The US commission said on Monday that religious freedom had deteriorated “significantly” when it re-recommended targeted sanctions for abuse in India under the Hindu nationalist government.
For the third year in a row, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom’s request to put India on its list of “Countries of Special Concern” has upset New Delhi and is a recommendation that the State Department is in fact sure to reject.
The panel, appointed to provide recommendations in its annual report, but not setting US policy, expressed broad concerns about South Asia and supported the State Department’s blacklisting of Pakistan.
Also read: US Monitors Rising Human Rights Violations in India: Blinken
In India, the committee pointed to “many” attacks on religious minorities, especially Muslims and Christians, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government in 2021 promoted an “ideological vision of the Hindu state” through a hostile policy towards minorities.
“The situation for religious freedom in India has seriously deteriorated,” the report said.
It pointed to “a culture of impunity for national threats and violence campaigns by mobs and vigilantes” and the arrest of journalists and human rights defenders.
Over the past few years, the Indian government has angry and rejected the committee’s findings, accusing it of bias.
President Joe Biden, like former Donald Trump, sought to strengthen relations with India in the face of the rise of China, seeing a common cause.
Former Vice President Biden is due to meet with Prime Minister Modi in Tokyo next month as part of four-party talks with Japan and Australia.
The committee also recommended adding Afghanistan to the blacklist following the Taliban’s victory and relisting Nigeria, which was removed by the Biden administration.
The countries on the State Department’s religious freedom blacklist that could impose sanctions are China, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.