In a big blow to anti-India lobbyists the US government has not included India in any of the two categories of countries that have engaged in “particularly severe violations of religious freedom”. On November 17, United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken named 10 countries on the US government’s official list of the world’s worst offenders of religious freedom. There was intense lobbying by organizations like the Federation of Indian Christian Organizations of North America (FIACONA), International Christian Concern, Indo-American Muslim Council to get India included in the list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC), Special Watch List Countries and certain organizations in India in the list of ‘Entities of Particular Concern’. However, the US government, after careful evaluation, has rejected their arguments.
Several organizations like the ones mentioned above held several meetings in public made extensive presentations to United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), a bi-partisan and autonomous federal panel. The USCIRF has recommended to the US government that India be listed as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC). The rejection of USCIRF’s recommendation by the US government is a vindication that India has a robust framework of constitutional and legislative safeguards for religious freedom.
It is also strange that when there are international bodies like the United Nations Organisation to address international issues, the USA has enacted legislation to monitor religious freedom in other sovereign countries across the world. This has given scope for vested interests and lobbying organizations to carry out propaganda against countries that they consider to be against their agenda.
In the past, organizations like Persecution Relief India have been exposed for submitting to USCIRF, fake and fabricated cases of religious persecution in India. Persecution Relief was portraying ordinary crimes that occur in any human society as ‘religious crimes’. The expose on Persecution Relief, India can be read here:
The following is the text of the November 17th, 2021 US Department of State’s declaration on Countries of Particular Concern, Special Watch List Countries, Entities of Particular Concern:
Under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998, the President is required to annually review the status of religious freedom in every country in the world and designate each country the government of which has engaged in or tolerated “particularly severe violations of religious freedom” as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC). The law defines particularly severe violations as “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom,” including violations such as: (1) torture; (2) prolonged detention without charges; (3) forced disappearance; or (4) other flagrant denials of life, liberty, or security of persons.
Under the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act of 2016 (Wolf Act), the President is required to “designate each country that engaged in or tolerated severe violations of religious freedom during the previous year but does not meet” all the criteria for being designated as a CPC to a “Special Watch List” (SWL).
The Wolf Act also further requires the designation of Entities of Particular Concern (EPC) for non-state actors that have engaged in particularly severe violations of religious freedom. According to the law, a “non-state actor” is defined as “a non-sovereign entity that (A) exercises significant political power and territorial control; (B) is outside the control of a sovereign government; and (C) often employs violence in pursuit of its objectives.” The President has delegated the authority to make CPC, SWL, and EPC designations to the Secretary of State.
Countries of Particular Concern
The most recent Countries of Particular Concern designations were made by the Secretary of State on November 15, 2021:
Burma, The People’s Republic of China, Eritrea, Iran, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan.
Special Watch List Countries
The most recent Special Watch List designations were made by the Secretary of State on November 15, 2021
Algeria, Comoros, Cuba, and Nicaragua.
Entities of Particular Concern
The most recent Entities of Particular Concern designations were made by the Secretary of State on November 15, 2021:
Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Houthis, ISIS, ISIS-Greater Sahara, ISIS-West Africa, Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin, and the Taliban.*
Note: The Taliban’s designation is based on information analyzed as of August 15, 2021.
(Writer is Research Associate, Centre for South Indian Studies, Hyderabad)