MEA has frequently slammed its recommendations as biased and ill-informed

New Delhi: A month before the US State Department releases its religious freedom rights rankings, a US human rights body has recommended that it should put four more countries, including India, on its Red List or Countries of Particular Concern (CPC).

The MEA has frequently slammed the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), the body which has made the recommendations. MEA spokespersons have said the USCIRF is biased and has a limited understanding of India and its Constitution. No US Secretary of State has acted on its recommendations as far as India is concerned.

Last year, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had declined the USCIRF’s recommendation to list India as a CPC. He had not even accepted USCIRF's recommendation to put Uzbekistan on the Red List as the country is deemed strategically important for US foreign policy interests. India is of far greater value in its economic and military heft.

Three of India’s neighbours – Pakistan, China and Myanmar -- are on the US State Department’s CPC list along with North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Nigeria. The USCIRF wants the State Department to add India, Russia, Syria and Vietnam to the list.

Successive US Ambassadors for Religious Freedom have drawn a sharp distinction between India and Pakistan, though both are accused of state violence on its citizens. Some of the violence in India was carried out by the government but a “lot of the actions are by the government in Pakistan” and half of the world’s people that are locked up for apostasy or blasphemy are in Pakistan, the US Ambassador for Religious Freedom Senator Sam Brownback had said last year when asked why Pakistan was on CPC and India wasn’t.

For the 2020 reporting period, USCIRF has also recommended the expansion of “Yellow List” or the Special Watch List to include Afghanistan, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Turkey and Uzbekistan.