US takes down notification to reward NGOs that promote religious freedom in India | world-news | Hindustan Times
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US takes down notification to reward NGOs that promote religious freedom in India

The announcement had caused caused a stir in New Delhi that has historically ignored remarks, comments and reports on the state of religious freedom in India by the United States, as contained in state department’s annual report on religious freedom around the world.

world Updated: Nov 11, 2017 21:48 IST
Yashwant Raj
The Department of State had said that through this programme, it seeks to ‘reduce religiously-motivated violence and discrimination in India’
The Department of State had said that through this programme, it seeks to ‘reduce religiously-motivated violence and discrimination in India’(Representative image)

The US state department has “taken down” a notification it issued earlier this week inviting applications from non-governmental organisations for a grant of nearly $500,000 for projects promoting religious freedom in India.

“The notification of funding was taken down for a technical review,” a state department spokesperson told Hindustan Times on Friday, but did not offer an explanation for the review or duration.

The notification, issued earlier in the week by the state department’s bureau of democracy, human rights and labour, offered a grant of $493,827 for projects in a range of categories, with the stated intention to “reduce religiously-motivated violence and discrimination in India”.

The announcement had caused caused a stir in New Delhi that has historically ignored remarks, comments and reports on the state of religious freedom in India by the United States, as contained in state department’s annual report on religious freedom around the world.

“We have seen reports on this issue. We have sought more details,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar told reporters at his weekly media briefing.

“In any case, any such activity in India in this area by anybody has to follow the rules of the land.”

Indian officials have said, on background, that they were told by their American counterparts that this notification had seemed to be “freelance” work by one or more over-eager state department employee(s), and that they were themselves taken by surprise. That could explain the website take down.

Irrespective of the party in power, New Delhi is known to react to such moves with irritation — “we don’t lecture you on the state of race relations in the US”, multiple Indian diplomats have said is their internal pushback logic — and it has denied entry to over-eager fact-finders who it believes have no right to stand in judgement on internal affairs of a sovereign nation.

India has taken the same independent position — irrespective of the party in power — on trade-related issues, the only irritation in ties with the United States.

It doesn’t recognise, for instance, the right of the US trade representative to hold inquisition-style hearings into alleged trade malpractices by trading partners. Other countries testify at these hearings, fielding their top officials such as the their ambassador.