External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Wednesday made a strong rebuttal to the US on its criticism of “human rights abuses" in India, saying even New Delhi has concerns about human rights in America. “Look, people are entitled to have views about us. 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 out,” he said.

Jaishankar’s riposte comes a day after he defended India’s Russian oil import and insisted that the US look closely at its western allies before suggesting New Delhi over importing energy resources from Moscow.

Speaking at a joint news conference after the 2+2 dialogue, Jaishankar said that even “we also take our views on other people’s human rights situation, including that of the United States”. “So, we take up human rights issues when they arise in this country, especially when they pertain to our community. And in fact, we had a case yesterday that’s really where we stand on that,” he added.

The EAM was referring to an incident of assault – which occurred in less than 10 days – in which two Sikh men were attacked and robbed in a New York neighbourhood.

Jaishankar’s retort on the human rights issue came after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, at a joint news conference on Monday, said that the US is monitoring some recent “concerning developments in India, including a rise in human rights abuses by some government, police, and prison officials".

Responding to a question at the press meet, Jaishankar said while the issue of human rights was not discussed during the current meeting, it has come up in the past.

“It is a subject which has come up in the past. It came up when Secretary Blinken came to India. I think if you recall the press briefings after that I was very open about the fact that we had discussed it and said what I had to say,” he said.

Retort On CAATSA

In another strong rebuttal to the US that has threatened India in the past with sanctions for purchasing the Russian S-400 missile defence system, Jaishankar said that the CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act) is a US law and it’s for the American administration to decide on it.

“It is their legislation and whatever has to be done has to be done by them,” said the EAM at the press meet, indicating that New Delhi doesn’t really worry about the sanctions.

CAATSA is a US federal law that allowed America to clamp sanctions on Iran, North Korea, and Russia. The bill was passed by the Senate on 27 July 2017 and then enacted into legislation on 2 August 2017 by then-President Donald Trump.

New Delhi has bought five S-400 missile systems from Russia at a cost of a whopping $5.5 billion as part of the deal that was sealed in October 2018.