Need to counter headwinds to democracy: USAID chief

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Asad Mirza

During her recent visit to India, USAID Administrator Samantha Power observed that the “headwinds” against democratic rule are “strong” across the world today, and that there are forces in India and the United States “which seek to sow division…pitting ethnicities and religions against each other…bending laws and abusing institutions”.

During her three-day visit to India last week, USAID Administrator Samantha Power met with civil society representatives in Delhi, in addition to External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, Secretary principal of the Prime Minister, PK Mishra, and Foreign Secretary, Vinay Kwatra.

In meetings with civil society representatives, she stressed the need to discuss freedom of expression, speech, identity and the importance of protecting the rights of minority groups. Commenting on the meetings, Acting USAID Spokesperson ShejalPulivarti said Ms. Power underscored the United States’ continued commitment to working with civil society organizations around the world to advance human rights. man and fundamental freedoms.

Ms Power addressing an event at ITI-Delhi said the headwinds against democratic rule are growing stronger around the world. She added that in the United States and India there are forces that seek to sow division, that seek to pit ethnicities and religions against each other, that wish to circumvent laws, abuse institutions and use of violence against those who stand in their way; we saw it, of course, on January 6 in the United States last year… The way the United States and India will rise up to face these injustices, how fiercely we protect our hard-won pluralism , how insistently we defend our democracy and our individual rights will determine not only our own trajectory, but also that of the world we inhabit.

American-Indian development model

She also said that the United States and India together can offer emerging countries, emerging economies of the future, a new model of development, rooted not in the traps of debt and dependency, but in the economic trade and integration, which supports and celebrates individual and national agency. , and which aspires to see all countries go beyond the need for assistance.

In developing the model, she described it as one based on engaging with a country’s citizens and civil society, just as willingly as it does with its government. One who treats others as equals and collaborates on solutions without preconceptions or stereotypes, who recognizes that democracy, inclusiveness and pluralism offer the surest path to sustainable progress, where dignity is not reserved to a few but given to all of us, one that is rooted in cooperation, not narrow-minded but big-hearted, that at its core believes that we are all one family.

In a reference to underscore India’s growing importance to the United States, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region, she said the United States views India not only as a leader in the Indo- Pacific, but as a worldwide leader. She added that India, with its talent, resources and technological expertise, could contribute massively to the development trajectory of many countries. Also, what has positioned India as a future development leader is not its strengths but its values. It is India’s multi-ethnic, multi-party democracy that has enabled it to withstand the challenges it has faced and emerge stronger and more resilient. It was his decades of support for free speech that allowed injustices to surface. It is its tolerance of diversity and dissent that has allowed reforms to take hold and institutions to progress. India’s trajectory has been so strong because of its democracy.

India as a regional leader

Power also praised India’s aid to Sri Lanka and compared it to China. She mentioned how India canceled the debts of poor countries like Ghana, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia in 2003. Perhaps nowhere does India’s commitment to people in danger is only now visible in Sri Lanka. India responded very quickly with a package of absolutely essential measures, facilitating $3.5 billion in lines of credit to the government of Sri Lanka at a time when it needed it most.

Contrasting India’s approach with China, she said China has been an increasingly eager creditor of the Sri Lankan government since the mid-2000s, offering often opaque loan deals at higher interest rates. than other lenders and financing a series of headline-grabbing infrastructure projects. with an often questionable practical use for Sri Lankans, such as a massive port that generated little revenue and was barely used by ships, an equally massive airport, dubbed the world’s emptiest because it attracted so few passengers , and the tallest tower in the country which was built as a tourist attraction, but was unfortunately never opened to the public.

Sri Lanka’s economic crisis and pressing global challenges such as food security and climate change figured prominently in Power’s discussions with his Indian interlocutors.

Ms. Pulivarti said the purpose of the meetings was to reinforce the long history of the United States and India as strategic partners and collaborators on development issues, including food security, climate change and the adaptation through mechanisms such as the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure and Digital Development.

Ms. Power also joined Indian agricultural experts and private sector leaders to learn how the United States and India can apply sustainable and climate-smart solutions to address the global food security crisis, which is further “exacerbated” by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

All countries, including India and the United States, must compel Russia to abide by the terms of the grain export deal, she said. The cereals agreement, brokered by the UN and Turkey and aimed at averting a global food crisis, was signed on July 22 to mainly facilitate the export of around 20 million tonnes of wheat, maize and other cereals from Ukraine.

Overall, Ms. Power’s visit touched on all the issues on which India wishes to engage with the US administration, in addition to issues such as human rights and minorities, to which the continued US administrations have attached great importance and on which they keep an eye. However, more important is the action to ensure that these details are reflected in the talks between the political leaders of the two countries and if they are reflected and put into practice even halfway through, the US-India relations can be transformed, with both countries benefiting from each other. support and effort.


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