India rejected "biased and motivated," comments made by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) about the country in its annual report that had yet again proposed to blacklist New Delhi and urged it to develop a better understanding of India.
According to the statement released by the Ministry of External Affairs, Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said, "The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) continues to regurgitate biased and motivated comments about India, this time in its 2023 annual report. We reject such misrepresentation of facts, which only serves to discredit USCIRF itself."
"We would urge USCIRF to desist from such efforts and develop a better understanding of India, its plurality, its democratic ethos and its constitutional mechanisms," he added.
This response came after the US federal commission urged the Biden administration to impose targeted sanctions on Indian government agencies and officials responsible for severe violations of the right to freedom of religion of belief."
"USCIRF is disheartened by the deteriorating conditions for freedom of religion or belief in some countries-- especially in Iran, where authorities harassed, arrested, tortured, and sexually assaulted people peacefully protesting against mandatory hijab laws, alongside their brutal continuing repression of religious minority communities," USCIRF Chair Nury Turkel said in a statement released by USCIRF.
"USCIRF's independence and bipartisanship enables it to unflinchingly identify threats to religious freedom abroad. In its 2023 Annual Report, USCIRF recommends 17 countries to the State Department for designation as Countries of Particular Concern (CPCs) because their governments engage in or tolerate "systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations" of the right to freedom of religion or belief. These include 12 that the State Department designated as CPCs in November 2022: Burma, China, Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, Nicaragua, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan--as well as five additional recommendations: Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, Syria, and Vietnam. For the first time ever, the State Department designated Cuba and Nicaragua as CPCs in 2022," the release further stated.
"We strongly urge the Biden administration to implement USCIRF's recommendations--in particular, to designate the countries recommended as CPCs, and for the Special Watch List, or SWL, and to review U.S. policy toward the four CPC-designated countries for which waivers were issued on taking any action. We also stress the importance of Congress acting to prohibit any person from receiving compensation for lobbying on behalf of foreign adversaries, including those engaging in particularly severe violations of the right to freedom of religion of belief," Turkel added.
According to the statement, the 2023 Annual Report also recommends 11 countries for placement on the State Department's SWL based on their governments' perpetration or toleration of severe religious freedom violations. These include two that the State Department placed on that list in November 2022: Algeria and Central African Republic (CAR)--as well as nine additional recommendations: Azerbaijan, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Turkey, and Uzbekistan.
USCIRF is recommending the State Department add Sri Lanka to the SWL for the first time due to its deteriorating religious freedom conditions in 2022.
USCIRF further recommends to the State Department seven non-state actors for redesignation as "entities of particular concern" (EPCs) for systematic, ongoing, and egregious religious freedom violations. The State Department designated all seven of these groups as EPCs in November 2022: al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, the Houthis, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP or ISIS-West Africa), and Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM), the statement read.
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