Millennium Post

American hypocrisy

The International Religious Freedom Report which describes the status of religious freedom in every country was published by the United States creating a global furore. In essence, the report covers government policies violating religious belief and practices of groups, religious denominations and individuals, and US policies to promote religious freedom around the world. Naturally, it is critical of countries' performance in providing religious freedom with the US accusing several countries including North Korea, Iran, Russia, Myanmar, China as well as India of gross violations against minority communities. Corroborating reports through multiple sources to increase comprehensiveness and reduce the potential for bias, it cites government and societal action that typifies and illuminates issues reported in each country. While the US regards China as a 'Country of Particular Concern' on religious freedom, referring to the mass detainment of more than one million Chinese Muslims (Uighurs) in Xinjiang province, it maintains Iran on the list (since 1999) regarding the regime's crackdown on Baha'is, Christians, and others. Not sparing India for the reported outrage over mob-lynching and inflammatory speeches being made by senior officials of BJP – country's ruling party – preceding the general elections, the report cited several irregularities in religious freedom that the US has highlighted vis a vis India. Even the mention of how "the Central and state governments and members of political parties took steps that affected Muslim practices and institutions" and how "proposals to rename Indian cities with Muslim provenance continued, most notably the renaming of Allahabad to Prayagraj". In an expected response, and opposing the US's stance of 'reducing bias' in regard to the report, BJP strongly reacted to the report citing outright bias against the current Modi-led dispensation as well as BJP. MEA's response rejecting the report that criticised the status of minorities in India and asserting that "we see no locus standi for a foreign entity to pronounce on the state of our citizens' constitutionally protected rights" is highly welcoming. The United States has no business commenting on other countries' religious paradigms with regard to the rights protected under the sovereign States' Constitution. MEA through spokesperson Raveesh Kumar elaborated on how India is a vibrant democracy where the fundamental rights of all its citizens including minorities are protected under the Constitution. That in itself signifies how we remain in absolutely no need of a critique such as the US to remind us of the disparities or sporadic inconsistencies that have been highlighted in the Western Media with regards to internal affairs. While instances cited in the report might not be false reports, it remains in the interest of the Indian government to cater to any instability that amounts to a violation of the constitutionally-backed rights. Any interference by the US, even in the form of a report that highlights internal affairs, is heavily unappreciated. The United States, no matter the liberty it exercises in terms of unilateralism, has no say in matters pertaining to India's secular structure and its elements. Reports which draw performance sketch over crucial indicators of a country in contemporary times are usually expected off neutral organisations of global repute such as UN. Through its International Religious Freedom Report, US has tried to play the parent role emulating UN by outrightly highlighting religious inconsistencies in nations – more popularly those it has a direct interaction with irrespective of the nature of the interaction. This explains the bleak picture of communal freedom that it has drawn through its report in countries like Iran and China and even Pakistan. Ahead of Pompeo's state visit today, the report has brought minor tension in the air by being unappreciative on the Indian side.

Looking forward to strengthening strategic ties with India while hurting its sovereign sentiment through such reports is probably not the best way to start the visit. Increasing tension over trade, data flows and arms from Russia have already muddied the water for Indo-US discussion; the report aggravating the situation, to say the least. Pompeo's focus on laying a perfect path for Trump and Modi's interaction at the G20 summit later in the week in Japan might be slightly hindered due to the latest theatrics the US pulled with the report. Pompeo's "Modi hai toh mumkin hai" jibe while stressing at possibilities between the two countries in strategic partnership develops an empty-rhetoric with Pompeo himself releasing the report. Though the report does not particularly antagonise India, it is the US's unilateralism that hurts. Being a developed nation does not provide an incentive to comment on else's internal affairs to this extent and especially when the report does not cover their own gaps. The report particularly cites selective Muslim persecution in India but the US, out of all nations, does not get to hold the mic – global perception acknowledges the kind of religious freedom that was cherished by Muslims in the US when they were illegally detained over the rampant and desperate US-drive of selectively persecuting Muslims in the wake of 9/11 which stretched over years.

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