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External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar has said that there was no discussion on human rights in India during the India-US ‘2+2’ foreign and defence minister dialogue in Washington on Monday.

“No, we did not discuss human rights during this meeting,” Mr. Jaishankar said to reporters at a press interaction for Indian media on Wednesday, in response to a question from The Hindu whether the topic had come up. The Minister said the issue had been discussed in the past, such as during U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to New Delhi last year.

At a joint press conference on Monday, Mr. Blinken brought up human rights issues in India, saying, “We regularly engage with our Indian partners on these shared values. And to that end, we’re monitoring some recent concerning developments in India, including a rise in human rights abuses by some government, police and prison officials”. 

“Look, people are entitled to have views about us, ”Mr. Jaishankar told The Hindu at Wednesday’s press interaction. “But we are also equally entitled to have views about their views, and about the interests and the lobbies and the vote banks which drive that.”

“So whenever there is a discussion, I can tell you that we will not be reticent about speaking up,” Mr. Jaishankar said, adding that India also takes up human rights issues as they pertain to the United States, especially, especially when they pertain to the Indian community.

At a joint press conference on Monday, Mr. Blinken brought up human rights issues in India, saying, “We regularly engage with our Indian partners on these shared values. And to that end, we’re monitoring some recent concerning developments in India, including a rise in human rights abuses by some government, police and prison officials”. 

“Look, people are entitled to have views about us, ”Mr. Jaishankar told The Hindu at Wednesday’s press interaction. “But we are also equally entitled to have views about their views, and about the interests and the lobbies and the vote banks which drive that.”

“So whenever there is a discussion, I can tell you that we will not be reticent about speaking up,” Mr. Jaishankar said, adding that India also takes up human rights issues as they pertain to the United States, especially, especially when they pertain to the Indian community.

There have been growing reports of the harassment of minorities, including the extrajudicial demolition of houses of those who allegedly threw stones at a Ramanavami procession in Madhya Pradesh, as well as reports on the restriction of rights, such as curbs on the sale of meat in certain New Delhi markets during a recent Navaratri festival.

In a later segment of remarks at Wednesday’s press interaction, where he was describing his perception of a gap between the public narrative and U.S. administration officials’ understanding of India’s positions, Mr. Jaishankar said when it comes to national interests, such as military, security, energy, “even human rights” issues, he was “quite clear” what India’s interests are.

“I’m quite confident about speaking out on that. I think we can hold our own and I don’t think we have anything to be defensive about in any of these respects,” he said.

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