The United States Commission of International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which likes to be called a bipartisan and independent watchdog of religious freedom had earlier this year recommended that India be clubbed along with nations like Pakistan, China and North Korea for being a ‘Country of Particular Concern (CPC)’ in terms of the supposed deterioration of religious freedom in the most diverse country on the face of the planet. The US State Department, led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has now come out in the open and junked the USCIRF’s recommendation.
By not clubbing India along with countries where religious minorities are persecuted every day, the Trump administration has shown that the Indo-US ties are over and above the fictitious observations of a redundant US commission. The State Department had designated ten countries, including China and Pakistan in the countries of particular concern (CPC) list on December 7.
Saying that half of the world’s people locked up for apostasy or blasphemy are in Pakistani jails, US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Samuel Brownback, while replying to a question as to why India was not included in the CPC list, remarked that violation of religious freedom was carried out by the government in Pakistan which was not the case in India.
As a matter of fact, Brownback said that several recommendations made by the commission were not accepted by the Secretary of State. It must be mentioned that the USCIRF is a rabidly anti-India, and particularly anti-Modi commission of US lawmakers. It has a history of taking anti-India decisions from a pedestal of supremacy. On more occasions than one can remember, the USCIRF forgets that India is the largest, and most diverse democracy of the world with an unparalleled religious plurality.
Making deliberate misinterpretations about enactments like the CAA and Article 370 abrogation, this sham of a Federal Commission had recommended the State Department this year to designate India as a “country of particular concern” next to the likes of Pakistan, North Korea, and China. India had minced no words, with the Ministry of External Affairs terming the USCIRF’s Annual report as “biased and tendentious”.
Anurag Srivastava, the MEA spokesperson had said, “We reject the observations on India in the USCIRF Annual Report. Its biased and tendentious comments against India are not new. But on this occasion, its misrepresentation has reached new levels.”
In June this year, the same commission which had lobbied to get a visa denial for then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in 2004 had gotten its own visas denied by India’s External Affairs Ministry. The Foreign Ministry of India had denied visas to the USCIRF teams in connection with issues relating to religious freedom.
“We have denied a visa to USCIRF teams that have sought to visit India in connection with issues related to religious freedom, as we do not see the locus standi of a foreign entity like USCIRF to pronounce on the state of Indian citizens’ constitutionally protected rights”, the External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had said.
The US State Department junking the USCIRF’s concerted bid to get India listed as a country of particular concern shows the growing loss of influence which the ‘bipartisan’ commission is now facing within its own country.