Following the recent controversial Citizenship Amendment Act that sparked protests across India, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom reportedly urged that the State Department add India to its list of nations with uniquely poor records on protecting freedom to worship.
The bipartisan commission, created in 1998 by Congress to make policy recommendations about global religious freedom, proposed designating India as a “country of particular concern” in the annual report it released yesterday.
The suggestion marks a show of disapproval of India's divisive new citizenship law, which has sparked broad worries about the disenfranchisement of Muslims.
The commission is empowered as an independent arbiter to look only at nations' religious freedom records, apart from their relationship with the United States, vice-chair Nadine Maenza said.
Beyond the citizenship law, Maenza added, India has a broader “move toward clamping down on religious minorities that’s really troublesome”.
Spokesman for India's Ministry of External Affairs, Anurag Srivastava, responded to the report with a statement blasting the commission's “biased and tendentious comments against" that nation. Noting that some members dissented from the commission's decision to recommend India for the lowest ranking of religious freedom protections, Srivastava appeared to use the commission's internal terminology as a dig.
“We regard (the commission) as an organisation of particular concern and will treat it accordingly,” he said.
The commission proposed four other nations join India in the ranks of most egregious religious freedom offenders; Nigeria, Russia, Syria and Vietnam. The State Department's current list of “countries of particular concern” regarding religious freedom includes China, Saudi Arabia, North Korea and Iran.
Inclusion among the nations with the poorest religious freedom records can lead to new sanctions, although the executive branch is also empowered to rely on already-imposed sanctions or issue a waiver.