05/08/2020 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – The U.S. should always lead with its values. Religious freedom is among the greatest of its values, but it is also one that many countries around the world continue to undermine and lessen in their societies.
India, a country that once espoused religious freedom in the strongest terms, has begun to steadily walk this freedom back under Prime Minister Modi’s rule. As has been reported by ICC for years, India’s religious freedom is in decline.
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom listed India in its top tier of most concerning countries in terms of religious freedom, thereby recommending that the Department of State designate India as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC). This decision ultimately rests with the Trump Administration.
President Trump has, correctly, boasted in his administration’s strong relationship with the India government. But it is essential that he not disregard the blatantly bigoted and discriminatory actions taken by Hindu extremists in India’s government and society. While India is still a long way from becoming the Hindu-only country that Mr. Modi envisions, India must move away from this destructive trajectory now–and it is in the best interest of the U.S. to help it do so.
If the State Department were to officially designate India a CPC it would send a clear message to the regime that the U.S. will work with all countries but will not hesitate to stand on its values and press ahead with policy that will call countries to change.
Moreover, President Trump’s recent trip to India was ill advised and poorly timed. The ongoing issues in Kashmir and the authoritarian measures implemented in the region by Modi, the Citizenship Amendment Act, the NRC, the implementation of discriminatory anti-forced-conversions laws, and Indias oppressive blasphemy laws have hurt the relationships between religious groups and emboldened the Hindu nationalists to take ever-more aggressive actions against religious minorities.
The time for the U.S. to lead on this issue is now.
Hold India accountable, and work with the Indian government and civil society to encourage significant behavior-change in the country. The point of being on the CPC list is to get off the list. It’s not only a measure to call attention to the issue of religious freedom, but it’s also an opportunity for India to move towards a freer and more open society. India should move once again toward a pluralistic society, educate the public on the evil realities of what Hindu nationalism means for India, and press for greater religious freedom.
Matias Perttula serves as the Advocacy Director for International Christian Concern where he leads the government relations efforts to mobilize the US government to address issues of persecution in countries where religious minorities are oppressed and the freedom of religion is in decline.