US again no longer designates India as country of ‘particular concern’

No justification for why State Department did not designate India, laments US commission on religious freedom

Muslim devotees offer Friday prayers in an open field in Gurgaon, on the outskirts of New Delhi, on December 17, 2021. —AFP
  • USCIRF calls on Congress to convene a public hearing.
  • The Indian government increased its transnational repression, according to a report.
  • We will not be deterred, we will continue our role, says USCIRF.

WASHINGTON: The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has convened a Congressional hearing after expressing disappointment over the US State Department’s continued failure to designate India as a “Country of Special concern (CPC)”.

The commission stated this in response to the State Department’s list of countries designated as CPCs.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, following the central goal of American foreign policy under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, has designated Burma, China, Cuba, North Korea, Eritrea, Iran, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Russia , Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan as countries of special concern “for having committed or tolerated particularly serious violations of religious freedom.”

Blinken said he had designated al-Shabab, Boko Haram, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Houthis, ISIS-Sahel, ISIS-West Africa, al Qaeda affiliate Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal-Muslimin and the Taliban as “” Entities of special interest”.

USCIRF Chairman Abraham Cooper and Vice President Frederick A. Davie said in a joint statement that there was no justification for why the State Department did not designate India as a country of particular concern, despite its own reports and statements.

The USCIRF asked Congress to convene a public hearing on the State Department’s failure to comply with its recommendations, they said.

“In India, in addition to egregious violations of religious freedom within its borders, the government has increased its transnational repression activities targeting religious minorities abroad and those who advocate on their behalf,” Cooper and Davie said.

USCIRF said that since issuing its 2023 Annual Report, it had consistently shared its recommendations with the State Department and the US Congress.

In early December 2023, USCIRF met with Antony Blinken to reiterate those recommendations. USCIRF published publications on India’s state-level anti-conversion laws and religious freedom.

Senior USCIRF officials said: “USCIRF rejects the State Department’s decision to omit India as a CCP.”

They said they met with the State Department on many occasions to sound the alarm about the country, but that not all of their recommendations had been followed.

“We will not be deterred and will continue our role as a congressionally mandated watchdog to ensure that the United States government prioritizes religious freedom as a key component of its foreign policy.”

The State Department placed Algeria, Azerbaijan, the Central African Republic (CAR), Comoros and Vietnam on its Special Watch List (SWL). The USCIRF had recommended in its 2023 Annual Report that Algeria, Azerbaijan and the Central African Republic be included in the SWL, in addition to Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Turkey and Uzbekistan.

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