India, the world’s largest democracy, is home to a great diversity of faiths, the United States said Tuesday noting that it will continue to encourage New Delhi to uphold its commitments to protect religious freedom for all. The United States has designated 12 countries, including China, Pakistan and Myanmar, as “countries of particular concern” for the current status of religious freedom in these nations. Announcing this on Friday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said around the world, governments and non-state actors harass, threaten, jail, and even kill individuals on account of their beliefs.
“India of course, is the world’s largest democracy. It’s home to a great diversity of faiths. Our annual report on international religious freedom outlines some of the concerns we’ve taken note of when it comes to India. We continue to carefully monitor the religious freedom situation in all countries and that includes in India,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters here.
The Biden Administration, he said, will continue to encourage the Indian government to uphold its commitments to protect religious freedom for all. “We engage officials regularly on steps they can take to advance religious freedom. As the world’s two largest democracies, the United States and India, we’re also committed to an enduring project,” he said.
“This is the project that Secretary (of State, Tony) Blinken spoke to previously. The project that as our founders put it, of striving to form a more perfect union. This is a project for both of our countries. We have worked together, and we can work together to show that our democracies can meet our peoples’ needs. We must continue to hold ourselves to our core values including respect for human rights like freedom of religion and freedom of belief or expression,” he said in response to a question.
“That, in turn, makes our respective democracies even stronger. Secretary Blinken, given the totality of the facts and the circumstances, determined that religious freedom concerns in India do not warrant a country of particular concern designation or placement on the special watch list. But of course, these are conversations that we continue to have with our Indian partners and with partners around the world,” Price said.
Ahead of the announcement of the annual designation by the State Department, there were massive lobbying efforts by groups like Indian American Muslim Council and pressures from organisations like the US Commission for International Religious Freedom to designate India as a Country of Concern.