In the aftermath of the G20 Summit in Delhi, US President Joe Biden’s visit to Vietnam provided a platform for him to share some intriguing insights into his discussions with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Biden, in a press briefing held on Vietnamese soil, revealed that he had broached the subjects of ‘respecting human rights’ and ‘ensuring a free press’ during his face-to-face meeting with Modi in Delhi.
This revelation carries added significance when considered against the backdrop of PM Modi’s recent visit to the United States. During that trip, various human rights organizations had voiced concerns about the state of press freedom in India, urging President Biden to address this issue.
The relationship between these two leaders had garnered attention during a rare joint press conference, where a US journalist had quizzed Modi about his government’s treatment of minorities. This event subsequently led to a wave of online harassment against the journalist, prompting the White House to denounce such behavior as “unacceptable” and “antithetical to the very principles of democracy.”
The 8th of September saw President Biden hosted by PM Modi at the latter’s official residence in Delhi, just on the eve of the G20 Summit. Reflecting on their meeting, Biden emphasized, “Consistently, I underscored the significance of upholding human rights and recognizing the essential contributions of civil society and an unfettered press in fostering a robust and prosperous nation alongside Modi.”
Interestingly, the official Indian government’s statement on the meeting did not mention any discussion of human rights. Instead, it emphasized Modi’s gratitude for President Biden’s vision and dedication to bolstering the India-US Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership, founded on a common foundation of democratic principles, strategic alignment, and robust interpersonal connections.
Not one to miss a political opportunity, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh seized on this revelation. He took a playful jab at Prime Minister Modi, alluding to Biden’s statement in Vietnam and quipping, “Mr. Modi saying to Mr. Biden — ‘Na Press Conference karunga, Na karne doonga’ (won’t hold a press conference, won’t let you hold one) has had no impact.”
It’s worth noting that Ramesh had previously claimed that President Biden’s team was denied interaction with the media and the opportunity to field questions about the meeting with PM Modi after their bilateral discussions in Delhi, prior to the G20 Summit.