India

‘Anti-Hindu’: Republican Lawmakers Hit Out at Biden for Enacting Travel Ban on India

India, which has been reeling under a devastating COVID wave, has faced travel restrictions from not only the US, but a number of other countries as well. In recent days, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates, among others, have banned the entry of passengers travelling from India.

Several Republican lawmakers have criticised US President Joe Biden for imposing travel curbs on India beginning 4 May, as they complained that Washington couldn’t restrict travel from ‘our ally’ India while keeping the southern border with Mexico open.

The new travel rules restrict the entry of most non-US citizens from the South Asian country and kick in on 4 May, as per the White House. In a separate Level 4 Travel Health Notice by the US State Department, US citizens have been advised against travelling to the COVID-ravaged South Asian country.

“Biden enacting an India travel ban while keeping the border open is like locking your front door, but leaving the back door wide open. I wonder if the Left will accuse him of being xenophobic and anti-Hindu,” said Congressman Jodey Arrington, who represents the state of Texas in the House of Representatives. Mexico and India have reported similar numbers of COVID deaths (over 216,000 and over 208,000, respectively, according to Johns Hopkins University as of 30 April 2021). 

​Another lawmaker from Tennessee, Tim Burchett, also pointed out that the Biden administration hadn’t yet closed down the southern border with Mexico, even as he went ahead with imposing travel restrictions from the south Asian country.

​“The policy will be implemented in light of extraordinarily high COVID-19 caseloads and multiple variants circulating in India,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday.

Hours after the announcement by the White House, the State Department announced exemptions for certain categories of Indians who wished to travel to the United States for “legitimate travel”.

“In keeping with the Department of State’s commitment to facilitate legitimate travel to the United States, Secretary Blinken decided today to apply the same set of National Interest Exceptions to India that he had previously applied to all other regional travel restrictions currently in effect as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the State Department said.

“Students seeking to commence studies in the fall, academics, journalists and individuals who provide critical infrastructure support in countries affected by a geographic COVID-19 restriction may qualify for the exception,” said the State Department.

America’s travel curbs on India come amid the backdrop of a sharp surge in COVID infections in the South Asian country, which on Saturday recorded over 400,000 new infections, the most reported from any nation in a single day. Before Saturday, India reported over 300,000 new infections for nine straight days, propelling it to become the second worst-hit in the COVID pandemic.

So far, India has reported nearly 18.8 million infections.

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