NEW DELHI: India tore into the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) on Friday after the Commission issued a statement saying they were denied visas to visit India to assess religious freedom in the country.
The Commission monitors the universal right to freedom of religion. The Indian embassy in Washington, in a statement, said that they had seen the Commission’s press release and the US body had no locus standi to comment on the state of Indian citizens’ constitutionally protected rights. “The Indian Constitution guarantees fundamental rights to all its citizens, including the right to freedom of religion. We do not see the locus standi of a foreign entity like USCIRF to pass its judgment and comment on the state of Indian citizens’ constitutionally protected rights,” the embassy said.
The Indian embassy said there was no change in the policy of the Government of India with respect to such visits.
“We look forward to continuing working with the United States Government for sharing of experience and best practice on all issues of mutual interest under the established bilateral mechanisms like the India-United States Global Issues Forum,” the embassy’s statement said.
Earlier, a statement from the Commission had said that the goal of the trip, scheduled for Friday, had been to discuss and assess religious freedom conditions in India. Robert P George, chairman of the USCIRF, said members were deeply disappointed by the Indian government’s denial, in effect, of visas and as a pluralistic, non-sectarian, and democratic state, and a close partner of the US, India should have the confidence to allow the visit.
“USCIRF has been able to travel to many countries, including those that are among the worst offenders of religious freedom, including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, China, and Burma. One would expect that the Indian government would allow for more transparency than have these nations,” George said.