Noting that “headwinds” against democratic rule around the world are “strong,” USAID administrator Samantha Power said on Wednesday that there are forces in India and the United States that are trying to “sew divisions…ethnicities and religions against to set each other up … bend laws and abuse institutions”.
At an event in IIT-Delhi, Power mentioned the attack on the Capitol by rioters on January 6 last year, following the defeat of former US President Donald Trump. “Yet the headwinds against democratic rule are strong around the world. Within the United States and India, there are forces seeking to divide, pit ethnicities and religions against each other, bend laws, abuse institutions, and use violence against those who stand in their way; we saw this, of course, on January 6 in the United States last year… How the United States and India stand up to face these injustices, how fiercely we protect our hard-won pluralism, how tenaciously we defend our democracy and individual rights , will determine not only our own trajectory, but that of the world we inhabit,” she said.
“To be clear, now and for years to come, the US sees India not only as a leader in the Indo-Pacific, but as a leader around the world,” Power said. “Together we can provide the emerging countries, the emerging economies of the future, with a new development model, one rooted not in debt traps and dependency, but in economic trade and integration, one that supports and celebrates individual and national agency, and one that strives to see all countries go beyond the need for aid,” she said, in a clear reference to China’s policies.
Elaborating, Power said: “A model based on interacting with a country’s citizens and civil society as willingly as it does with its government. A model that treats others as equals and collaborates on solutions without prejudice or stereotypes. A model that recognizes that democracy, inclusiveness and pluralism offer the surest path to sustainable progress, where dignity is not reserved for a few, but for all of us. A model rooted in collaboration, not petty but magnanimous. A model that believes at its core that we are all one family.”
Power said India, with its talent, resources and technological expertise, can greatly contribute to the development trajectory of many countries around the world. “But what has ultimately positioned India as a future development leader is not its assets, but its values… It is India’s multi-ethnic, multi-party democracy that has enabled it to face the challenges and emerge stronger and stronger. come. more resilient. It is her support for free speech over decades that has allowed injustices to come to light. It is tolerance for diversity and dissent that has enabled reforms and advancing institutions. India’s trajectory has been so strong because – not in spite of – its democracy,” she said.
Power also praised India’s aid to Sri Lanka, contrasting it with China. She told how in 2003 India wrote off debts from poor countries such as Ghana, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.
“Perhaps nowhere is India’s commitment to those in danger more visible than now in Sri Lanka… India has responded very quickly with an absolutely critical set of measures… And it has provided $3.5 billion in credit lines to the government from Sri Lanka,” she said.
“Compare this with the People’s Republic of China, which has been an increasingly eager creditor of the Sri Lankan government since the mid-2000s. Indeed, over the past two decades, China has become one of Sri Lanka’s largest creditors. a port that generated little income and was hardly used by ships, and an equally huge airport, called the world’s emptiest because it attracted so few passengers, and the tallest tower in the country that was built as a tourist attraction, but unfortunately never opened for the public,” said Power.
“As conditions have deteriorated, Beijing has promised credit lines and emergency loans. This is critical as it is estimated that at least 15% of Sri Lanka’s external debt is held by Beijing. But calls to provide more significant assistance have so far gone unanswered. And the biggest question of all is whether Beijing will restructure debt to the same extent as other bilateral creditors,” said Power.
“I have had many conversations here in India and with other partners, this challenge is not unique to Sri Lanka. Many indebted countries in Africa and Asia hope their calls will be answered. It is really essential that Beijing participates in debt relief with all other creditors transparently and on fair terms,” Power said, adding that if ever there was a time to choose cooperation, it is now.