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The Biden administration’s top diplomat in New Delhi on Thursday dismissed concerns being raised in certain quarters about democracy in India and observed that in many ways Indians are better than the Americans.

At an event organised here by the Council on Foreign Relations, a top American think-tank, US Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti told the audience he was confident that “10 years from now India is going to be a vibrant democracy as it is today in terms of free and fair elections”.

“Again there’s things that probably are worse and there’s things that are better. They have a law, you can’t go more than two kilometers to vote. So there”ll be one guy who lives in the mountains as a monk (at) someplace. They will walk for two days to bring the voting machine, execute the vote,” he said, responding to a question expressing concerns over the status of democracy in India.

He said that during elections times in India, there are people who check trucks to make sure that nobody has cash going around. “There’s probably walk-in money, as they call it in some cities here in the United States, Philadelphia, that’s like a tradition where cash kind of gets you votes and things like that. So, I’ve been impressed with certain things they do that are better than us.” He, however, added there are things that “we keep our eyes on. And I just disagree that we don’t speak out about them”, “We put them out. It’s not the only thing. I mean, some people want us to only say that. But this is too important a relationship to spend all day long only saying that over and over. You’re not going to get anything else done. It’ll become a self-fulfilling prophecy that they will not be close to us. Whereas where we find the common ground, which I think is really human to human, very deep,” he said.

“You have a lot of leaders there who have come worked, been educated here, have an affinity. There’s a huge positive polling of Americans. I told the president before the state visit that Americans poll better in India than Americans do in America. They like us more than we like ourselves. That’s rare in the world today,” Garcetti said, adding that Poland is the only other country that comes close.

This is a huge advantage for the US, he said.

“… If you don’t know state governments in India, which are as powerful as the centre and are run by opposition parties, and there’s plenty of criticisms you can make, too, about other parties that have been in power. If you look at history in India, there’s not been some golden era where everybody’s rights have been respected,” Garcetti said.

“America’s role is to stand up for the principles and the values that we have, to never retreat from those and talk about them. But is the relationship only that and those points of conflict? Absolutely not. It would be bad diplomacy, it would be bad policy. But in my heart, 100 percent, I believe, not only will this still continue to be one of the world’s most vibrant democracies,” Garcetti said.

“I 100 percent believe we can trust this relationship. It’s going to be one of the defining relationships of the 21st century, the US and India together,” he said.