NEW DELHI / NEW YORK (TIP): India has strongly pushed back at criticism from the West that it is not doing enough to promote religious freedom and for failing to condemn the Russian aggression in Ukraine. The Ministry of External Affairs, on June 3, accused Washington of playing “vote bank politics” after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “in India we’ve seen rising attacks on people and places of worship”. The “vote bank politics” phrase was used in December last year by 22 retired Indian diplomats when they attacked Canadian PM Justine Trudeau for backing the farmers’ stir.
“We would urge that assessments based on motivated inputs and biased views be avoided,” said MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi on the annual US report on international religious freedom released by Blinken. Trying to turn the tables on the US, he said: “In our discussions with the US, we have regularly highlighted issues of concern there, including racially and ethnically motivated attacks, hate crimes and gun violence.”
Meanwhile, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar exhorted Europe to grow out of the mindset that its problems alone are the world’s problems and countered criticism on India buying Russian oil and banning wheat exports. Accused at the Bratislava Forum in Slovakia for funding the war by buying Russian oil, Jaishankar countered by asking, “Is it only Indian money that funds and not gas coming to Europe?’’ He pointed out that the West had squeezed alternative sources of oil from Iran and Venezuela, leaving countries with no option but to hunt for the best available deal in the market. The sixth round of western sanctions against Russia, he noted, had timelines and carve-outs in order not to unduly inconvenience its people. “If you are considerate to yourself, surely you can be considerate to other people,” he observed. He also said India did not need help in countering Chinese aggression. On banning wheat exports, Jaishankar said the government discovered the grain was being cornered by deep-pocket traders from Singapore and Dubai. “Our goodwill was used for speculation and we had to do something. What we saw happen with vaccines, we don’t want to see happen with wheat. The rich were vaccinated and the poor were left to God,” he said.