Raise rights, religious issues with Modi: 75 US lawmakers urge Biden

A letter was sent to White House ahead of Modi's state visit

Modi US state visit Prime Minister Narendra Modi being welcomed by the members of Indian diaspora in New York, USA | PTI

In the wake of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit, United States Senators had written to President Joe Biden to raise issues including political concerns, human rights, press freedoms and religious intolerance.

75 US Senators and members of the House of Representatives signed the letter sent to the White House. The letter was sent to the White House before the arrival of Modi for the state visit.

Modi left for Washington on Tuesday for a visit aiming to further strengthen the India-US ties with major talks in pipeline including in areas of development, and defence.

"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 police," said the letter led by Senator Chris Van Hollen and Representative Pramila Jayapal.

"And we ask that, during your meeting with Prime Minister Modi, you discuss the full range of issues important to a successful, strong and long-term relationship between our two great countries," the letter said.

Unlike others visits, this is Modi's first state visit to the US. A state dinner is being hosted on June 22, to mark the occasion. The PM's itinerary also includes an address to the Joint Session of the US Congress. The visit is the highest level in terms of honour.

Meanwhile, several US rights groups plan protests during Modi's visit.

The letter refers to India as a "crucial partner for stability" in the Indo-Pacific.

"We trust and expect that these important dimensions of the US-India partnership-strategic, economic and cultural-will be part of your discussion when you meet directly with Prime Minister Modi."

The US State Department's annual report on human rights practices released in March listed "significant human rights issues" and abuses in India, reported Reuters.

Modi is set to address a joint meeting of the House and Senate on Thursday.

"A series of independent, credible reports reflect troubling signs in India towards the shrinking of political space, the rise of religious tolerance, the targeting of civil society organisations and journalists, and growing restrictions on press freedoms and internet access," the lawmakers said in the letter.

Highlighting the India-US relations, the letter said 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 US-you also raise directly with Prime Minister Modi areas of concern," the letter said.

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