US body recommends flagging India over religious freedom violations

Washington: A US Congress-constituted quasi-judicial body on Monday recommended to the Biden Administration to designate India, China, Pakistan, Afghanistan and 11 other nations as “Country of Particular Concern” in the context of status of religious freedom.

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India has in the past said that the American body on international religious freedom has chosen to be guided only by its biases on a matter on which it has no locus standi.

The recommendations of the US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) are not binding on the US Government.

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Other countries recommended for this designation by the USCIRF in its annual report are Burma, Eritrea, Iran, Nigeria, North Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam.

The USCRF had made a similar recommendation to the US government last year which was not accepted by the Biden Administration.

India has previously rejected the reports by USCIRF.

“Our principled position remains that we see no locus standi for a foreign entity to pronounce on the state of our citizens’ constitutionally protected rights,” the ministry of external affairs had said in the past.

“We have a robust public discourse in India and constitutionally mandated institutions that guarantee protection of religious freedom and rule of law,” the MEA had said.

Among its recommendations last year, five countries — Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, Syria, and Vietnam are not designated as Country of Particular Concern by the US Government.

“In 2021, religious freedom conditions in India significantly worsened. During the year, the Indian government escalated its promotion and enforcement of policies including those promoting a Hindu-nationalist agenda that negatively affect Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Dalits, and other religious minorities, USCIRF said.

“The government continued to systemize its ideological vision of a Hindu state at both the national and state levels through the use of both existing and new laws and structural changes hostile to the country’s religious minorities, it said.

Established by the US government in 1998 after the inaction of the International Religious Freedom Act, recommendations of USCIRF are non-binding on the state department. Traditionally, India does not recognise the view of USCIRF. For more than a decade, it has denied visas to members of the USCIRF.

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