United States President Joe Biden is expected to speak to Prime Minister Narendra Modi about democratic backsliding in India but will not lecture him on the subject, a senior White House official said on Wednesday, Reuters reported.

Human rights groups and political opponents have accused Modi of stifling dissent and creating a hostile environment for the country’s minorities, especially Muslims. But the Indian government has consistently asserted that democratic principles remain robust.

Modi arrived in the United States on June 20 for a three-day visit. This is his sixth visit to the country as the prime minister but the first official state visit.

Modi will have a private dinner with Biden on Wednesday evening and will visit the White House on Thursday.

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on Wednesday said that when the United States sees challenges to press, religious or other freedoms, then the country makes its views known. “We do so in a way where we don’t seek to lecture or assert that we don’t have challenges ourselves,” he told reporters.

Sullivan added: “Ultimately, the question of where politics and the question of democratic institutions go in India is going to be determined within India by Indians. It’s not going to be determined by the United States.”

The official asserted that the Indian prime minister’s visit was not about China. “But the question of China’s role in the military domain, the technology domain, the economic domain will be on the agenda,” he said, according to Reuters.

Sullivan’s statements about allegations of democratic backsliding in India came a day after 75 Democratic senators and members of the House of Representatives urged Biden to raise human rights issues with Modi.

Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar wrote on Twitter on Wednesday that as a mark of protest, she would boycott a US Congress event where Modi will deliver a speech. She will instead hold a briefing with human rights groups.

Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, another Democrat, said she would also not attend Modi’s address. “It’s shameful that Modi has been given a platform at our nation’s capital – his long history of human rights abuses, anti-democratic actions, targeting Muslims and religious minorities, and censoring journalists is unacceptable,” she said.

Earlier this week, civil society organisations also urged Biden to raise human rights concerns with Modi. Amnesty International said that the two leaders must address “grave human rights concerns” in both countries when they meet.

Aakar Patel, the chair of board at Amnesty International India, said that the two leaders “must hold each other to account for their human rights commitments, rather than sweep human rights issues in their respective countries under the rug”.

Elaine Pearson, Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division director, also urged the White House to discuss human rights concerns, both publicly and privately, during Modi’s visit.

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