Mike Pompeo calls for efforts to defend religious freedom
India has rejected the criticism in the 2018 Report on International Religious Freedom, released by the US on June 21, saying no foreign government has the locus standi to comment “on the state of our citizens’ constitutionally protected rights.Updated: Jun 27, 2019 00:52 IST
Days after an official American report criticised growing religious intolerance in India, secretary of state Mike Pompeo on Wednesday called for the US and India to jointly take a stand on protecting religious freedom.
India has rejected the criticism in the 2018 Report on International Religious Freedom, released by the US on June 21, saying no foreign government has the locus standi to comment “on the state of our citizens’ constitutionally protected rights”.
Speaking on a new vision for the India-US relationship at the India International Centre on Wednesday evening, following his talks with the Indian leadership, Pompeo said: “India is the birthplace of four major world religions. Let’s stand up together for religious freedom for all, let’s speak out strongly together in favour of those rights for whenever we do compromise those rights, the world is worse off.”
There was no immediate reaction from Indian officials to Pompeo’s remarks. The US report said groups claiming to protect cows had attacked Muslims and Dalits and that the government hadn’t addressed the problem despite Indian government statistics indicating communal violence had increased sharply.
Pompeo didn’t provide context for his remarks on religious freedom and the rest of his speech focussed on ways to build the bilateral relationship in areas as diverse as security, counter-terrorism, the Indo-Pacific, trade, energy security and the creation of 5G networks.
The secretary of state struck all the right notes to connect with an Indian audience, referring to yoga and thalis and even quoting from the late K Subrahmanyam, one of India’s greatest strategic thinkers and the father of external affairs minister S Jaishankar.
He also spoke of a “new age of ambitions” that could drive relations between two “global powers and good friends”.
“India is standing up more on the world stage. We welcome your assertiveness, because it’s good for the world. It’s why we have for years supported you for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council,” Pompeo added.
The US-India relationship is based on the rule of law, respect for human dignity and importance of civil society, he said. “Right now we have a perfect chance to go even further than many have dreamed...Let’s see each other with new eyes, and embrace the age of ambition,” he added.
First Published: Jun 27, 2019 00:51 IST