U.S. Ambassador to India Ignores Religious Freedom in Farwell Address
01/13/2021 India (International Christian Concern) – As the Trump administration and its ambassadorial staff transitions out of power, many ambassadors give their final addresses in the countries in which they have served as the official representation of the United States. Last week, U.S. Ambassador to India Kenneth Juster delivered his remarks celebrating the accomplishments in the economic, trade, and security sectors of the US-India relationship. It is no secret that India serves as a critical geopolitical partnership for the United States in the region, primarily as a part of US grand strategy as a counterweight to China and as a partner in counter terrorism. While the accomplishments in these sectors were highly celebrated, one portion was significantly overlooked: persecution.
International Christian Concern (ICC) has covered the rising trends of religious intolerance, Hindu nationalism, and extremism manifesting itself in the form of communal violence and all levels of Indian domestic policy. Violent attacks against Christians and religious minorities coupled with systemic discrimination of these minority religious groups have skyrocketed during the current Indian administration. ICC partners have reported three-fold increases in incidents of persecution since 2014. Several states in India have passed anti-forced conversion laws that directly discriminate against Christians and other religious minorities. India’s blasphemy laws are also a significant contributor to the increase in persecution.
The Trump Administration’s visit to India was overshadowed by significant protest and violence that were largely a response to the discrimination faced by the religious minority community in India.
The rising levels of religious persecution have been monitored by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). In the Commission’s 2020 report, USCIRF recommended to the Department of State that India be designated as a Country of Particular Concern, having not made such a recommendation for the South Asian country since 2004. The Department of State rejected this designation. The Indian government also rejected the report.
As the Biden Administration takes power, stakeholders are looking with interest as to how Biden will deal with India moving forward, especially in regards to its positioning on religious freedom.
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