India rejects US report on minorities' status, says ‘committed to tolerance’

06/23/2019

New Delhi. June 23: India on Sunday rejected a US State Department report which made certain critical comments regarding the status of minorities here, saying it has "no locus standi" to "pronounce on the state of our citizens' constitutionally protected rights".

According to the Indian Media, In response to a query on the latest 'Report on International Religious Freedom' published by the State Department, External Affairs Ministry of India spokesperson Raveesh Kumar underlined that India is a vibrant democracy where the fundamental rights of all its citizens, including minorities, are protected under the Constitution.

 

"We see no locus standi for a foreign entity/government to pronounce on the state of our citizens' constitutionally protected rights," he said.

Significantly, the report was released just ahead of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's visit to India from June 25.

"India is proud of its secular credentials, its status as the largest democracy and a pluralistic society with a longstanding commitment to tolerance and inclusion," Kumar said.

 

"The Indian Constitution guarantees fundamental rights to all its citizens, including its minority communities," the MEA spokesperson asserted.

 

"It is widely acknowledged that India is a vibrant democracy where the Constitution provides protection of religious freedom, and where democratic governance and rule of law further promote and protect the fundamental rights."

 

The US report has talked about the Indian government’s failure on some occasions to act on mob attacks on religious minorities, marginalised communities and critics of the government. It also observed that the “government often protected perpetrators from prosecution.’’

 

However, the report contains no advice for the Indian Government unlike the case of Pakistan, China and Iran. The US State Department has asked Pakistan to appoint an envoy to address issues relating to religious freedom in the country while it has been scathing on China. 

The India specific portion of the report avoided hinting that there were any reservations with the Indian Government’s policies that required US diplomatic counselling. In contrast, US diplomats “advocated’’ for religious freedom during meetings at the highest levels in Indonesia. They also asked Pakistani officials to combat sectarian violence, ensure the protection of religious minorities and reform the blasphemy laws.

 

The report has not mentioned the violence in Kashmir, though it has a section on the Kathua killings.

 Interestingly, the US State Department report is for 2018, the same year when Washington pulled out of the UN Human Rights Council. The report at the outset admits that it depends on “impressionistic random sources’’ and that the “motivations and accuracy of sources vary.’’ 

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