How is India not a Country of Particular Concern, USCIRF asks US state dept

'There is no justification as to why the State Department did not designate Nigeria or India as a Country of Particular Concern, despite its own reporting and statements,' says a USCIRF statement

The USCIRF (logo shown) is an independent federal entity created by the US Congress to monitor and report on global religious freedom (photo: IANS)
The USCIRF (logo shown) is an independent federal entity created by the US Congress to monitor and report on global religious freedom (photo: IANS)
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NH Digital

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) last week (4 January) raised concerns and expressed "extreme disappointment" regarding the US department of state's failure to designate Nigeria and India as Countries of Particular Concern (CPC)— despite both nations repeatedly meeting the legal standard for such a designation, according to the USCIRF's statement.

The USCIRF has called on the an US Congress to convene a public hearing on the state department's failure to follow the USCIRF's recommendations in this matter.

'There is no justification as to why the State Department did not designate Nigeria or India as a Country of Particular Concern, despite its own reporting and statements. USCIRF calls on Congress to convene a public hearing on the failure of the State Department to follow our recommendations,' the USCIRF statement reads, attributing this to its chairperson Abraham Cooper and vice chair Frederick A. Davie.

Screengrab from the USCIRF statement calling for a Congressional hearing on why India was not included in the US state department's list of Countries of Particular Concern with respect to religious freedoms (photo: National Herald)
Screengrab from the USCIRF statement calling for a Congressional hearing on why India was not included in the US state department's list of Countries of Particular Concern with respect to religious freedoms (photo: National Herald)
National Herald

Regarding India, the statement said:

In India, in addition to perpetrating egregious religious freedom violations within its borders, the government has increased its transnational repression activities targeting religious minorities abroad and those advocating on their behalf.
USCIRF statement, 4 January 2024

The USCIRF had recommended the CPC designation for both India and Nigeria in its 2023 annual report.

While the state department re-designated 12 countries as CPCs in 2024—namely, Burma (Myanmar), China, Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, Nicaragua, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan—it did not include India and Nigeria.

The USCIRF "rejected" the omission, stating that 'it will continue its role as a congressionally mandated watchdog to ensure that the U.S. government prioritises religious freedom as a key component of U.S. foreign policy'.

In October 2023, the USCIRF had noted that "religious freedom conditions in India have notably declined in recent years" and emphasised the Indian government's legal framework and enforcement of "discriminatory policies against religious minorities", per a report in the Wire.

The commission had highlighted these issues during a hearing on 'Advancing Religious Freedom within the US-India Bilateral Relationship' in September, it added.

Also, according to the statement, the USCIRF had in its 2023 annual report recommended the CPC designation for Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, Syria and Vietnam be applied without any waivers. However, the state department issued waivers on sanctions for Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

In response to the state department's decision, the USCIRF formally requested a detailed justification as to why its policy recommendations were not fully implemented, including the lifting of waivers.

The commission also expressed disappointment that Vietnam was not designated a CPC despite the state department including it on its Special Watch List (SWL).

Since the release of its 2023 annual report, the USCIRF has consistently communicated its recommendations to the US department of state and Congress. The commission met with secretary of state Antony J. Blinken in early December 2023 to reiterate its recommendations.

Additionally, the USCIRF has held hearings on various countries, including India, during the year 2023, per its 4 January statement.

The USCIRF, an independent federal entity created by the US Congress, is tasked with monitoring and reporting on global religious freedom.

It also provides recommendations to deter religious persecution and uphold freedom of religion in matters of US foreign policy.

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