Biden DID raise ‘democratic governance’ issues with Modi

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. 

The White House said that President Biden spoke about 'democratic governance' issues when he met with Indian PM Narendra Modi Friday night, but wouldn't elaborate

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.’

Ishant Kumar, 10, son of Dharmender Kumar, who works as a clerk at Pragati Maidan which houses the main venue of G20 Summit, stands next to his bulldozed house during a demolition drive by the authorities at a slum area near the upcoming summit venue in New Delhi, India, June 1, 2023

The White House was asked if Biden raised the issue of slum clearance in his meeting with Modi

The slum-clearance if part of a broader effort by India to dazzle world leaders. Stray dogs have also been removed from New Delhi's busy streets. Authorities in the Indian capital went on a clean-up drive as part of a beautification project

President Biden met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the start of his trip to India. The Indian government released a handout photo after U.S. press. The White House said India was disappointed that the Russian and Chinese leaders didn't attend, and gratified that Biden did

City officials tried to clear away street dogs, but many still roamed city streets with businesses shuttered cars and motorbikes absent from normally clogged streets

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.’ 


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