Biden calls religious pluralism ‘core principle’ for India, US

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President Joe Biden on Thursday called religious freedom a “core principle” for India and the United States, in a gentle nudge as he welcomed India’s Hindu nationalist prime minister, Narendra Modi.

Modi has faced criticism over the rights of religious minorities in India, with rights groups alleging a blind eye to vigilante violence against Muslims and Christians.

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“Equity under the law, freedom of expression, religious pluralism and diversity of our people -- these core principles have endured and evolve,” Biden said at a ceremonial welcome to Modi at the White House. “Even as they have faced challenges throughout each of our nations’ histories, and will fuel our strength, depth and future.”

Biden and Modi, however, overwhelmingly stressed the positive as they opened talks set to focus on trade and defense, with the two democracies both seeing challenges from a rising China.

“I have long believed that the relationship between the US and India will be one of the most defining relationships of the 21st century,” Biden said.

Modi said that both India and the United States had societies “based on democratic values.”

“Both of our countries take pride in their diversity,” Modi said. “Both of us believe in the fundamental principle of ‘in the interest of all,’ ‘for the welfare of all.’”

“The two countries are committed to work together for the global good and for global peace, stability and prosperity. Our strong strategic partnership is a clear proof of the power of democracy,” Modi added.

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