India hits back at US over religion report

The Asian Age.

India, Politics

The report may therefore be a fresh irritant in Indo-US ties, recently rocked by trade disputes.

External affairs minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar (Photo: Twitter)

New Delhi: India on Sunday rejected a US report on religious freedom, saying it “sees no locus standi for a foreign government to pronounce on the state of its (Indian) citizens’ constitutionally protected rights”. According to news agency reports, in its annual 2018 International Religious Freedom Report, the US state department alleged on Friday that mob attacks by violent extremist Hindu groups against minority communities, particularly Muslims, continued in India in 2018, amid rumours that victims had traded or killed cows for beef. The report was released even as US secretary of state Michael R. Pompeo is due to begin a three-day visit to India on June 25 when he will hold consultations with external affairs minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar on June 26 on a wide range of issues, including trade ties and the strategic relationship. The report may therefore be a fresh irritant in Indo-US ties, recently rocked by trade disputes.

The response from New Delhi was swift. In “response to a query on the latest Report on International Religious Freedom published by the US department of state”, the external affairs ministry’s spokesman Raveesh Kumar said: “India is proud of its secular credentials, its status as the largest democracy and a pluralistic society with a long-standing commitment to tolerance and inclusion. The Indian Constitution guarantees fundamental rights to all its citizens, including its minority communities. It is widely acknowledged that India is a vibrant democracy where the Constitution provides protection of religious freedom, and where democratic governance and the rule of law further promote and protect fundamental rights. We see no locus standi for a foreign entity/government to pronounce on the state of our citizens’ constitutionally protected rights.”

Mandated by the US Congress, the state department in its voluminous report gives its assessment of the status of religious freedom in almost all countries of the world.

Releasing the report at the Foggy Bottom headquarters of the state department, secretary of state Mike Pompeo last week said this was like a report card that tracks countries to see how well they have respected this fundamental human right, the reports added.