US Senator writes to Blinken, wants 'robust discussion' with India on religious freedom

NewsDrum Desk
16 Dec 2022
US Senator writes to Blinken, wants 'robust discussion' with India on religious freedom

Washington: A Republican US Senator has urged Secretary of State Antony Blinken to hold a robust discussion with India on the issue of religious freedom of minorities.

Senator James Lankford sent a letter to Blinken after the State Department in its annual release of Countries of Particular Concern, Special Watch List, and Entities of Particular Concern designations did not follow the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom's recommendations, specific to India, Nigeria, and Afghanistan.

In its report early this year, the USCIRF had urged the Department of State to designate India as a country of particular concern on religious freedom issues.

The Biden administration did not agree with the recommendations of the USCIRF.

Lankford is asking for the State Department’s legally required explanation to Congress on its designations, a media release said.

“India was not formally designated despite overt and repeated severe violations of religious freedom. India is an important security partner for the United States and a key counter-weight against China in the Indo-Pacific region,” he wrote.

“In the context of that partnership, the United States must have a robust discussion about the deteriorating religious freedom conditions for religious minorities in India,” Lankford said.

The purpose of any designation is to shine a light on the most egregious religious freedom violators and promote continued engagement on the value of religious liberty at all levels of government, he said.

“Formally designating countries under the IRFA (International Religious Freedom Act) can be an effective diplomatic tool to encourage and secure changes in behaviour. I welcome the Department’s explanation for why, in its view, a formal designation would not enhance our efforts to promote human rights in partner countries, such as India,” Lankford said.

In a statement, the Indian American Muslim Council commended Lankford for his letter to Blinken.

India has previously rejected the USCIRF’s observations, terming them as “biased and inaccurate”.

The Indian government has asserted that India has well-established democratic practices and robust institutions to safeguard the rights of all.

The government has emphasised that the Indian Constitution provides for adequate safeguards under various statutes for ensuring the protection of human rights.

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