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Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Horrific scene… not America at its best, says US envoy as he wraps up

Speaking to The Indian Express, US Ambassador to India Kenneth I Juster said lawlessness and rioting is “always unacceptable” and has no place in any democracy.

Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi | Updated: January 8, 2021 7:38:46 am
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US Ambassador to India Kenneth I Juster said Thursday that he was “very sad” to see the violence in Washington DC and described the storming of the US Capitol as a “horrific scene” that was “not America at its best”.

Speaking to The Indian Express during a detailed interview on his three-year stint in India, the outgoing US envoy also said that lawlessness and rioting is “always unacceptable” and has no place in any democracy.

“It was very sad to see the news coming out of Washington, D.C. when we woke up on Thursday morning. While protests in our country are part of our democracy, it is unacceptable for there to be violence associated with them, and the storming of the US Capitol was a horrific scene. This is not America at its best. Lawlessness and rioting in the United States — or in any country — is always unacceptable. It has no place in any democracy,” Juster said.

The Ambassador’s comments are significant as he is a political appointee who was picked by the Trump administration for the job in the end of 2017. During his term, the India-US relationship has transformed, especially in defence, security and energy cooperation.

Speaking about his India stint, Juster marked out three incidents as “low points”: the Pulwama terrorist attack in February 2019, the desecration of the Mahatma Gandhi statue outside the Indian Embassy in Washington DC last summer, and the Galwan Valley incident in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed in violent clashes with Chinese troops.

On the air strikes in Balakot, Juster said that the US was concerned about the possibility of escalation.

“Whenever there’s a potential conflict or an actual engagement, we are always concerned that something could escalate. And all parties are hoping that there can be restraint shown and the situation can de-escalate. That’s been our perspective with the border disputes with China — that people want to try to resolve the issues peacefully. Now, on terrorism issues, it’s also understood that countries may need to take some responsive action when that occurs. If that’s the case, you’re hoping it would be proportionate to that incident,” he said.

He also spoke about the trip hosted by the Centre for diplomats to Jammu and Kashmir in January 2020, following the bifurcation of the state, and called it an “important and valuable” opportunity. He said that the US has publicly expressed its hope for restoration of full access to the Internet in J&K, and for the realisation of economic benefits that have been discussed by all parties.

In an almost hour-long interview, Juster spoke about the accomplishments during his tenure — from energy to health defence and security cooperation, pushing the US as a destination for jobs and education, and the development of Quad as a grouping — as well as the challenges in trade and investment, and India’s defence procurement from Russia.

But the envoy signalled that he was leaving on a happy note as he called India “the most fascinating country in the world” and “many countries rolled-up into one”.

“As I reflect back on my time here, I think we have accomplished a great deal in each of those areas. What I am most proud of is that I have been involved in this relationship for twenty years in various capacities, and I’ve seen it progress significantly from year to year. As I said in my speech [on Tuesday], the past four years have been a time of further ambition and achievement. And I believe that I’m leaving this partnership in a very strong position for the next Administration. As I said previously, I believe the US-India strategic partnership is strong, positive, and on an upward trajectory,” he said.

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