The United States on Tuesday said episodes of violence and discrimination against minorities were not in line with India’s legal protections for minorities, PTI reported. “Incidents of violence and discrimination against minorities in India, including cow vigilante attacks against members of the Dalit and Muslim communities, and the existence of anti-conversion laws in nine states are not in keeping with India’s legal protections for minorities,” said Alice G Wells, the acting assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs.
The US official made the remarks before a Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and Nonproliferation of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the eve of the proceedings for “Human Rights in South Asia: Views from the State Department and the Region”. Wells said the US urged the Indian administration to completely uphold the right to religious freedom and safeguard vulnerable individuals, “including the 1.9 million people in Assam at risk for statelessness [National Register of Citizens] because of questions about their citizenship”.
The US diplomat asked the Indian government to denounce all incidents of violence and to hold the guilty accountable.
Wells said 68% of eligible Indian citizens from every section of the society had cast their votes in May for the Lok Sabha election. She also praised India’s “robust civil society and democratic institutions” and said they were remarkable despite their developmental challenges.
“As with every country, we engage with India on issues of human rights and religious freedom,” she said. “We also press India for progress on parental child abduction, consistent with the priority we place on safeguarding the welfare of US citizens abroad, including children.” She further highlighted that India’s Constitution championed a secular state that upheld the rights of all citizens.
Wells said India was home to four religions practised in the world – Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, and Jainism – and had the third largest Muslim population. She noted the country’s “proud history with the Jewish faith” and appreciated support for Tibetan refugees and the Dalai Lama.
Dialogue between India-Pakistan as per Shimla Agreement
Wells told the Congressional subcommittee that the US supported a direct line of communication between India and Pakistan according to the Shimla Agreement, which will help in reducing conflict. She said the “chief obstacle” for discussions between the two nations was Pakistan’s continued support to militant groups.
“Restarting a productive bilateral dialogue requires building trust, and the chief obstacle remains Pakistan’s continued support for extremist groups that engage in cross-border terrorism,” she said in a statement. Wells added that a marked progress was seen on several matters between the two countries during 2006-’07 backchannel negotiations.
The US official also lauded Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s statement that militants, involved in violent episodes in Kashmir, from his country were enemies of both the nations. “Pakistan’s harbouring of terrorist groups like Lashkar-e- Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammed, which seek to foment violence across the Line of Control, is destabilising, and Pakistani authorities remain accountable for their actions,” she said, calling for effective measures against terrorism in Islamabad.
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