Indian government has justified its decision to deny visa to US panel on religious freedom wanting to visit India.
The Delegation of US Commission on International Religious Freedom was to visit India on 4 March with support from the US State Department and the US embassy in Delhi.
The independent and bipartisan US group responded by expressing its resolve to continue trying to visit India in light of reports of ‘deteriorating religious freedom since 2014’ in the country particularly since Narendra Modi took over the government.
A statement from the USCIRF chairman Robert George said, “As a pluralistic, non-sectarian and democratic state, and a close partner of the United States, India should have the confidence to allow our visit. The USCIRF has been able to travel to many countries including Pakistan, Vietnam, China and Burma. One would expect Indian government would allow for more transparency than these nations.”
The Indian embassy in Washington said that there was no change in India’s stand on such visits.
Later, responding to George’s statement, the Indian embassy said that foreign agencies such as the USCIRF had no ‘locus standi’ to pass judgement or comment on the state of Indian citizens’ constitutionally protected rights.
In its 2015 report, the US agency had concluded that the incidents of religiously motivated and communal violence had increased third year in a row.
India is particularly concerned about the agency’s visit because it fears that the USCIRF’s recommendations may allow the US government to impose sanctions against it.
Under the current law, the US can impose sanctions against countries flagged by the agency as of ‘particular concern.’
India had earlier denied permission to the USCIRF in 2009.