WASHINGTON: Five American senators have asked US President Donald Trump to use his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi as an opportunity to discuss India's "discriminatory" policies against foreign religious and humanitarian organisations.
"Discriminating against foreign organisations that help the citizens of India is counter productive, and it needs to change. I ask that President Trump address this serious issue with Prime Minister Modi during his upcoming trip to Washington," Senator John Kennedy said in a statement.
Joined by Senators Roy Blunt, Mike Crapo, James Lankford, and Amy Klobuchar, Kennedy sent a letter to Trump ahead of the White House meeting between the two leaders. "Over the past few years, the Indian government has made it difficult – if not impossible - for religious and humanitarian organisations to get funding to their charitable operations in India," Kennedy said. "Many of these organisations are simply trying to meet the basic needs of the citizens of India. Compassion International even had to leave India. This humanitarian aid organisation had helped feed and provide health care to children in India for nearly 50 years. Now thousands of innocent children will be left without this critical support," he alleged.
Referring to the issues of Compassion International, Ford Foundation, Amnesty International and Greenpeace among others, the Senators said, "Based on these troubling developments, we ask that you make religious liberty a top priority when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits the United States this month."
"We request that you use the United States’ strong, long-standing relationship with India to encourage Prime Minister Modi to alleviate the discrimination against these organisations, particularly religious-based aid groups, and to take steps to advance religious liberty for all of India’s citizens," they said.
In the letter, the Senators said that they are particularly concerned about violations of religious liberty in India. "India is the world’s largest democracy and therefore holds a position of importance on the world stage, making the ongoing violations even more disturbing. Despite India’s size and religious diversity, violations of religious liberty have existed for years,” they wrote.
Every year, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) releases a report outlining the state of religious freedom across the world. India has consistently remained a 'Tier 2' country, meaning that USCIRF believes it requires close monitoring based on evidence of violations of religious freedom. These include violence, discrimination, and forced conversions, as well as harassment and intimidation, the letter noted.
"Of significant concern is India’s recent use of its Foreign Contributions Regulations Act (FCRA) to target humanitarian and religious organisations. Any foreign religious organisations, including missionaries, working in India must comply with this law. In 2011, the Indian Parliament amended FCRA to allow the government to block funds for foreign organisations that conduct any 'activities detrimental to the national interest'," the Senators said.
The Senators alleged that the Indian government has since used this broad provision to target foreign humanitarian and religious organisations that serve the Indian people, such as Compassion International that was forced to leave India and the 145,000 Indian children it served.
"Other organisations that have come under scrutiny include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Ford Foundation, Amnesty International, and Greenpeace. Other evangelical Christian organisations, such as the Southern Baptist Convention, have also faced discrimination of various kinds. The number of organisations that have lost their licenses has exceeded 10,000 since Prime Minister Modi took office," they alleged.