New York: A senior State Department official dealing with religious freedom, said the US is regularly engaging with Indian officials on protecting the rights of minorities and the government has opportunities to address the concerns of civil society groups.
Briefing reporters about the 2020 Report on International Religious Freedom on Wednesday, Daniel Nadel said: “With respect to India, I think there’s genuine opportunities there for the government to address some of the concerns they hear from Indian civil society through greater dialogue and engagement.
“We do regularly engage with Indian government officials at all levels, encouraging them to uphold human rights obligations and commitments, including the protection of minorities, in keeping with India’s long tradition of democratic values and its history of tolerance.”
The report said that among the issues discussed with officials “were the Muslim community’s concerns about the CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act), difficulties faced by faith-based (religious) NGOs in the wake of amendments to the FCRA (Foreign Contributions Regulation Act), and allegations that Muslims spread Covid-19”.
Nadel, the senior official in the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom, said that the US encourages the Indian government to consult “religious communities, these outside actors” on passing laws to avoid alienating them.
“When laws are passed, when initiatives are undertaken that are done without effective consultation with these communities, it creates a sense of disempowerment; at times, of alienation. And the best way to address that is to engage in that direct dialogue between government and civil society, including religious communities.”
The annual report, which is mandated by Congress, did not grade India or deliver an overall verdict on the state of religious freedom in the country.
It listed incidents involving attacks on minorities taken from reports by the media and religious and civil society groups, and legislative actions.
Releasing the report, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said: “Our promise to the world is that the Biden-Harris administration will protect and defend religious freedom around the world. We will maintain America’s longstanding leadership on this issue.”
He acknowledged that “anti-Muslim hatred is still widespread in many countries, and this, too, is a serious problem for the US”.