On November 17, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken named 10 countries on the US government’s official list of the world’s worst offenders of religious freedom. A notable omission was India.
The announcement comes in response to recommendations from the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), a bipartisan and autonomous federal panel. The USCIRF recommended for two years in a row that India, along with 13 others, be listed as a country of special concern (CPC).
Last year, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo refused to include India on that list. This year, Blinken also did not accept USCIRF’s recommendation on India.
It is no secret that the US views India as a critical ally. The US State Department’s Web site states that “The United States and India have shared interests in promoting global security, stability, and economic prosperity through trade, investment, and connectivity.” It adds that India is America’s “major defense partner” and the two nations have “deepened cooperation on maritime security, interoperability and information sharing”.
But being a critical ally has not kept Saudi Arabia off the CPC list for years. The State Department says the kingdom has a “long-standing security relationship” with the US and is its “largest foreign military sales client (FMS), with more than $ 100 billion in active FMS cases”. So why can India not be designated as CPC and targeted be sanctioned on its agencies and officials, as recommended by USCIRF, for its significant human and religious violations?
Blinken’s refusal to designate India as CPC does not contradict and is inconsistent with its own position on India. Just seven months ago, he released the U.S. Department of State’s Global Religious Freedom Report accusing India of severe religious persecution. It contained damning reports from the ground that members of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government and its affiliates of the 96-year-old Hindu nationalist organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) were involved in the persecution of religious minorities, especially Muslims and Christians.
In fact, year after year, the Foreign Ministry’s frank reporting on India had no fists. In March, Blinken released a global human rights report addressing “significant human rights issues” in India, including extrajudicial killings by the police, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, violence against minorities, unjustified arrests or prosecution of journalists, and censorship and blocking of websites.
Yet, just weeks after his appointment, President Joe Biden chose Modi as one of the world’s first leaders to meet. It is ironic that just days before that Biden-Modi virtual meeting, the research organization Freedom House released a report documenting the decline of India’s democracy from “free” to “partially free”.
A week later, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin flew to New Delhi on his first foreign visit to discuss “shared goals” with Modi, but failed to mention India’s human rights abuses. In July, Blinken visited India to claim that “the US and India share a commitment to democratic values; it is part of the foundation of our relationship and reflects India’s pluralistic society and history of harmony. ” Again, no mention of India’s terrible human rights.
In September, the then American Charge d’Affaires met Atul Keshap, an Indian American, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, who holds no government position but heads India’s superstition of religious persecution and calls for India in ‘ to transform a Hindu nation. They discussed “India’s tradition of diversity, democracy, inclusivity and pluralism”.
In October, weeks after the Taliban unexpectedly seized Afghanistan, Blinken’s second-in-command, Deputy US Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, landed in New Delhi and India and the US immediately emerged as “thriving” democracies. saluted.
Foreign Ministry officials claim that the US raises “private” human rights issues with India. They point to Biden’s appeal to Mahatma Gandhi’s “message of non-violence, respect, tolerance” during his meeting with Modi in the White House in September, and Vice President Kamala Harris told Modi that the US and India must “protect democracies”.
But Biden, Harris, Austin, Blinken, Sherman and Keshap, in their meetings with Modi, his foreign and defense ministers, national security adviser, top diplomats and Bhagwat, failed to engage in any substantive dialogue on India’s onslaught on democracy.
Modi is expected to join the Biden administration’s “Summit for Democracy” on 9-10 December, where he will undoubtedly falsify his record of persecution of religious minorities, human rights defenders, critics, lawyers, journalists, students and politicians.
The Foreign Ministry’s own reports show that India’s democratic decline is at odds with the summit’s agenda of “defense against authoritarianism; addressing and combating corruption; and the promotion of respect for human rights ”.
The emphasis of this summit on human rights may provide an opportunity to state the Biden administration’s objections to the unacceptable persecution taking place in India in clear, public and without uncertain terms so that the Indian government understands the point. We expect the President to be more powerful and less opaque in his criticism given the stated purpose of the conference.
America’s refusal to state clearly that India’s increasing repression is in conflict with its long-standing commitment to the ideals of rights, freedoms and liberties should not continue. Our own credibility as a democracy is undermined if we assist and assist the world’s largest democracy to become the world’s second and most autocratic society after China, which Blinken has of course again designated as CPC.
The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial views.