US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is on a two-day visit to Delhi, today said the US and India should “stand up for religious freedom”. The comment is likely to raise eyebrows, coming on the heels of a US State Department report on the matter that was critical of India on that score.
In his India policy speech at the India International Centre, Mr Pompeo said: “India is the birthplace of four major world religions. Let’s stand up and defend religious freedom for all. Let’s speak up strongly together in favour of those rights. For whenever we do compromise those rights, the world is worse off.”
The “Report on International Religious Freedom 2018”, available on the website of the US State Department, alleged that the “authorities often failed to prosecute perpetrators of ‘cow vigilante’ attacks, which included killings, mob violence, and intimidation”, a charge that the government denied.
Foreign ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said on Sunday that India sees no credibility in a “foreign entity or government” pronouncing “on the state of our citizens’ constitutionally protected rights”.
“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,” Mr Kumar said. The Constitution, he added, “guarantees fundamental rights to all its citizens, including its minority communities”.
The BJP has said the US report is “biased” against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.
“The basic presumption in this report that there is some grand design behind anti-minority violence is simply false,” BJP media cell chief and parliamentarian Anil Baluni said in a statement. India has deep-rooted democratic institutions, including fiercely independent and pro-active judiciary. “Unfortunately, this fact is completely ignored in this report,” he said.
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