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Battle within US panel on religious freedom on putting India on Red List

Source : Tribune India

Battle within US panel on religious freedom on putting India on Red List
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Behind the exchange of words on the state of human rights in each other’s countries between External Affair Minister S Jaishankar and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is a more intense battle being fought in the corridors of United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) as it prepares a report to be submitted to the US State Department on April 25.

Twice in past successive years, the USCIRF wanted the US State Department to treat India as a ‘Country of Particular Concern (CPC)’ which would bracket it with egregious human rights abusers such as China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. And, both times two different US administrations have rejected its recommendation and kept India a rung below the Red List.

This time, the battle within USCIRF on the India chapter is more intense than in the past amidst insider accounts that one Commissioner has “been turned” and is understood to be insisting on several changes in the draft under preparation.

In a letter to USCIRF, several US-based civil rights and faith groups have asked it to withstand the pressure. “It is clear that those seeking to obfuscate the reality of India’s persecution of its religious minorities are now using intense lobbying and combative communication with the goal of preventing USCIRF from recommending India’s designation as a CPC for the third straight year,” said the letter.

“We have also learned that such pressure includes attempts to influence USCIRF Commissioners and officials to exclude even a mention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” it added.

On Wednesday, Jaishankar held a press conference in Washington to rebut Blinken’s comments a day earlier. Nationalist Congress Party has criticised the Government for the two Indian Ministers present at the press conference – Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh – not giving an on-the-spot rebuttal.

Stating that human rights issue was not a topic of discussion during the India-US 2+2 ministerial meeting, Jaishankar said people are entitled to have views about India but “we also take our views on other people’s human rights situation, including that of the US”.

Blinken had said a day earlier that the US is monitoring some recent “concerning developments” in India, including a rise in human rights abuses by some government, police and prison officials.

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