Administration officials also addressed Pakistan Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s call for talks with India with the familiar refrain that while Washington desired regional stability, the “pace, the scope, the character of any dialogue between India and Pakistan is a matter for those two countries.”
New Delhi has ignored calls for talks, with Indian interlocutors viewing it as a ruse by Islamabad to seek economic help from the international community. The US remarks essentially underscored Islamabad’s dimming geopolitical and economic fortunes amid a catastrophic meltdown in Pakistan on several fronts.
Peppered with questions by a Pakistani journalist on the BBC documentary and Washington lack of condemnation of Prime Minister Modi, state department spokesman Ned Price said he was “not aware” of the documentary, and segued into a lavish assessment of US-India ties.
“What I will say broadly is that there are a number of elements that undergird the global strategic partnership that we have with our Indian partners. There are close political ties, there are economic ties, there are exceptionally deep people-to-people ties between the United States and India,” he said.
The official also went on to emphasize common values between US and India in the current situation — in the face of misgivings in some quarters about growing intolerance against minorities in both countries — saying they (US and India) are “two thriving, vibrant democracies” and “we look to everything that ties us together, and we look to reinforce all of those elements that tie us together.”
The officials also rejected the notion voiced by the journalist that the American stand is influenced by Indian-American voters in the US, saying, “We don’t think about it through those terms. I don’t think about domestic politics, and neither does anyone in this building.”
“When we have concerns about actions that are taken in India, we’ve voiced those. We’ve had an occasion to do that. But we want first and foremost to reinforce those values that are at the heart of our relationship,” he added.
Washington’s stand on the BBC documentary, which the Indian government dismissed as biased propaganda piece, follows its repudiation by London, BBC’s home, where UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he did not agree with the characterisation by a Pakistani-origin lawmaker that Modi was culpable for the “grave act of ethnic cleansing” in Gujarat.
Pakistani activists have sought to make capital of the BBC documentary, but given the perilous situation that Pakistan — itself a proponent of ethnic cleansing — finds itself in, they are finding little traction.
In fact, US lawmakers have only recently formally recognized the genocide that Pakistan undertook in its eastern wing that eventually became Bangladesh in 1971, an event recorded in US diplomatic cables known as the “Blood telegrams” — named after American diplomat Archer Blood.
A Congressional resolution moved last October called on the Government of Pakistan, “in the face of overwhelming evidence, to offer acknowledgement of its role in such genocide, offer formal apologies to the Government and people of Bangladesh, and prosecute, in accordance with international law, any perpetrators who are still living.”
Watch US State Department shuts down Pakistani journalist’s question on BBC documentary on PM Modi