India denies visas to US panel on religious freedom, says it has no standing

Published June 11, 2020
Since taking power in 2014, the Indian government has faced criticism for attacks on Muslims. — AFP
Since taking power in 2014, the Indian government has faced criticism for attacks on Muslims. — AFP

India has turned down a travel request for members of a US government panel seeking to review its religious freedom, saying such foreign agencies had no standing to assess the constitutional rights of citizens.

Since taking power in 2014, the Indian government has faced criticism for attacks on Muslims and the panel has called for the world's biggest democracy to be designated a “country of particular concern”, along with China, Iran, Russia and Syria.

The call by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) was made in an April report urging sanctions against officials of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government after it excluded minority Muslims from a new citizenship law.

Explainer: What does India's new citizenship law mean?

Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said the government firmly repudiated the surveys of the commission, which had little knowledge of the rights of Indian citizens, describing it as biased and prejudiced.

“We have also denied visas to USCIRF teams that have sought to visit India in connection with issues related to religious freedom,” he told a lawmaker from Modi's ruling group in a June 1 letter.

The step was taken because the government saw no grounds for a foreign entity such as the USCIRF to pronounce on the state of Indian citizens' constitutionally protected rights, he added.

Reuters has reviewed a copy of the letter to Nishikant Dubey, an MP who had raised the issue of the panel's report in parliament.

The US embassy in New Delhi referred all queries to the commission based in Washington, DC, which was not immediately available to respond.

The commission is a bipartisan US government advisory body that monitors religious freedom abroad and makes policy recommendations to the president, the secretary of state, and Congress. However, these are not binding.

India would not accept any foreign interference or judgement on matters related to its sovereignty, Jaishankar added.

Opinion

Editorial

The whole truth
28 Sep, 2022

The whole truth

THE war on truth has never been more relentless than it is today. Authoritarianism is on the rise and purveyors of...
Real-world trolls
Updated 28 Sep, 2022

Real-world trolls

It's reprehensible how PTI supporters now seem convinced that politicians from opposing camps aren't entitled to basic dignity.
Islamabad wildlife
28 Sep, 2022

Islamabad wildlife

PRESERVING biodiversity is low on the list of priorities of both state and society. However, successful attempts at...
Noon leaks
Updated 27 Sep, 2022

Noon leaks

PMO audio leaks are a national security emergency that ought to be investigated at the highest level.
Cipher probe offer
27 Sep, 2022

Cipher probe offer

CONSIDERING the toxic political polarisation in the country, former prime minister Imran Khan’s suggestion that ...
Delaying Doha plans
27 Sep, 2022

Delaying Doha plans

WHEN Doha announced its intention to spend $3bn in different commercial and investment sectors of Pakistan around a...