks first in terms of the most internet shutdowns for the fifth year in a row.