Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the US, the White House on Monday dismissed concerns about the health of democracy in India, saying it is vibrant and anybody who happens to go to New Delhi can see that for themselves.
"India is a vibrant democracy. Anybody that, you know, happens to go to New Delhi can see that for themselves. And certainly, I would expect that the strength and health of democratic institutions will be part of the discussion," John Kirby, Coordinator for Strategic Communications at the National Security Council in the White House, said addressing a news conference.
"And, look, we never shy away. And you can do that with friends; you're supposed to do that with friends. You never shy away from expressing concerns that we might have with anyone around the world," Kirby said in response to a question on the health of Indian democracy under Prime Minister Modi.
He further said that Prime Minister Modi's visit is about advancing "what is now and what we hope will be a deeper, stronger partnership and friendship going forward".
When asked about the reason behind the invitation for the state dinner, Kirby said that President Joe Biden wants to meet his Indian counterpart to advance and deepen bilateral partnership and friendship.
"There are innumerable reasons why India certainly matters not just bilaterally between the two of our nations, but multilaterally on very many levels. And the President is looking forward very much to having Prime Minister Modi here to talk about all those issues and to advance and deepen that partnership and that friendship," Kirby said.
"India is a strong partner on very, very many levels with the United States. You saw that, in Shangri-La, Secretary Austin (Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin) announced some additional defence cooperation now that we're going to pursue with India. Of course, there's an awful lot of economic trade between our two countries. India is a member of the Pacific Quad and a key friend and partner with respect to Indo-Pacific security," Kirby added.
Prime Minister Modi's June 22 state visit, the highest level of diplomatic reception, will boost the US and India's "shared commitment to a free, open, prosperous and secure Indo-Pacific", the White House said earlier.
During the visit, the Prime Minister will be hosted by US President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden at a state dinner at the White House, and the US Congress has also invited him to address a joint meeting of the House of Representatives and Senate.
The theme of the address will focus on Modi's vision for India's future and the global challenges faced by the two countries.
According to Kevin McCarthy, the US Speaker of the House, Prime Minister Modi's last address to the US Congress "left a lasting impact" and strengthened ties between India and the US.