23 June 2019 - 22:03
News ID: 445583
A
India rejected a US State Department's annual report on international religious freedom that accused the right-wing government in New Delhi of inability to curb violent attacks on the country's minority communities.

RNA - The report, released by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday, stated that Hindu-groups had used "violence, intimidation, and harassment" against minorities, especially Muslims and Christians, in 2017 to force a religion-based national identity, Asia News reported.

The Indian Foreign Ministry issued a stiff rejoinder to the US accusations on Sunday and said no foreign country had the right to criticize its religious freedom record.

"India is proud of its secular credentials, its status as the largest democracy and a pluralistic society with a longstanding commitment to tolerance and inclusion," Raveesh Kumar, the ministry's spokesman, said in a statement.

"We see no locus standi for a foreign entity to pronounce on the state of our citizens’ constitutionally protected rights," Kumar added.

The Indian official insisted that the country’s constitution guarantees fundamental rights and religious freedom of all citizens, including its minority communities.

Muslims make up 14 percent of India's 1.3 billion people.

Pompeo said in his report that some senior officials from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) last year had made "inflammatory speeches" against religious minorities.

"Mob attacks by violent extremist Hindu groups against minority communities, especially Muslims, continued throughout the year amid rumors that victims had traded or killed cows for beef," the report added.

He noted that Christians have been targeted for proselytizing since Modi came to power in 2014.

The US State Department said Modi’s failure to act on mob attacks on religious minorities had led to the marginalization of Indian communities and critics of the government.

“Despite Indian government statistics indicating that communal violence has increased sharply over the past two years, the Modi administration has not addressed the problem," according to the report.

The report has set off a new spat ahead of a visit by Pompeo, who is expected to hold talks aimed at laying the ground for a meeting between US President Donald Trump and Modi during a Group of 20 summit in Japan later next week.

The meeting will be their first since Modi's new landslide election win last month.

Pompeo's visit to New Delhi on Tuesday is already complicated by disputes over trade tariffs, data protection rules, US visas for Indians and buying arms from Russia.

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