US govt panel renews calls to blacklist India over religious freedom

A US government panel renewed calls Monday to blacklist India over religious freedom, saying that treatment of minorities has continued to worsen under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom offers recommendations but does not set policy and there is little expectation that the State Department will accept its stance on India, a growing US partner.

The State Department each year lists countries where it sees particular concern on religious freedom, with the prospect of sanctions without improvement.

The independent commission, whose members are appointed by the president and congressional party leaders, supported all of the State Department's latest designations which included China, Iran, Myanmar, Pakistan, Russia and Saudi Arabia.

It however recommended that the State Department add several countries including India, Nigeria and Vietnam.

The annual report pointed in India to violence and destruction of property targeting Muslims and Christians and drew links to comments and social media posts by members of Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

"The continued enforcement of discriminatory laws facilitated a culture of impunity for widespread campaigns of threats and violence by mobs and vigilante groups," it said.

Also read: Indian media spreads fake 'padlocked grave' image to discredit Pakistan

It was the fourth straight year that the panel has made the recommendation on India, angering New Delhi which has called the commission biased.

The State Department briefly blacklisted Nigeria at the end of Donald Trump's presidency following calls from evangelical Christians, but President Joe Biden's administration removed it, rejecting suggestions of violence in Africa's most populous country being religious-based or abetted by the government.

The commission also recommended that the State Department add a number of US partners to a watch list of countries that risked being blacklisted without improvements including Egypt, Indonesia and Turkey.

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