WASHINGTON: India was not designated a violator of religious freedom because US Secretary of State Antony Blinken felt that the situation in India did not warrant such a designation, says the US State Department.

On Friday, Secretary Blinken designated Burma, China, Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, Nicaragua, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan as Countries of Particular Concern …” for having engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom.” India, however, was spared.

For the last three years, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has demanded that because of widespread discriminations against religious minorities, India should also be put on the violators’ list.

USCIRF is a bipartisan agency of the US Federal Government which monitors religious freedom across the globe and recommends various actions against the violators.

“Secretary Blinken, given the totality of the facts and the circumstances, determined that religious freedom concerns in India do not warrant a Country of Particular Concern designation or placement on the Special Watch List,” said State Department Spokesperson Ned Price when asked why India was excluded.

“But of course, these are conversations that we continue to have with our Indian partners and with partners around the world,” the spokesperson added.

In its 2022 Annual Report, USCIRF recommended that India be designated a “country of particular concern” for engaging in or tolerating “systematic, ongoing, and egregious” violations of religious freedom.

The report noted that in 2022, religious freedom conditions in India remained poor. During the year, the Indian government at the national, State, and local levels continued to promote and enforce policies, including laws targeting religious conversion, interfaith relationships, and cow slaughter, that negatively affect Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Dalits and Adivasis.

Published in Dawn, December 8th, 2022

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