Biden DID raise ‘democratic governance’ issues in his meeting with Modi, White House official says – after Indian government tears down slums to clean up New Delhi for G20 confab
- The government spent months cleaning up central areas for summit event
- Efforts included tearing down slums on government land
- Stray dogs removed and businesses shuttered
President Joe Biden raised unspecified democracy issues when he sat down with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a White House official said – amid concerns about press freedoms and democratic ‘backsliding.’
Principal Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer told reporters traveling with the president that Biden did touch on the freighted topic during his first sit-down with the Indian leader, who is accused of dialing back democratic expression and guardrails even while building immense popularity in his country.
The leaders of top industrial nations gathered in New Delhi Saturday, with nearly 130,000 police and paramilitaries standing guard in the city. Streets normally choked with traffic are virtually empty, and stores and restaurants have been shuttered.
City authorities ripped down slums located on public lands in the run-up to the event, while seeking to disburse monkeys and stray dogs that line the streets.
Finer wouldn’t say whether Biden raised the slum clearance specifically when asked about it – after the White House put out a detailed policy readout on the issues the two men discussed.
‘What I will say is that the sort of state of democratic governance both in the world and each of our countries is a core facet of the US-India bilateral relationship, and both Prime Minister Modi and President Biden have have said that, which means that those issues are very much on the agenda in every one of their conversations.
But he refused to say which areas they actually delved into after releasing a 29-point joint statement.
Finer said he wouldn’t go ‘issue-by-issue and say what was covered.’
Paragraph two in the statement says the leaders ‘re-emphasized that the shared values of freedom, democracy, human rights, inclusion, pluralism, and equal opportunities for all citizens are critical to the success our countries enjoy and that these values strengthen our relationship.’
He said it would be ‘misleading’ to specify which issues they were able to cover.
‘What I will say is the broad category of issue that that falls into – democratic governance in the United States and India was very much on the agenda.’
That comment suggests that democracy issues inside the U.S. was on equal footing with those in India. Modi is accused of overseeing a ‘cult of personality’ while rolling back judicial independence and fanning religious divisions, even while maintaining broad popularity. The U.S., meanwhile, has had its own reputation for stability undermined by January 6 and political clashes as former President Trump faces multiple criminal trials.
In a briefing Thursday, NSC official Kurt Campbell warned against ‘lecturing’ the rising power, and asked for ‘a degree of humility given some of the challenges that we’ve faced in our own country as well.’