Headwinds against democratic rule are strong world over : USAID administrator



Democracy is facing stiff challenges in India, U.S. and various other parts of the world. The administrator of the United States Agency for International Aid(USAID), Samantha Power, during her recent India visit said that the headwinds against democracy were strong across the world.

Administrator Power was in India July 25-27. She met with food security and climate experts, civil society, and government officials to discuss the global food security crisis, and the US-India development partnership.

At a program organized in IIT-Delhi on July 27, Powers said that there are forces within the U.S. and India that seek to sow division and pit ethnicities and religions against one another. She said that these forces wish to bend laws, abuse institutions and wield violence against those who stand in their way.

Referring to the Capitol Building attack by rioters on January 6, 2021, she said that the manner in which the U.S. and India defend their democratic setups and combat “these injustices”,  “will determine not just our own trajectory, but that of the world that we inhabit.”

Speaking to media persons on July 27 Powers said: “India is an absolutely critical actor, not only in the Indo-Pacific, but we think in all over the world. …as I indicated, we see headwinds in the face of freedoms in many, many parts of the world and because we have seen India’s civil society and its free press, free speech, free association – even something that I admire greatly and have seen other countries around the world try to emulate, which is India’s right to information law. That is a big part of what so many other countries around the world are eager to have themselves, is that kind of vibrancy.”

Power also praised India’s assistance to Sri Lanka. In reply a reporter’s question she said: “I will say that I think that we in the United States and the Indian — we in the Biden Administration and the Indian government here are deeply concerned, of course, by the economic collapse and crisis that has befallen the Sri Lankan people. We have over these last several months been in sustained high-level dialogue about how best to support the Sri Lankan people. And we’ve taken each — I think, in parallel — very important steps. I think the $3.5 billion in lines of credit that the Indian government have provided have been absolutely invaluable. The humanitarian assistance and development assistance that USAID is flooding in and that the United States government is flooding in, I think, again, performs as well as a vital role.”

“But, fundamentally, it’s also incredibly important that Sri Lanka’s creditors, come to the table, all who are involved in those roles, in order – and it’s important that the Sri Lankan government itself course corrects on so many of the economic and political decisions that have been made over recent years that have contributed to this crisis,” she said.

On China, she said: “In terms of Beijing, I mean just to be very clear, what I stated was that the crisis stems from a whole host of factors, everything from financial mismanagement by the prior government, corruption, some unwise agricultural policy decisions, and the COVID crisis of course, the terrorist attacks that occurred in Sri Lanka along with COVID, over this period driving away tourists or deterring tourists. Those were a factor. But as well, incurring so much debt to undertake, large infrastructure projects that can be, of course, beneficial to the people of any nation. I mean, so many nations are hungering for infrastructure investments, and rightly so. They’re key. Infrastructure is a critical vehicle for economic development.”

“But when the price of receiving financing, receiving loans carries with it profound infringements on one’s own kind of sovereignty and independence and very significant interest rates, that’s going to prove problematic over time,” she added.

On July 25, Power arrived in New Delhi, India to advance U.S. partnership with the Government of India and reinforce India as a critical global development leader in addressing urgent global challenges, including food insecurity, the climate crisis, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Power first met with Parameswaran Iyer, CEO of the National Institution for Transforming India Aayog, the Government of India’s public policy think tank, to discuss collaboration across sectors to drive and sustain development outcomes around the world.

On July 26, Power met with civil society representatives to discuss freedom of expression, speech, identity, and the importance of protecting the rights of minority groups. The USAID administrator underscored the U.S.’ continued commitment to work with civil society organizations around the globe to advance human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Then, she joined Indian agricultural experts and private sector leaders to learn how the United States and India can apply climate-smart and sustainable solutions to address the global food security crisis, which is further exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Potential areas of engagement would focus on optimization, through training and providing reliable information to small holder farmers, addressing food wastage through the construction of adequate cold storage facilities, and maximizing yields through the efficient use of fertilizer and irrigation techniques. Administrator Power also visited an urban community that benefited from an innovative water ATM, which provides safe, reliable, affordable water for hundreds of families in the area.

In the afternoon, Power met with key Government of India leaders, including Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister of India P.K. Mishra, Minister of External Affairs Dr. S. Jaishankar, and Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra, to reinforce the U.S. and India’s long history as strategic partners and collaborators across development issues including food security, climate change, and adaptation through mechanisms such as the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure and digital development. They also discussed the region and the importance of India’s leadership, and U.S. support, to Sri Lanka through this economic crisis. She underscored the U.S.’s joint commitment to providing humanitarian assistance and partnering to address remaining development challenges in India, Asia, and around the world.