With the Democratic Party criticising the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, the situation in Kashmir and the communal violence in New Delhi earlier this year, India’s foreign policy mandarins will be keeping a close eye on presumptive vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris’ views on these issues.
Harris, who has roots in India on her mother’s side and in Jamaica on her father’s side, is the first woman of Indian and African descent to run for the post of vice president. Like most other key leaders of both the Democratic and Republican parties, she has batted for stronger India-US relations.
As her maternal uncle Gopalan Balachandran pointed out on Wednesday, Harris hasn’t let her Indian roots come in the way of criticising India on human rights issues. She was, he said, “more worried about the broader implications” and “the philosophy behind” such issues.
During her unsuccessful campaign to become the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate last year, Harris had said that the US was watching the situation in Kashmir after the scrapping of the erstwhile state’s special status and that she would strive to lead while upholding the values the US is known for, including speaking out against “human rights abuses”.
Asked about the possible role the US could play following last year’s lockdown in Kashmir and the human rights situation there, she replied: “It is about reminding people that they are not alone, that we are all watching.”
After external affairs minister S Jaishankar declined to attend a meeting last year with the House Foreign Affairs Committee because of the presence of Indian-American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, who had moved a resolution in the House of Representatives on the situation in Kashmir, Harris extended strong support to the lawmaker who, like her, has roots in Tamil Nadu.
Harris tweeted: “It’s wrong for any foreign government to tell Congress what members are allowed in meetings on Capitol Hill. I stand with @RepJayapal, and I’m glad her colleagues in the House did too.”
Harris has also been critical of US President Donald Trump’s handling of China, with which India is currently locked in border standoff. Before she called off her campaign for the presidential candidacy last year, Harris had said “China’s abysmal human rights record must feature prominently in our policy toward the country”. “We can’t ignore China’s mass detention of more than a million Uighur Muslims in ‘re-education camps’ in the Xinjiang region, or its widespread abuse of surveillance for political and religious repression,” she had said. “We can’t ignore Beijing’s failure to respect the rights and autonomy of Hong Kong’s people and the Hong Kong government’s excessive use of force against peaceful protestors.”