Early Reports Indicate No Major Shift in U.S. Stance on Religious Freedom in India

01/21/2021 India (International Christian Concern) – While much of the foreign policy for the Biden Administration is still taking shape, many watchdog organizations and experts are keeping an eye on India, and thus far see little change. The United States shares a close interdependent relationship with India in regards to international trade, security policy, and geopolitics. However, India’s rapid decline in religious freedom and the ongoing persecution of religious minorities continues to be a trouble spot for the relationship. The Trump administration failed to pursue a hard policy line on checking this decline in India, and even rejected recommendations by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) to list India as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) – a decision that was highly criticized by many stakeholders, human rights activists, and policy experts.

Early reports from meetings with incoming Biden administration indicate that policy will not likely change much going forward. Public statements denouncing India’s human rights violations are unlikely, but the administration will likely continue to raise the issue diplomatically with Indian counterparts.

The Trump administration’s visit earlier this year to India was overshadowed by massive civil unrest surrounding the crackdown on Muslims, Christians and religious minorities by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration. These crackdowns have been exacerbated by radical anti-religious freedom policy propagated by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), as well as its more radical affiliate organization, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

Many stakeholders urged President Trump to speak out on these human rights violations publicly. Instead of criticizing the violations, Trump publicly praised the work done by the Modi Administration on advancing religious freedom. Trump later reported that he had challenged Modi on these issues during their private dialogue.

The fact remains that Indian local, state, and national governments continue to pursue a hardline approach to non-Hindus. The government and organizations like RSS continue to propagate a strong narrative celebrating religious nationalism which only stokes the divisions in the society as a whole. Persecution cases of Christians alone have sky rocketed since Prime Minister Modi took power in 2014 with his BJP.

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