Uzra Zeya crafted a strategic partnership framework for India, US over a decade ago: Lawmaker

Lalit K Jha
·4-min read

Washington, Apr 20 (PTI) Indian-American diplomat Uzra Zeya who has been nominated to a key position in the Biden administration played an important role in crafting the India-US strategic partnership framework that has received bipartisan support over the past decade, a top American Senator has said.

Senator Tim Kaine said this while introducing Zeya during her confirmation hearing for the position of Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights. During her diplomatic career, she was also posted in New Delhi.

Zeya had quit the foreign service in 2018 in protest against the policies of former president Donald Trump.

“In India she crafted a strategic partnership framework over a decade ago that still enjoys broad bipartisan support and today's sources the cornerstone of the US Indo Pacific engagement,” Kaine told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during her confirmation hearing last week.

“She helped overcome India's long standing aversion to external democracy promotion and launched new bilateral initiatives to support gender equality in Afghanistan and to support free and fair elections abroad,” Kaine said.

Zeya, he said, served five presidents, three Republicans and two Democrats, with distinction for 28 years as a foreign service officer on four continents. She's fluent in Arabic, French and Spanish. She was acting assistant secretary of human rights, democracy, and labour. In that post she led UN-US human rights dialogue with China, Egypt, and Bahrain, among others, he said.

“Ms. Zeya is a trailblazer. She's the proud daughter of Indian American immigrants. She would be the first Asian American woman to serve as Undersecretary of State, and I believe she is very, very well prepared to take on this post and we're proud to support this exemplary Virginian,” Kaine said.

Zeya told lawmakers that her grandfather was a freedom fighter in India.

“From my father in law, a World War II veteran, who fought tyranny on the shores of Okinawa, to my grandfather, a freedom fighter in India's quest for independence. To my mother, whose own education was cut short by marriage at the age of 16 and invested all her brilliance in raising four independent minded opinionated daughters to seize opportunities never afforded her. I thank my parents, brother and sisters for their solidarity in joining virtually today,” Zeya said.

“As the world enters the 15th year of a democratic recession. The Chinese government is perpetrating genocide and crimes against humanity and Xinjiang, strangling autonomy in Hong Kong, and repressing Tibetans Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities. Global human displacement is at record levels, while the scourge of human trafficking is ever present, while terrorists expand their lethal reach from Africa to South Asia,” she said.

The US, she said, needs to take on the China challenge from a position of strength, rooted in human rights and democratic values. “Having led US China Human Rights dialogues, I know the severe repression that has only grown more acute under the Chinese Communist Party,” she argued.

Zeya said the United States must defend and renew democracy at home and abroad, in tandem with allies, the “force multipliers” for its national security. “We are stronger when we work together with democratic allies and partners to address not only China’s human rights abuses and Russia’s malign efforts to undermine Western democracies, but also rising corruption, disinformation, hate crimes, cyber threats, and violent extremist movements,” she said.

“If confirmed, I will leverage decades of experience, from Europe to South Asia, shoring up alliances and partnerships in service of shared, democratic values, and championing Biden-Harris administration efforts to empower democratic partnerships, such as the Quad Summit and the planned Democracy Summit,” Zeya said.

Responding to a question, Zeya said the US disengagement from the multilateral system, leaves a vacuum that others are very gladly there to fill starting with China, but also Russia and other countries, allied to basically entirely distort the framework of universal human rights, use arguments of sovereignty to reject any notion of international scrutiny or accountability for human rights violations.

“So, I think the United States needs to be there but I think the critical element as well is really leveraging our alliances and partnerships something that China and Russia do not have, and does not compare as a force multiplier to, to basically integrate universal human rights and our democratic values to make bodies like the Human Rights Council much more effective and upholding the mission that they were set out to pursue,” Zeya said. PTI LKJ AMS AKJ AMS