Indian govt finds rare criticism in US
Washington, US -
For the past two decades India has been enthusiastically feted in Washington, with politicians across the spectrum eager to nurture an alliance between the two largest democracies.
But as Prime Minister Narendra Modi pushes forward his Hindu nationalist agenda, India has suddenly found itself in an unusual position - facing reprimands from the United States.
Few observers expect a serious deterioration of relations, and India’s Foreign and Defence Ministers are due in Washington on Wednesday for wide-ranging talks that could further boost the countries’ military relationship.
Still, Washington’s long reverential tone towards India, including muted reactions on human rights issues, has shifted after Modi revoked autonomy to Kashmir and parliament passed a citizenship law that opponents say discriminates against Muslims.
After the citizenship law’s approval, a State Department spokesperson said, “The United States urges India to protect the rights of its religious minorities in keeping with India’s constitution and democratic values’. Sam
Brownback, the US envoy on religious freedom, voiced respect for India’s institutions. However he said the United States was ‘concerned’ with the citizenship bill, and called on India to ‘abide by its constitutional commitments’.
Criticism has been more strongly worded from outside the administration.
A resolution proposed by Representative Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat born in India, urges New Delhi to free people rounded up in Kashmir since autonomy was terminated in August, to lift remaining restrictions on communications and to allow human rights observers and foreign journalists to enter.
It also implicitly criticises Pakistan, acknowledging the challenges from ‘state-sponsored cross-border terrorism’.
In the most outspoken criticism, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom called for sanctions to be considered against Home Minister Amit Shah over the citizenship bill.
The Commission, which advises the US government but does not set policy, called the bill ‘a dangerous turn in the wrong direction’.