The US State Department has said it welcomes steps that would improve the "efficacy" of Indian markets. The moment came in response to a question on India's new farm laws which have triggered countrywide protests and attracted global attention.
"In general, the United States welcomes steps that would increase the efficacy of Indian markets and attract greater private sector investment", a State Department spokesperson said on Wednesday, responding to a question from The Wall Street Journal.
NEW: State Department urges "dialogue" on #FarmersProtests in India, signals concern over blocked Internet access: "We recognize that unhindered access to information, including the internet, is fundamental to the freedom of expression and a hallmark of a thriving democracy." pic.twitter.com/qtCONfG1GX— Sabrina Siddiqui (@SabrinaSiddiqui) February 3, 2021
One of the three new farm laws, The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, aims to "empower" farmers by allowing them to sell their produce to any seller across the country. Currently, government-regulated wholesale markets are the preferred choice for farmers to sell their produce.
At the same time, the State Department also took note of curbs placed on the internet by Indian authorities amid the ongoing demonstrations by farmers, saying that access to free information is a "fundamental right".
"We recognise the unhindered access to information, including the internet, is fundamental to freedom of expression and a hallmark of a thriving democracy", said the State Department.
"We recognise that peaceful protests are a hallmark of any thriving democracy and note that the Indian Supreme Court has stated the same", it added.
Internet bans have been imposed in localities around the site of farmers' agitation, which include Delhi's state borders. India's federal Home Ministry justified the internet curbs last week, as steps undertaken in the "interest of maintaining public safety and averting public emergency".
India's capital city witnessed violent clashes between police and farmers on the country's Republic Day - on 26 January - as protesting farmers carried out a tractor rally in the city. A large section of the participants invaded the city's iconic Red Fort and hoisted a religious flag at a place meant for only the national flag - the tricolour. The said clashes caused injuries to hundreds of policemen and one farmer's death.
America's reaction to India's farm laws comes a day after a host of international celebrities, including pop sensation Rihanna and model Mia Khalifa, threw their weight behind Indian farmers in the ongoing agitation.
Several US Democratic lawmakers, including Ilhan Omar and Haley Stevens, have also expressed "solidarity" with the protesting Indian farmers.
Solidarity with all the farmers across India protesting for their livelihood.— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) February 3, 2021
India must protect their basic democratic rights, allow for the free flow of information, reinstate internet access, and release all the journalists detained for covering the protests. https://t.co/uOvwNkIu5n
"I am concerned by the reported actions against peaceful demonstrators protesting new agricultural reform laws in India. I continue to encourage the Modi government and farming representatives to engage in productive discussions and I will continue to monitor this situation closely", Representative Haley Stevens (Michigan) said in a statement.
Meanwhile, India has reacted strongly to statements from foreign celebrities, with an official message from New Delhi calling upon everyone to undertake a "proper understanding" of the farm laws before commenting on the matter.
"The temptation of sensationalist social media hashtags and comments, especially when resorted to by celebrities and others, is neither accurate nor responsible", India's Foreign Affairs Ministry said on Wednesday.