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US State Department rejects putting India on its list of countries violating religious freedom

Given the totality of the facts and the circumstances, determined that religious freedom concerns in India do not warrant a country of particular concern designation or placement on a special watch list.

The US State Department has made it clear that India will not be placed on its list of ‘Countries of Particular Concern’ or ‘Special Watch list’ this year for violations of religious freedoms. The US State Department Spokesperson, Ned Price, said,

“These designations are based on the totality of circumstances, the totality of reporting that we have been able to gather over the past year….Secretary Blinken, given the totality of the facts and the circumstances, determined that religious freedom concerns in India do not warrant a country of particular concern designation or placement on a special watch list… ”

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Under the American ‘International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998’, the American President is required to annually review the status of religious freedom in every country in the world and designate each country the government of which has engaged in or tolerated “particularly severe violations of religious freedom” as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC). The law defines particularly severe violations as “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom,” including violations such as: (1) torture; (2) prolonged detention without charges; (3) forced disappearance; or (4) other flagrant denial of life, liberty, or security of persons.

Under the ‘Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act of 2016 (Wolf Act)’, the American President is required to “designate each country that engaged in or tolerated severe violations of religious freedom during the previous year, but does not meet” all the criteria for being designated as a CPC to a “Special Watch List” (SWL).

After the US State Department released the names of countries under CPC and SWL on 2nd Decemeber 2022, Vice Chair of USCIRF (US Commission for International Religious Freedom) took to Twitter to pressurize US State Department to target India: “The @StateDept’s failure to designate #India a CPC is inexplicable given their own reporting of the country’s religious freedom violations. Their documentation shows that India’s violations are systematic, ongoing, & egregious.”

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In an exclusive interview with The Australia Today Assoc. Prof. at The University of Sydney, Salvatore Babones, decimated USCIRF’s targeting of the world’s largest secular democracy India.

WATCH VIDEO: Exclusive interview of Dr Salvatore Babones with The Australia Today’s Jitarth Jai Bharadwaj, Amit Sarwal, and Pallavi Jain

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Background:

A report by the US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) earlier this year alleged that religious freedom in India is under threat.

The Indian government outrightly rejected the USCIRF’s observations as “biased and inaccurate.”

Responding to the USCIRF’s report, the Ministry of External Affairs said: “We have seen the biased and inaccurate comments on India by the U. S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). These comments reflect a severe lack of understanding of India and its constitutional framework, its plurality and its democratic ethos.” 

The US State Department released its list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) on 2nd December 2022.

This year 12 countries including China, Pakistan, Myanmar, Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, Nicaragua, DPRK, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan are on the list. Important to note that this list is by US State Department while USCIRF is a domestic US commission.

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