NEW DELHI: Barely a fortnight is left for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address to a joint meeting of the US Congress on June 8, and top US Senators have expressed deep concern over religious freedom, increasing attacks on civil society and human rights in India, with the Obama administration saying it was having a dialogue with the country on these issues.
“The situation does raise concern about religious freedom in India,” Colorado Senator Cory Gardner said during a Congressional hearing on India convened by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, while expressing his concern over recent incidents of religious intolerance when artists returned their awards, said he is hoping to raise this issue with Prime Minister Modi when he travels to Washington DC next month.
Describing the anti-conversion laws in some states as problematic, Maryland Senator Ben Cardin, a Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, expressed concern over religious freedom in India. Some members also raised the issue of denying visas to members of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.
Agreeing with the concerns of the Senators, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Nisha Desai Biswal said while the Obama administration had been raising these issues and concerns at the highest level, “there has been fairly vigorous and vociferous debate within India with respect to religious freedom and religious tolerance”.
Meanwhile, Biswal told lawmakers that the US was “watching very closely” India’s growing ties with Iran after it recently pledged $500 million for developing the Chabahar port and would see if its legal parameters and requirements were being met.
We do think that there is a lot more that can and should be done to address issues of trafficking and child labour Nisha Desai Biswal, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia