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US, India vow unity in face of domestic turbulence

Meeting of Indian, American leaders comes as US president faces likely impeachment, India copes with protests

Michael Hernandez   | 19.12.2019
US, India vow unity in face of domestic turbulence

WASHINGTON

India and the United States brushed off domestic issues Wednesday while maintaining that their bonds would endure and strengthen on a range of bilateral issues. 

The 2+2 national security-focused meetings of American and Indian defense and foreign ministers in Washington comes as President Donald Trump is headed towards likely impeachment later Wednesday evening.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo brushed off questions about the ongoing impeachment debate on the floor of the House of Representatives, calling it "noise," "silliness" and "chaos."

"The four of us today worked on important things for the United States of America," Pompeo said at the State Department, where he was meeting with Defense Secretary Mark Esper and their Indian counterparts.

"The leaders of our two nations are working diligently to protect the American people, to develop a relationship that's important strategically for the coming decades between the United States and India. We won't let the noise and the silliness here in Washington, D.C. distract us from that."

In the likely event that Trump becomes just the third U.S. president to be brought up on impeachment charges, he is almost certain to be acquitted in the Senate, where his party controls the majority.

Meanwhile in India, New Delhi is coping with mass demonstrations against a new citizenship law that critics say discriminates against Muslims and violates the Indian Constitution's secularism.

Citing the harassment of minorities in Muslim-majority Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, the Indian parliament on Dec. 11 amended its citizenship law, offering citizenship rights to Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Christian, Parsi and Jain communities migrating from these countries. The law, however, excluded Muslims, triggering mass demonstrations.

Following the law's implementation, several petitions have been filed in the Indian Supreme Court challenging it.

The Indian Supreme Court on Wednesday issued notice to the government on all 60 petitions challenging the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act.

The three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde refused to suspend the law's implementation, however, and the matter will now be taken up on Jan. 22.

Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar defended the law, saying it is designed "to address the needs of persecuted religious minorities."

Pompeo did not respond directly when asked about how the U.S. would respond to the law, stating only that Washington would be "consistent" in its response.

"We care deeply, and always will, about protecting minorities, protecting religious rights everywhere," he said. "We honor Indian democracy as they have a robust debate."

"The United States will be consistent in the way that we respond to these issues, not only in India but all across the world.”

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