WASHINGTON, May 17 (APP): The United States encourages every country to uphold its commitment to protect religious freedom for all, a State Department spokesperson said Tuesday but parried questions about why India was not on the department’s list of countries guilty of severe violations of religious freedom.
“We carefully monitor the religious freedom situation in every country and we encourage each government to uphold its commitments to protect the religious freedom of all – for all and engage officials around the world to regularly take steps that advance this core issue of religious freedom,” Spokesperson Vedant Patel said in response to a question from a private Pakistani tv channel’s correspondent about India’s omission from the so-called list of ‘countries of particular concern (CPC).”
But the correspondent came back and pointedly asked as to why the “biggest violator of religious freedom” — India — has been kept out of the CPCs, despite a recommendation by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), a separate agency monitoring the state of religious freedom around the world.
“Let me say clearly that we strongly oppose laws or actions from any country around the world that impede the ability of any individual to choose faith, practice a faith – change their religion, participate in a religion, or tell others about their religious beliefs and practices,” Patel said, again evading the question.
“We think that countries must protect that right of freedom of religion or belief. And again, we carefully monitor the religious freedom situation in every country. And we encourage each government to uphold its commitment to protect religious freedom for all,” Patel added.
The annual US report on international religious freedom was released in Washington, ahead of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s official visit to Washington next month during which he will have talks with President Joe Biden and other administration officials.
While briefing journalists on the report on Monday, a senior US State Department official, who declined to be identified by name, also avoided referring to ‘countries of concern’, but did denounce the continuing ‘targeted” attacks against Muslims and other minorities in India and called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to hold the perpetrators accountable.
“What we outline in today’s (religious freedom) report is a targeted – continued targeted attacks against religious communities, including Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindu Dalits, and indigenous communities; dehumanizing rhetoric, including open calls for genocide against Muslims; lynching and other hate-fueled violence, attacks on houses of worship and home demolitions, and in some cases impunity and even clemency for those who’ve engaged in attacks on religious minorities – we’re also continuing to see, at the state level, some restrictions on religious attire,” the official added
To a question about the political situation in Pakistan, Patel said, “You have heard me say this a number of times now, for the past few weeks, but I will use this opportunity to say again that we do not choose a political party or a particular candidate when it comes to Pakistan or any country.
” As it relates to Pakistan, our view is that a strong, stable, prosperous Pakistan is key to a strong and stable U.S.-Pakistan relationship.”