WASHINGTON: Unfazed and unbowed in the face of American pressure, India is pushing back at Washington on several contentious issues - including the threat of sanctions and its crusade for human rights - while maintaining that ties between the two sides are strong enough to accommodate differences.
In a blunt rebuttal to the US menacing New Delhi with sanctions threat over its purchase of Russian S-400 missile defense system, external affairs minister S Jaishankar on Wednesday said CAATSA, the US domestic law that enjoins sanctions for such transactions with American adversaries, was for Washington to sort out.
"It is their legislation and whatever has to be done has to be done by them," Jaishankar said, implicitly declaring that India will do what it takes to safeguard its security without worrying about sanctions.
Jaishankar similarly pushed back at US criticism of human rights in India, attributing it to American lobbies and vote banks.
"People are entitled to have views about us. We also are entitled to have views about their lobbies and vote banks. We will not be reticent. We also have views on other people's human rights, particularly when it pertains to our community," Jaishankar retorted in one of the strongest repudiation of the constant American lectures on human rights.
The riposte came hours after the annual Country Report on Human Rights Practices released by the State Department on Tuesday, said among other things that government officials at both local and national levels in India were "intimidating" critical media outlets through physical harassment and attacks, followed by secretary of state Antony Blinken saying the US is monitoring "rise in human rights abuses" in India.
But beyond these critical notes on Washington's censorious approach, Jaishankar painted a broader upbeat picture of ties, suggesting that there is a "gap between (US) policy and narrative" and people in the Biden administration dealing with policy are well-informed and they "understand where India is coming from".
Asked if a prolonged Russia-Ukraine conflict would place more stress on US-India relations, he said ties between the two countries have the "strength and comfort level to deal with differences", even if the two sides may not agree on all issues.