US has privately raised issues with India, says ambassador for religious freedom Sam Brownback
The US administration has raised issues related to religious freedoms in India in private discussions with the government in New Delhi and will continue to raise such matters, US ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom Sam Brownback has said.
Brownback made the remarks during a briefing on Tuesday on the designation by the US of China, Pakistan and eight other states as countries of particular concern for systematic violations of religious freedom. He was responding to a question regarding the US Commission for International Religious Freedom’s recommendation for India to be also designated in a similar manner.
“There were several recommendations made by the commission that [secretary of state Mike Pompeo] did not follow, and this was one of them. And we watch the situation in India very closely. The secretary has travelled there multiple times. These issues have been raised in private discussions at the government – high government level, and they will continue to get raised,” he said.
Pompeo is “well aware of a lot of the communal violence that’s happening in India” and he is also aware of the Citizen (Amendment) Act and “issues associated with the Modi government”, Brownback said.
“And as I said, he has raised it at the highest levels, but just decided at this point in time not to place them on a CPC [country of particular concern] or a special watch list,” he added.
There was no immediate response from Indian officials to Brownback’s comments. In the past, India has dismissed criticism of such matters by the US administration and American bodies as interference in the country’s internal matters.
Brownback also sought to make a distinction between the situation related to religious freedoms in India and Pakistan, saying the US had extensively reviewed the situation in both countries.
“Pakistan – a lot of their actions are done by the government. In India, some of them are done by the government and the law that was passed, and much of it’s communal violence. And then, when that takes place, we try to determine whether or not has there been effective...police enforcement, judicial action after communal violence takes place,” he said.
He pointed out that Pakistan accounts for half of the people in prison around the world for apostasy or blasphemy, and problems such as “forced brides” or women from Pakistan’s Christian and Hindu minorities being “marketed as concubines” in China. Besides, there is also discrimination against Pakistan’s religious minorities that makes them more vulnerable, he said.
“And that doesn’t mean that India doesn’t have problems. The statute...that was asked about earlier is a problem. The violence is a problem. We’ll continue to raise those issues, but those are some of the basis as to why Pakistan continues to be on the CPC list and India is not,” Brownback said.